Tag Archives: reading

Little Learners: Baby Activity Kit

Often the best blueprints for programming come from what other awesome library professionals have created. Woodridge Public Library did several months of a Baby Activity Kit program which was absolutely brilliant and something I was eager to build upon and tweak to fit my typical kit structure. Babies are difficult to reach with programming amidst the pandemic and I was looking for a way that I could make a beneficial, early literacy-themed kit for them. This particular kit focused on music and movement with materials to make several instruments included. I rounded it off with activity cards and an instructional packet with book recommendations and further resources included.

Inside the kit were materials to create a:

This program would pair well with any pre-K or school-age reading program in a school or library setting. 

  • jingle bell egg shaker
  • ribbon whisk
  • gumball capsule bean shaker

Safety was the top priority, so I included small rolls of washi tape in each kit to secure the egg and gumball capsule so that no choking hazard-sized bits would escape their containers.

Photos of the finished products:

The kit came with several items:

  • Laminated activity card booklet
  • Packet including instructions, online resources, and book recommendations
  • Materials to create each instrument
  • Scarf – there are several purchasing options on Amazon

Images of the activity cards:

Unfortunately, I didn’t have a fully enrolled program. I thought it would be more popular than it turned out to be with 11 out of 30 spots filled. I was toying with the idea of making this a series, much in the way Woodridge Public Library did, but because of the lack of interset I will not be creating addtional Little Learner kits.

Hopefully, if you try this program, you will have more luck with interest. If you would like PDFs or editable files, please please feel free to reach out to bookcartqueens@gmail.com to request the files.

Reading Buddies: PreK and School Age Take and Make Kit

The concept for this kit was a reimagining of Bluffton Public Library’s program. I absolutely loved their idea and structure, but I made some adjustments to make my program activity-focused. The assembled activities for Reading Buddies were geared towards a broad range of ages (3-11). It was my hope that this kit would entice kids to enroll in our summer reading program and read to their buddy all summer long. To support this aim, I included several pages of reading recommendations for the age ranges 3-5, 6-8, and 9-11 and supplemental information about our summer reading program and events. 

This program would pair well with any pre-K or school-age reading program in a school or library setting. 

The kit came with several items:

  • Booklet of activities
  • Summer Reading Program materials (specific to our SRP; these were created by our marketing department so I have not included templates)
  • Reading Buddy in pillow box (information on purchase is below)

Choosing activities for this kit was a challenge because the age range was so wide. I chose ones that aligned with the animal theme of our summer program, Read & Roar and the activity sources can be found on the last page of the packet.

Each kit included a small stuffed animal purchased from Oriental Trading, and I put them in 7” pillow boxes so the animal would be a surprise. The label on the box (PDF included) encouraged the child to read to their reading buddy throughout the summer.

It was a simple kit to conceptualize, design, and assemble and it was fairly cost-effective at about $1.50 per kit. Grown-ups really appreciate the pickup kits at my library, and it is likely that we will continue creating them, even when we return to full-time in-person programming. The PDF files are included and please feel free to reach out to bookcartqueens@gmail.com to request the editable files.

Download your own activity packet below:

Slideshare not working? Access with Dropbox.

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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The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta (teen)
Gr. 9+. Michael has had questions about his identity since he was young. All he wants for his birthday is a Barbie, but his mom is sure a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle will work just as well. In beautiful verse, Michael shares his journey as he tackles questions about identity, toxic masculinity, gender, sexuality, and race. Finally at university (college), he discovers the Drag Society, and Michael feels like he might have finally found a space to be himself.

A wonderful book exploring and celebrating identity, Blackness, sexuality, and more. Highly recommend.


Dog Man: Mothering Heights by Dav Pilkey (graphic novel)
Gr. 2-4. The Dog Man book in which:

  • Dog Man wears a cone of shame,
  • Petey dresses up like Mister Rogers and does an interview on his life of crime and path to redemption,
  • at least three songs about diarrhea are sung with pride,
  • we interact with our very first smooch-o-rama,
  • sippy cups come to life, and
  • it gets pretty violent, making up for the “love not violence” plots of the last few books.

I didn’t like this one quite as much as the last book, but I continue to be a loyal Dog Man fan

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Fatima’s Great Outdoors by Ambreen Tariq
Gr. 1-3. Fatima is so excited for her family’s first camping trip. But she quickly learns that camping requires patience, just like school does. Building a tent and starting a fire take a bit more work than she and her Papa expect–and what about that scary, monstrous spider hanging out above their tent?!?

A lovely blend of a camping story with lots of details about Indian culture (and racism) throughout. A wonderful shoutout to Brown People Camping in the last spread.


Martian Ghost Centaur by Mat Heagerty (graphic novel)
Gr. 4-8. The Southborough Sasquatch used to draw tourists from all over the country, dreaming of spotting the mysterious cryptid. But the tourists have stopped coming, and Louie’s small town is close to drying up. Business isn’t what it used to be, and a tech company wants to turn Southborough into the home of its new headquarters. Louie’s dads aren’t ready to give up their restaurant, the Squatch Burger, quite yet, but money is tight. They may have to make a really tough decision soon.

Louie knows that she just needs to trap the Sasquatch. One of her dads got him on film when he was just a kid, and as a mega Squatch fan, she knows that she has the skills to catch the Sasquatch, get him on film, and bring tourism back to her town. But when she learns that the Sasquatch may not be quite as real as she first thought–and her dads were in on it–her heart is broken. Pile that on top of the fact that her best friend is leaving for college soon, and Louie is left trying to pick up the pieces of her life all while trying to figure out what her future holds.

