Review: One Fox by Kate Read

one fox

Summary: 

From the publisher: An illustrated counting book in which one famished fox finds five snug eggs but must face three plump hens to get them.

Review: 

Illustrated counting books are (if you’ll pardon the cliche) a dime a dozen. Like all picture books, they need to have engaging art and preferably a story beyond “let’s count these objects on the page,” but since counting books in particular are so common it takes a lot to stand out from the crowd. And boy, does Kate Read deliver. The subtitle “A Counting Book Thriller” says it all: a fox slowly creeps up on some unsuspecting hens with the intent to steal their delicious eggs. I read it at a preschool storytime as well as at a preschool outreach and it went over great with that age group.

The artwork is absolutely gorgeous, particularly the titular fox who has a wonderfully expressive face. Just look at that cover! It also squeezes in some new vocabulary, like “sly” or “famished.” This is Read’s debut and I’m excited to see what she has in store for the future if she does this well right out of the gate. With great artwork, counting practice that doesn’t sacrifice plot, and mischievous humor, this one is a win for sure.

Check it out on the catalog here!

Miss Jessica

 

Marta’s Top 10 of 2019

Marta’s Top 10 of 2019

 

10. Dandy

by Ame Dyckeman

 

This book came out relatively early in the year and became a go-to for me with my Pre-K friends.   It has that perfect blend of sweet and silly.  The humor is also layered in a way that even gets the adults in the room to chuckle.  Sweetie has become completely enamored with the lone dandelion on Daddy’s otherwise perfect lawn.  She has even given it a name!  Daddy and his friends keep looking for opportunities to get rid of Charlotte the dandelion, but each time Daddy is thwarted.  This book has plenty of laughs to share but a sweet ending that will make anyone smile.

 

9.  The Important Thing About Margaret Wise Brown

by Mac Barnett

A good picture book biography will win me over every time, but this one stood out above the rest.  Through Barnett’s word choice and delivery, it feels like reading a book by the famous author herself.  Of course, he adds his own subtle humor but the heartfelt narrative and deep respect for the struggles the children’s author went through come through beautifully.  Coupled with the beautiful illustrations by Sarah Jacoby, this book gave me a whole new appreciation for Margaret Wise Brown.

 

8.   Stargazing 

by Jen Wang

Christine and Moon are unlikely best friends.  Christine is very studious and somewhat reserved.  Moon is an artistic free-spirit… who sometimes beats people up.  Despite their differences, these two neighbors soon become best friends and serve as the Yin to the others Yang.  So when jealousy, pressure from parents and friends, celestial beings, and illness try to come between them, can their friendship stand strong?

Not only does this book have an awesome story line that makes me think of books like Smile and Sunny Side Up, but the art is fantastic.

 

7.  Where Are You From?

by Yamile Saied Méndez

The sweet pictures in this story drew me in but Méndez’ words captured me.  This story is about a little girl who is asked by classmates and peers where she is from.  She says from here but that isn’t enough for them and they continue to push asking where she is really from.  The child turns to her abuelo who answers her question with an answer that is unexpected but absolutely perfect.  A sweet story that is great for one on one reads or a group read aloud.

 

6. Share This Book!

by John Hutton

Board books are sometimes an overlooked category on the Top 10 but this one was a stand out this year!  Not only are the illustrations charming, they are also wonderfully inclusive and diverse.  The simple story speaks to the grown-ups of the very young who struggle to share books with their babies the “right” way.  This book reinforces the fact that there is NO right way.  The important thing is to sit down together and spend time not just with each other but with the book.  Whether it is looking at the pictures and pointing out things you see, reading a page here and there as your little one will sit for it, or graduating to reading the whole book (and then reading it again!) this book encourages kids and parents to keep opening the books together and making those memories.

 

5. The Bridge Home

by Padma Venkatraman

Dealing with heavy hitting subjects like abuse, neglect and homelessness, this book is heartbreaking but also incredibly uplifting.  Through tragic circumstances Viji, Rukku, Muthi and Arul find themselves homeless on the streets on Chennai in India.  The sisters Viji and Rukku are new to life on the streets, but quickly find a home with Muthi and Arul, who are able to show them how to survive.  With a stray dog in the mix too, these four quickly form a familial bond.  Though there is tension and heartbreak in this story there is also humor and so much hope.  The author has created a vivid world for these characters and doesn’t shy away from tough topics while also not being too graphic for the age it is intended.  The chapters are short but pack a punch so this book would be an awesome read aloud.

 

4. My Papí Has a Motorcycle

by Isabel Quintero

Daisy loves getting to zoom through her neighborhood on the back of her father’s motorcycle.  As they ride, she is excited to see people and places that make this her home.  She can’t help but noticing that some things in her neighborhood are changing though.  Despite these changes, he knows she can count on the love of her dad and family and the memories of her neighborhood as she knew it.  The illustrations in this book

 

3.  Some Places More than Others

by Renée Watson

Amara is excited for the opportunity to travel to New York to meet her father’s family and see where he grew up.  Sadly, New York isn’t quite what she imagined.  Her father and grandfather don’t speak to each other.  Amara is trying to figure out this new found family and how she fits in and why things are the way they are.  Filled with heart, this  story is about a young girl trying to connect to her roots and find out who she really is.

 

2.  Strange Birds: A Field Guide to Ruffling Feathers

by Celia C. Pérez

I knew the second I saw this book’s epigraph was from the novella The Body, which the movie Stand By Me was based on, that it was going to be amazing, and it didn’t disappoint!  The four protagonists all come together after a mysterious invitiation to join a new secret group, bringing their own secrets with them.  Though they seem almost too different, they soon form friendships and find a cause: fighting an out-dated and unethical tradition held by another group in their town.  This book combines mystery, humor, adventure, and the ups and downs that come with new friendships.  It reads pretty fast with short chapters that often rotate through the perspectives of the different characters.

 

And tied for first…

Dear Sweet Pea

by Julie Murphy

If you have read any of Murphy’s previous YA titles (Dumplin’, Puddin), you know her writing is warm, with a lot of heart and the right dose of humor.  Dear Sweet Pea is her middle grade debut that offers all of those same qualities I’ve come to love about this author’s voice.  Sweet Pea is dealing with a lot.  On the home front, her parents are divorcing.  At school, there are social issues with her ex best friend and the fact that, well, Sweet Pea isn’t exactly the smallest person in her class.  Things take an interesting turn for Sweet Pea when the reclusive advise columnist who lives next door asks Sweet Pea to forward her mail to her, but instead she starts responding to the letters herself!  This sweet, spunky, warm protagonist had me rooting for her from the get go.

 

 

With the Fire On High

by Elizabeth Acevedo

Talk about outside my comfort zone!  When I dive into YA fiction I usually gravitate towards fantasy.  This book created such a buzz in the book world though, I had to read it even though it is realistic fiction.  Emoni is not your typical Senior.  Emoni has a a two-year old daughter at home to think about and an abuela who needs her.  She works, gets good grades, is an excellent mom and granddaughter, and is also an AMAZING cook.  It’s almost like magic.  She knows just what to add to make a recipe pop, creating a one-of-a-kind experience for whoever is eating it. When she is given the opportunity to take a culinary arts class that includes a chance to study abroad, she is eager but also weary.  