This was so sweet! There needs to be more buzz about this graphic novel. Louie is adorable and the cryptid backdrop is appealing. There will be wide age appeal here–the cryptids will appeal to a younger audience and nothing here forces this to be a teen novel, but some of the larger life questions Louie is facing are definitely more teen oriented (she is 17 after all). I really appreciate the smaller messages woven throughout the book: the platonic friendship between Louie and Felix, the idea that college isn’t for everyone and that is okay, and even that your job does not have to be your passion. Great work.

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Our Skin: A First Conversation about Race by Megan Madison, Jessica Ralli, and Isabel Roxas (board book)
Toddler+. A book as much (maybe a little more) for caregivers as it is for kids. Children notice race and racism as toddlers and can distinguish skin color as babies. This book provides ways to start those conversations with your kids.

The first half works well as a board book that could be read to babies and toddlers with a lot of interactive questions. Further on, the book feels like it is perhaps meant for caregivers to read with preschoolers–the text gets a bit longer and talks about the history of racism (the illustrations also turn into examples of what appear to be elementary school students playing together).

The last few spreads contain really wonderful suggestions for continuing the conversation with toddlers, preschoolers, and older kids with great examples of ways to start and continue conversations and actively participate in anti-racist efforts. Looking forward to the rest of this series!


The Scrumptious Life of Azaleah Lane by Nikki Shannon Smith (first chapter)
Gr. 2-4. Azaleah and her sisters are thrilled to spend the weekend with their Auntie Sam while their parents are at a Food Truck Festival. They always have a great time with Auntie Sam, but this time Azaleah wants to plan something special for her parents: welcome back cookies! Azaleah convinces Auntie Sam to help them bake the cookies, but the cookies turn out all wrong. She knows she followed each step in the recipe correctly–why do the cookies taste so bad? Azaleah is determined to solve the mystery, but even after she figures out one problem, she discovers another isn’t far behind.

Lots of fun! This one didn’t feel like a “mystery” in quite the same way as the first two books in the series, but following Azaleah’s adventures and getting to know her sisters is still a joy. This is a standout first chapter book series that I will continue to keep passing along to lots of readers. More please!

Book Review Tuesday

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

Ana & Andrew by Christine Platt (first chapter books)
Gr. 2-3. Some great new additions to this fantastic own voices beginning reader/first chapter book series featuring an African American family living in Washington, D.C.

Home Run: Ana and Andrew each pick out a team sport this year. Just as Ana’s basketball season wraps up, it is time for Andrew to try out for the baseball team! Before his first game, Andrew gets nervous, and his family reminds him of an amazing baseball player who was probably also a bit nervous before his first game–Jackie Robinson.

Honoring Heroes: Ana and Andrew’s parents are going to take them to someplace they have never been before in Washington, D.C. — the African American Civil War Memorial. On the way, they learn about their ancestor, a soldier honored at the memorial.

Martin’s Dream: Ana and Andrew are excited to learn about a Black historical figure for Black History Month. They are assigned Martin Luther King, Jr. They already know a bit about him–but there is plenty more to learn. Their parents help them expand their learning through a family trip to the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial in Washington, D.C.

Planting Peanuts: Ana and Andrew are excited to select a plant to grow. After selecting peanuts, they learn about the history of the peanut and its connection to cotton.

A Walk in Harlem: Papa takes Ana and Andrew on a surprise trip, all the way from Washington, D.C. to Harlem. In addition to getting some great slices of pizza, they learn about the Harlem Renaissance and get inspired to make their own creations based on what they saw and did in New York City.

Ballet Bunnies by Swapna Reddy (first chapter books)
Gr. 2-3. This was fun! It doesn’t flow quite as well as I would like, but it will be well loved by young dancers and the bunnies help it earn so many cute points.

1. The New Class: Millie absolutely cannot wait for her first ballet class! But when she arrives, she realizes that most of her classmates have been dancing for years. They know the steps, and Millie doesn’t. And classmate Amber is determined to make sure Millie knows she doesn’t belong.

Just as Millie is about to quit, she discovers something a little magical about her ballet studio: it is the home to four tiny, talking bunnies that love ballet just as much as the students. The ballet bunnies will help Millie learn her dance steps–but she has to make sure to keep their secret.

2. Let’s Dance: The Ballet Bunnies helped Millie learn the basics of ballet, but now Millie has a lot more to learn as she and the other young dancers prepare for the upcoming performance in front of a full theater of people. Can Millie learn to dance with a prop? She will practice and practice until she gets her steps perfect–but what happens when everything still goes wrong on performance day?


Chance: Escape from the Holocaust by Uri Shulevitz (biography)
Gr. 4-7. Learn about picture book creator Uri Shulevitz’s childhood fleeing Nazi-inhabited Poland for the Soviet Union. His family survived impossible and terrifying circumstances that are relayed in an almost matter-of-fact manner in this biography. Large print text and scattered illustrations keep the book moving, even as it sometimes drags as Shulevitz delves into favorite books and movies that he remembers from the time.

This is an important story, though I’m not 100% sure the audience for it. For classroom use, this could be a good addition to balance the more commonly used concentration-camp-focused holocaust survival stories. (And preferably also paired with something highlighting the Jewish experience that is a bit more modern–similar to how so many African American stories are regulated to slavery, so many Jewish stories are regulated to the holocaust. Both are important, but modern Jewish Joy and Black Joy books are extremely important too.)


Shaking Up the House by Yamile Saied Méndez
Gr. 4-6. Ingrid and Winnie Lopez are about to leave the White House. Their father is ending his second term as President of the United States, and it is time to make way for the next first family. Typically, the new family doesn’t move in until inauguration day, but that would mean that new first daughters, Skyler and Zora Williams, wouldn’t be settled in before their new school year begins. So, for the first time in history, President Lopez invites incoming President-Elect Williams (and her family) to move into the White House early.

Two first families–and four first daughters–means that the house feels a little more cramped than usual. The Lopez sisters decide to welcome the Williams twins with a White House tradition: a friendly prank to help them let go of their nerves.

But friendly pranks are one thing when the prank-creators have moved out before their pranks play out, and a whole other thing when the prank’s victims have a chance to seek revenge. The Williams twins don’t appreciate the Lopez girls’ joke–and soon an all-out prank war ensues (all kept a secret from their parents, of course).

But soon, pranks are no longer light fun as a ferret and later people start to get hurt. Can the girls learn to rekindle their old friendship–or will they all go down in history for their destructive pranks?

I liked this–I enjoy political stories and the White House backdrop was nice–but the pranks did seem to take a mean and expensive turn fairly quickly. And they were quite elaborate–did these girls ever go to school? How did they have so much time to come up with and execute these plans? And was it really that simple to get pranking supplies? I would imagine that, while pretty much anything is available to them, they would still have to ask someone for it (they can’t just run to the store for a massive batch of glitter or powder to make green Jello–and requesting either of those things would raise suspicion). I wish their friendship had been examined a bit more–I kept feeling like we would get a touch of character depth before we were swept off into the repercussions of another elaborate prank. Overall, this will have plenty of audience appeal, and I love the representation, but I think it could have benefited from a slight shift in direction.

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Skunk and Badger by Amy Timberlake (first chapter book)
Gr. 3. Badger absolutely does not want a roommate–he has important rock work to do. But since he is staying in his aunt’s brownstone rent free, he doesn’t really have a choice when she invites Skunk to live with him. After some awkward roommate relations, Badger realizes that his life can be more than what it is if he just lets Skunk (and friendship) in.

I’ve heard a lot of buzz about this book, but I really don’t think it was for me. It was fine, but it didn’t have the Hundred Acre Woods whimsy of Our Friend Hedgehog or the appealing humor of Mercy Watson. I’m really not sure who I would give this book to–the illustrations are fun and the audiobook is cute, but the story feels a bit lofty and sly for lower elementary readers and yet too simple to interest older readers.

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Someone Builds the Dream by Lisa Wheeler (picture book)
Gr. K-2. Highlights all the hard work done by the people not often highlighted–the people who build the dream houses, the bridges, the architectural marvels–even the people who make the physical books.

After a year of reading many picture book biographies highlighting the dreamers, this is a refreshing look and reminder that while an architect and an engineer may design a bridge, there are hundreds and thousands of people who pour the concrete, drive the rucks, and contribute to the actual building of all of the incredible things we have in the world. Even a book is touched by many more hands than just the named author and illustrator.


Super Detectives by Cale Atkinson (graphic novel)
Gr. 2-4. Simon and Chester are best friends, even though Simon is a ghost that haunts Chester’s grandmother. Chester is just SO BORED, and after digging through his grandmother’s old belongings, he discovers some clothing that inspires Simon and Chester to become a team of crime-fighting detectives!

Soon a case falls right into their lap–a mysterious pug appears in the kitchen! How did it get there? (WAS IT ALIENS?) Who does it belong to? (ROYALTY?) The two friends are soon on the case, ready to discover the secret of the lost dog.

This was adorable, and just so much fun. Chester and Simon have a great dynamic and the illustrations are cute enough to appeal to even younger readers (making this a good family read aloud too). Looking forward to more!

We Are Little Feminists by Little Feminist (board books)
Gr. 2-3. Such an amazing book series!

Families: The text is simple–reflecting the joy of family and the support a family can bring–but these stand above and beyond so many other board books because of the diversity depicted in the photography. The photos depict all kinds of representation–families with two moms, two dads, gender creative kids, and a pregnant transgender man. Very well done.

Hair: The text is simple–reflecting the joy of different hairstyles–but these stand above and beyond so many other board books because of the diversity depicted in the photography. The photos depict all kinds of families and kids from a variety of backgrounds with all kinds of hairstyles–and sometimes even hair in more unexpected places. Very well done.

On-the-Go: The text is simple–reflecting the actions taking place on each page–but these stand above and beyond so many other board books because of the diversity depicted in the photography. This might be the only board book that I have seen that has real photos of kids with walkers, crutches, and artificial limbs–and the book isn’t about those disabilities–it is about moving. Very well done.

Book Review Tuesday

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


Agent 9: Flood-A-Geddon! by James Burks (graphic novel)
Gr. 2-3. Agent 9 has been put on probation for some reckless choices while on missions for the Super-Secret Spy Service (completing a mission probably shouldn’t come at the price of an avalanche that destroys a town). But when the rest of the Spy Service team is taken hostage, Nine is the only one left to battle the evil King Crab and stop his plans to take over the world.

Lots of fun, fast-paced action, and laughs. This will be perfect for fans of Dog Man and InvestiGATORS, feeling ideal for those 2nd-3rd graders. Looking forward to more.


Allergic by Megan Wagner Lloyd (graphic novel)
Gr. 3-5. Maggie is so, so excited for a puppy to call her own. Her parents have the new baby to worry about, and her twin brothers always have each other. It’s Maggie’s birthday, the shelter has the perfect puppy, and Maggie is about to bring it home–when she passes out.

Turns out, Maggie is allergic to everything with fur and feathers. While she can get allergy shots to help long term, she will never be able to own her own dog. Terribly disappointed, Maggie creates a list of pets she could have, determined to find the perfect one for her. But pet after pet simply doesn’t work out, and soon her allergies start to affect other parts of her life too. Her new class at her new school has a pet guinea pig that they have to give to another room because of Maggie’s allergies. No one wants to be friends with the new girl who cost them a class pet, and Maggie is feeling lonelier than ever. Can she find the perfect pet and also make a friend or two?

Sweet, fun, and a little heart wrenching, this is sure to be a winner with all readers looking for readalikes to Raina Telgemeier, Shannon Hale, Baby-Sitters Club, and the other assortment of realistic fiction friendship and family graphic novels. Perhaps because this is based on the author’s own experiences, this feels a little deeper and more nuanced than some other recent additions to the realistic fiction graphic novel genre, managing to still be funny while also balancing real feelings of sadness, frustration, and loneliness. This will be hard to keep on the shelves.


Amari and the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston
Gr. 4-7. Amari Peters just wants to find her brother. Quinton Peters was the favorite child of their local community, with perfect grades, involved in all the right clubs, and he even ran a local tutoring group for younger kids. When he vanishes, the police don’t seem to really care. No one is looking hard enough. Everyone is out of leads…until Amari discovers a briefcase left for her in her brother’s closet.

The briefcase opens Amari’s eyes to a magical world she never knew existed. Amari’s brother nominated her for a special summer training program for the secret Bureau of Supernatural Affairs. Amari is swept into a world filled with all kinds of amazing and incredible things, but she also knows that this place has to hold the secret of what happened to her brother.

So, in between getting to know her weredragon roommate (and best friend), studying for her training exams, and dodging the racist and classist remarks of the “legacy” kids whose rich families have always been a part of the supernatural crime fighting force, Amari does everything she can to find information about her brother’s last case before he disappeared. That isn’t particularly easy when she is revealed to be a magician–an illegal type of supernatural being that is known for harming and killing Bureau agents–including Amari’s own brother.

THIS BOOK THIS BOOK THIS BOOK! This is going to be my go-to fantasy series recommendation from now on. The world building is fantastic, with so much here to explore that many series could easily be spun off of this one title. The plot is fast-paced, giving the reader just enough time to get comfortable before moving on to the next twist–but not in a way that feels overwhelming or too unrealistic. And of course there is Amari–spunky, cunning, sarcastic, amazing Amari. Where is the sequel? The movie adaptation? Add this to your library, throw it at every child, and someone buy the film or TV rights to this series now because this is going to be big.

(This is going to get compared heavily to Harry Potter–as any magical school book does–but I think this book deserves better. If you must compare it to something, Lockwood and Company has the fast-paced supernatural mystery and Rick Riordan’s mythology worlds have the summer-experience and the talking inanimate objects. But really–let this shine on its own.)


InvestiGators: Off the Hook by John Patrick Green (graphic novel)
Gr. 2-4. Gators Mango and Brash are on another crime-fighting spree. This time they are determined to track down the missing snake-armed-plumber all while trying to figure out who could have robbed a local bank. Costume changes, travel by sewer, and fantastic spy tech help our heroes prevail. But when it comes to saving their partner or capturing the villain–which will the InvetiGATORS choose?

More InvetGATORs fun. This series continues to be ideal for Dog Man fans, capturing the humor, puns, and sometimes non-sensical combination of mystery, adventure, and action. I appreciate how even the villains show character development through the Dog Man series; that hasn’t happened yet here, but I hope it does soon so these books don’t begin to feel too repetitive.


The Leak by Kate Reed Petty (graphic novel)
Gr. 4-5. Ruth Keller might be twelve, but she is already a passionate journalist, running her own email newsletter sharing fun rumors and stories about her community. When she runs into something very real–and very strange–at the local lake, she knows she has a story to find. This shiny black slime surely doesn’t belong here (and really it probably isn’t from aliens, as she first assumed). After she tells some adults about it, she finds a mysterious clean-up crew at the lake removing all traces of the strange sludge.

Ruth’s mind jumps to the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, but surely nothing like that could happen here. Her endless cavities might be a mystery (since Ruth brushes AND flosses every single day), but this water issue can’t be related…right? Soon Ruth is forced to take matters into her own hands when the adults around her try to bury any controversy and avoid her questions. Ruth is on the brink of something big–she just needs to find the evidence to make everyone believe her.

This was good–really good. The mystery leaves clues in the words and the illustrations, with the reader spotting clues along with the main character. The comparison to the Flint water crisis (and the cover up) was on point. And I love a strong, smart heroine who isn’t about to let anyone bully her into silence. Really well done!


Quincredible Vol. 1: Quest to Be the Best! by Rodney Barnes (graphic novel)
Gr. 5-8. Meet Quin. After a meteor shower, he (and many other people in New Orleans) were given special powers–the powers of superheroes. Quin is invulnerable–but that doesn’t feel very useful when you can’t run fast or throw a punch (it just means you can take a lot of punches from a lot of bullies and get back up again afterwards).

But after catching the eye of another local superhero, Quin decides he wants to use his super talent and his brains to try to be an actual hero. But where there are heroes, there are always villains, and Quin finds himself trying to keep his identity hidden while figuring out who the real villains are as racial tensions mount after more and more disasters strike his hometown.

This doesn’t hold up quite as strongly as some other recent superhero comics, but it feels like a realistic origin story that makes me want to dig more into this character. I want to read Vol. 2–I feel like this story has created a setup that gives it plenty of room to develop and stand on its own as more issues are released.


Welcome to Wagmire by Melody Mews (first chapter)
Gr. 2-3. Itty is so excited to visit her friend Prince Pip in his kingdom of Wagmire! Itty wants to spend time with her friend, but things sure are different in Wagmire: there are dog toys everywhere, a giant castle that touches the sky, and everyone travels by dragon (instead of cloud). When Itty and her new friends get stuck in a treehouse, can Itty figure out a way to help them get down?

Another cute Itty Bitty adventure! This series is sure to please with its friendship-filled stories, messages about kindness, and kitty, unicorn, fairy, and glitter-filled illustrations. Lots of puppy love in the newest addition!

Book Review Tuesday

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


City of the Plague God by Sarwat Chadda
Gr. 4-7. Sik thinks its just another night at his parents’ deli–but everything changes when a couple of demons crash the place. Literally–they destroy the building, demanding a mystery item from Sik that he simply doesn’t have. Suddenly Sik’s parents are in the hospital with a strange illness, one of Sik’s classmates is behaving particularly strangely, and Sik is pulled into a world of gods, demons, and monsters from his family’s old stories. Sik isn’t alone–he has Ishtar, the goddess of love and war; Ishtar’s adopted daughter and all-around awesome warrior, Belet; and former hero Gilgamesh all on his side. To save his parents and all of New York, Sik just needs to travel to the realm of the dead, find his brother, and bring back the Flower of Immortality. Should be easy since Sik is apparently, somehow, already immortal…right?

Squee! I go through phases with the quality of the Rick Riordan presents books, but wow this imprint is on a roll lately. This is in my top three favorites (with Tristan Strong and Paola Santiago). A fantastic, fast-paced fantasy entrenched in Mesopotamian myth that masterfully captures the humor and snark of the Percy Jackson books. I’m going to be recommending this book to everyone and anyone. So much fun–I just need to know that there will be a sequel.

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Home Is In Between by Mitali Perkins (picture book)
Gr. 1-3. Shanti and her family move from India to the United States, and Shanti suddenly finds herself caught between two homes: her old village, stories in Bangali, delicious luchi, and her life in her family’s apartment; but also her life in her new town at her new school, with trick or treating, ballet, and snowball fights. Shanti feels caught in between–trying to figure out which one is really home.

Ohhhhh this book! I’ve heard great things, and boy does this deliver. Great, fun illustrations, and an excellent glimpse into the life of a child adjusting to immigrating to a new place and figuring out how cultures blend together. Pick this one up!

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Laxmi’s Mooch by Shelly Anand (picture book)
Gr. K-2. Laxmi has a mooch (Hindi for “mustache”). She’s never really thought about it until her classmates tell her that her “whiskers” make her a perfect pretend cat. Laxmi gets upset, suddenly noticing the hair all over her body. When she talks to her parents, she is reminded that she is beautiful–and she realizes that everyone has something that makes them unique (and some girls’ “mooch” is easier to see than others).

So much body positivity here and a reminder to love who you are. I wasn’t personally quite as enticed by the part where Laxmi draws a mooch on kids who don’t have one (with their permission)–I sort of wish we would have had a kid who was okay without having a mooch, real or fake. But as a kid who was teased for dark hair on her arms–I definitely think this is a much needed book that needs to be shared in classrooms everywhere.

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Mel Fell by Corey R. Tabor (picture book)
Gr. PreS-K. Baby bird Mel is ready to fly! But rather than flying, Mel seems to fall…and fall…and fall.

Don’t worry, this book doesn’t end in the disaster you might think–it actually has a great lesson about kingfisher birds in the end, making this pair well with a science storytime. Author Corey R. Tabor gets creative with orientation here, which I think will also appeal to kids, changing the direction of the book depending what is happening on the page.


The Sea in Winter by Christine Day
Gr. 4-5. Maisie lives for ballet, dreaming of being a ballerina someday…until a torn ligament means her dancing is put on hold. Now that Maisie doesn’t go to ballet practice, she doesn’t really see her friends anymore. She feels alone all the time, and Maisie is not very thrilled for the forced family bonding during a road trip to the coast near the Makah community where her mom grew up. As the pain in her leg seems to get worse, Maisie’s moods do too–will she ever dance again? And if she doesn’t, what does that mean for all of Maisie’s dreams?

A quiet, slice of life story. I appreciate that this blends Maisie’s Makah culture into the plot with stories, family history, and connections to the land–but it lets Maisie’s mental health take the forefront of the book. Great family dynamics, particularly Maisie’s relationship with her stepdad.


Shuri: The Vanished by Nic Stone
Gr. 3-5. Princess Shuri of Wakanda is back! Shuri is determined to focus on her training and earn her mother and brother’s permission to travel to an international conference where her country may be revealed to the world. But her dreams are haunted by girls–girls her age, with her passions, who need her help. Soon those whispered visions turn into reality when Shuri discovers that real girls from across the world–girls with extraordinary science and technology skills–are going missing. With the help of best friend K’Marah and the one and only Riri Williams (a young Ironheart!), Shuri is pulled into a mystery involving a secret base, a supervillian, and mind control. Will Shrui save the lost girls…or will she be lured in herself?

I LOVE this series so much. While it deviates a bit from the Marvel movie universe–as all of these kid superhero series seem to do–Shuri is just as strong and powerful, if a bit younger and more naïve. I love all of the nods for Marvel fans (especially Riri’s appearance here…Nic Stone can we have a Riri spinoff book, please?). Packed with adventure and mystery to pull in even more reluctant readers. I can’t wait for more!

Book Review Tuesday

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


Claudia and the New Girl by Gabriela Epstein (graphic novel)
Gr. 3-5. Claudia loves art just as much as she loves babysitting. Her fellow babysitters might not quite understand Claudia’s passion for art, but Claudia is fine with that until she meets new classmate Ashley. Ashley participated in an exclusive art program in Chicago, and she thinks Claudia has potential. Claudia is thrilled to have someone to talk to about art, but Ashley doesn’t understand why Claudia spends so much of her time babysitting instead of dedicating her time exclusively to her art projects. Suddenly Claudia is sitting with Ashley at lunch and missing BSC meetings–is Claudia’s time on the BSC over?

Another great addition to the oh-so-popular Baby-Sitters Club graphic novels. We are well past the chapter books I remember reading, so I can’t say how closely this aligns to the original book, but I appreciate Claudia’s recognition of her very busy (and sometimes too busy) schedule. This is the first book with new illustrator Gaby Epstein’s art, and she does a fantastic job blending with previous illustrators while also making these her own. Looking forward to more to come!


Family Reunion by Christine Platt (first chapter)
Gr. 2-3. Ana and Andrew’s family adventures continue when they travel from Washington, D.C. to Georgia for the 75th annual Lewis family reunion! The siblings are so excited to see their cousins and relatives and participate in the family fun.

Another great edition to this fantastic beginning reader/first chapter book series. Looking forward to picking up the rest of the new releases.


Fighting Words by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Gr. 5-8. Wow. This was so much more than I expected. Even when the book gives you quite a few hints as to where the story is going, the end result still packs quite the punch. Bahni Turpin on audio is phenomenal as always, and I will always associate her voice with Della’s now.

A must read, with a small caveat that I do wonder a bit about the author’s decision to make Della Black. The rest of the content of this story seems to be own voices based on the author’s note, but I can only imagine that there are layers to this experience added based on skin color that the author doesn’t have the same experience with.

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I Dream of Popo by Livia Blackburne (picture book)
Gr. K-2. A young girl loves playing with her popo (grandmother). When her family moves across the world from Taiwan to San Diego, she misses her popo terribly. When she returns to visit, she realizes she doesn’t remember Taiwanese the way she used to–making it a little harder to communicate. The story follows their shared love over time and distance, emphasizing the bond of family and the particular struggle of leaving family behind.


Runaway: The Daring Escape of Ona Judge by Ray Anthony Shepard (biography)
Gr. 1-4. Uses the framework of a poem with gorgeous illustrations to tell the story of Ona Judge, a slave in President George Washington’s household. I like how this shows that Ona’s life was “better” than the experience of the average slave; but better does not equal good or free. Excellent all around.

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The Story of John Lewis by Tonya Leslie
Gr. 2-4. A short chapter-book biography of John Lewis, perfect for elementary school students and fans of the Who Is/Was books. Filled with colorful illustrations and pop-out boxes featuring questions, mini-timelines, and explanations of myth vs. fact. Detailed back matter includes a quiz, a summary of ways John Lewis made a difference, more questions, a glossary, and a bibliography.

I am very impressed by the quality of this biography series, and I especially appreciate the own voices authors. While the reading level is slightly under the Who Is/Was books, this is a much stronger work overall with a format that is more appealing for reluctant readers. Will be looking for the rest of the series.


Planet Omar: Unexpected Super Spy by Zanib Mian
Gr. 3-4. Omar is so excited to use his saved money to buy a super awesome Nerf Blaster! But days before his big purchase, Omar finds out that his mosque is in trouble. The roof is collapsing, and if the mosque doesn’t raise enough money, it will have to close. Omar and his friends work hard to raise money with chores and selling some cool creations, but they think they might have found the best money-making option in a school-wide talent show. They raise so much money, and everything looks like it will turn out okay…until the money goes missing. Can they find it before it is too late?

This was a lot of fun! I remember not being a big fan of the first Omar book, but I am so glad to have picked up book two. Lots of everyday kid shenanigans, with a scattering of British terms throughout (Omar’s family lives in London). This series will appeal to fans of Wimpy Kid and Big Nate looking for books with some illustrations but a bit more text than those series.

We Say Good Night by Salina Yoon: 9780593175040 | PenguinRandomHouse.com:  Books

We Say Good Night by Salina Yoon (board book)
Toddler-PreS. Learn to say good night in English, Madarin, Spanish, Hindi, Tagalog, Arabic, and French in this simple, brightly-colored board book. Lift the flap on each page to see the word “good night” in a different language. An excellent choice for storytime with bright, solid background colors that will make this easy to see even in a crowded room.

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Where Are You Polar Bear? by DK Publishing (board book)
Toddler-PreS. Where is polar bear hiding? Meet many arctic animals in this simple, plastic-free touch and feel book. Sturdy cardboard pages with simple cardboard cutouts create the textured experience without plastic. Muted colors lean into the cardboard design and overall tone of the book.


Witchy by Ariel Slamet Ries (graphic novel)
Gr. 4-7. Young witch Nyneve hides her hair when at school. The length of your hair determines the strength of your magic, and Nyneve’s hair is long–just like her father, who was killed for being considered a magical threat. When the Witch Guard tries to force her to join, Nyneve does the unthinkable: she cuts off her hair, severing her power. Soon she is running for her life and discovering new enemies–but maybe also a few new friends–along the way.

Ohhhh I liked this! I haven’t heard much about this book at all, but this is an excellent readalike for Witch Boy, Amulet, Lightfall, and even Moonstruck and some slightly older middle school graphic novels. Great story, excellent characters, a good trans subplot–there is so much to appreciate. Where is book two?

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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Above the Rim: How Elgin Baylor Changed Basketball by Jen Bryant (biography)
Gr. 2-4. Learn about the life of the extraordinary Elgin Baylor, an incredible and innovative basketball player that helped shape the NBA and combatted racism with a one-man protest after not being permitted to stay in any hotels or eat in any restaurants in the segregated south.

Wow, this was a particularly stellar picture book biography! Great artwork and a well-framed story with high appeal.


Fair and Square by Heather Ayris Burnell (reader)
Gr. 1-2. Another excellent Unicorn and Yeti beginning reader. I can’t get enough of these–the vocabulary and simple sentence structure are on point, the illustrations are adorable, and the stories even teach simple concepts. This title focuses on shapes, being creative in your own way, and different ways to think about fair and equal.

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Furia by Yamile Saied Méndez (teen)
Gr. 8+. Camila doesn’t just love fútbol–she is good at playing. Not just good, incredible. On the field, she is La Furia, destined to leave Argentina and play on an international team. But in Argentina, women are not expected to play sports. A few years ago it would have been illegal for her to play at all. Now, she plays in secret, tiptoeing around her abusive, short-tempered father. But when Camila has a chance to play in a game where her ability could catch the eye of a coach, she needs her parents’ permission. How can she make her dream happen?

This one was a little too long for me. I liked the moments of action. Surprisingly to me, this included the futbol games. But most everything in between practices and games felt like it drug on. While Camila’s story at home felt like a strong arc, her romance with Diego felt a bit predictable, down to the end result. I see a definite audience for this strong, feminist story, but I don’t think I am it. I will still be recommending this, but I may not be personally looking for a sequel.

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If You’re Scary and You Know It! by Carole Gerber (board book)
Toddler-PreS. A “spooky” version of the song If You’re Happy and You Know It. The illustrations are cute and appropriate, with the only reference to Halloween in the last spread’s Trick or Treat–which could be skipped if this was to be adapted for a holiday-less storytime.

The author does a great job reimagining the tune, though I wish the lyrics were as repetitious as the original song. Generally, kids seem to like to sing along to books like these, and that simply isn’t the structure here. While the verses keep to the beat and tune, almost every line in each lyric is different. The first and last lines of each verse do end with clear actions, good for an energetic crowd.

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Never Touch a Snake! by Rosie Greening (board book)
Baby-Toddler. Always a fan of these sensory board books. This book’s internal story showcases animals as circus performers (clown, acrobat, etc.). Not my favorite, but the sensory elements and bright illustrations still work well for the intended age.

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Raven Squawk, Orca Squeak by Roy Henry Vickers (board book)
Baby-Toddler. A gorgeous board book with lightly textured illustrations by Indigenous artist Roy Henry Vickers. Rhythmic text emphasizes the sounds found on the West Coast of Canada: thunder booming, big waves crashing, paddles swooshing, ravens squawking, orcas squeaking, and more. Add this one to your board book collection.


Slime for Dinner by Geronimo Stilton and Tom Angleberger (graphic novel)
Gr. 2-4. Lots of laughs and bad puns as Geronimo Stilton’s adventures continue in the Tom Angleberger graphic novel adaptation. Geronimo and friends are invited to a mystery dinner at Cacklefur Castle, competing to win a special trip. Geronimo doesn’t want to go to the dinner, and he really doesn’t want to win, but Thea pulls him into the spooky (and slimy!) fun, especially when the fake-mystery turns into a quest for a family heirloom that was really stolen.

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A Thousand White Butterflies by Jessica Betancourt-Perez (picture book)
Gr. K-1. Isabella, her Mama, and her Abuelita just moved from Colombia to the United States. Her Papa, and all her friends, are back home. Isabella is nervous but a little excited for her first day at her new school–when her very first day is cancelled due to too much snow.

A sweet first-day-of-school story filled with lots of emotions and an adorable start to a new friendship. Plenty of Spanish words interspersed throughout with a glossary in the back. A great addition to your library collection.

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Wheels by Sally Sutton (picture book)
Toddler-PreS. “Wheels go fast. Wheels go slow. Shout what’s coming if you know!” Read a hint and use the pictures to guess what vehicle is coming next.

Oh that was fun! A definite storytime read, though this is sorely lacking in diverse characters. Some words don’t entirely align with words most commonly used in the U.S. — words like “motorbike” for motorcycle. The repetition will make this a winner in a toddler or preschool program though!

Book Review Tuesday

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


Blades of Freedom by Nathan Hale (graphic novel) (nonfiction)
Gr. 4-5. Framed around the sale of the Louisiana Purchase, the newest Nathan Hale title really explores the Haitian Revolution.

I liked this book a lot, though I don’t think the connection to the Louisiana Purchase was needed. Perhaps the author was trying to make a more direct connection to American history, but I think this book series is popular enough that the initial tropes don’t need to be followed as strictly. It does all tie together eventually, but I would have rather this book focused entirely on the Haitian people instead of suddenly tossing Thomas Jefferson into the narrative at the end.

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The Challenger Disaster by Pranas T. Naujokaitis (graphic novel) (nonfiction)
Gr. 4-5. Learn about the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger in January 1986 through the eyes of school children living on a space station above Mars 400 years in the future.

This was enjoyable and approachable for kids with no background knowledge. Following a similar format to First Second’s popular Science Comics, this took a complicated and tragic situation and made it understandable and interesting for young readers. This is my second History Comics graphic novel, and I learned more from this one (and was engaged more in this one) than the Great Chicago Fire title. I was a bit confused about the computer system the kids were using–the holograms of the dead astronauts seemed to know about their lives, about the kids’ lives in the future, but not always about their own deaths, which felt odd.


Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas (teen)
Gr. 9+. We meet Maverick Carter before Starr is born–before Starr is conceived in fact. Maverick is trying to figure out high school while hanging out with his favorite cousin and dealing on the side for the King Lords. What he doesn’t expect is Iesha–the girlfriend of one his close friends–to get pregnant soon after they have sex. It was just one time, surely the baby can’t be his–but it is. And not just that, but on the day the paternity results come in, Iesha and her mom skip out on Maverick, leaving him with a squirming, adorable, poop-filled infant.

Maverick knows this baby is his responsibility, and he is willing to put in the work to do his best to take care of baby Seven while helping his mom stay afloat. He doesn’t want his child to grow up without a father, so he takes his chance to get out of drug dealing. But things are never that simple, and after the murder of a loved one and the possibility of a second baby on the way, Maverick has to grow up and make some hard decisions fast.

This was amazing, as expected. So much character development, and I really want more of this story, Maverick’s story. No THUG knowledge necessary to enjoy this, though there are a few call backs that fans of the first book will appreciate. This particular line sticks with me: “Because the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree?…it can roll away from the tree. It simply needs a little push.”

Everything Angie Thomas writes is phenomenal, but I feel like I can hear the progression in her writing from THUG to On the Come Up to Concrete Rose–and I’m thrilled to see what will come next.


Fly on the Wall by Remy Lai
Gr. 3-4. Henry Khoo is done being treated like a baby. He doesn’t need a chaperone, and he is going to prove it by flying halfway around the world to Singapore all by himself. Since his family has decided to cancel their summer trip, Henry is going to make the journey alone without anyone’s knowledge. He’s prepared: he is just old enough to fly alone, he knows the steps to get through the airport, and he even has an alibi to keep him covered until his plane lands. But everything goes wrong when he realizes that he knows someone on the flight–and not just any someone, but the very person that knows he is the creator of an anonymous gossip website about students at his school. Will Henry make it to Singapore in one piece? Or will his nemesis end his adventures early?

This was fun, though I think I missed a lot by listening to this. I didn’t see any of the illustrations, and there were definitely moments I was confused. Henry is full of energy, and while this does translate well over audio, it sometimes feels a little all over the place. However, I think this is a fun, diverse readalike for fans of Wimpy Kid, Terrible Two, and other fast, funny books.

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Oona by Kelly DiPucchio (picture book)
Gr. PreS-K. Adorable mermaid Oona loves collecting things. Sometimes her adventures lead her to trouble, but that doesn’t stop her from pursuing her biggest find yet: a shiny gold crown stuck at the bottom of a dark rift.

Absolutely gorgeous illustrations that complement the story while adding more details. And I absolutely cannot get over Otto the Otter companion, or how after finally getting the crown, it most obviously belongs around Otto’s stomach. How else could you wear it? Like so many other reviewers have said, more Black mermaids please.


The Ridiculous and Wonderful Rainbow Hat by Aaron Starmer
Gr. 3-4. Locker 37 adventures continue at Hopewell Elementary School. This time, fourth grader Riley needs help pulling off the most epic prank ever: dropping 10,000 ping pong balls from the ceiling ducts above the gym during the upcoming juggling-filled assembly. Locker 37 provides Riley with a magical hat that creates Riley clones. Surely a never-ending number of Riley’s can pull off such an elaborate prank?

More Locker 37 shenanigans. This series is a great readalike for fans of the 13-Story Treehouse, Terrible Two, and other tales filled with lost of humor and wry adventures. Quick pacing and a lot of action will appeal to reluctant readers.

Book Review Tuesday

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


Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From by Jennifer De Leon (teen)
Gr. 9+. Liliana Cruz knows she won’t fit in at the white school her parents want her to go to. She didn’t even know her parents sent in an application for her–she just got called to the principal’s office one day and told she was accepted into the METCO program and would now be bussed to a different school with more funding. Liliana is sure she won’t go, but when she finds out that her dad ran off again, she finds herself accepting to make her mom happy.

Liliana is one of only a few kids of color at her new school, and she doesn’t seem to fit in anywhere. The other METCO kids laugh at her, and the white kids ignore her–well, all of them except for one really cute boy. Liliana is sure she will drop out of this program and just go back to her old school, but then she learns that her dad isn’t off doing his own thing–he got deported, and he can’t come home because he is undocumented. Suddenly, her classmates and teachers racist remarks sting more than ever before, and Liliana decides she is done making everyone else comfortable at her own expense.

Fantastic! Liliana’s journey of self-discovery felt real. While there was a lot going on, it all felt genuine–from the at home struggles to the micro and macro aggressions at school. Powerful, enjoyable, and an easy one to recommend.


When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller
Gr. 4-6. Lily, her mother, and her older sister Sam move in with Lily’s sick grandmother. As they drive into town, a giant, magical tiger from one of her Halmoni’s stories arrives–a tiger only Lily can see. Halmoni tells Lily that a long time ago she stole something important from the tigers, and now the tigers want it back. Lily manages to talk to one of the tigers, and it offers her a deal: return the stories that Halmoni stole, and the tigers will return Halmoni’s health. Lily knows she has to take the tiger up on its bargain–but tigers are known for not quite telling the truth. And can quiet, invisible Lily ever really be brave enough to trick a tiger?

This was beautiful and brimming with strong feelings of love and family, weaving together culture and magical realism in a quiet but yet still suspenseful fashion. The depth of the side characters really stands out to me–Halmoni’s journey towards acceptance, Sam’s fear of being left behind, Ricky’s want for a real friend who gets it, and Lily’s mom in particular, trying to hold everyone together. I see why this won the Newbery

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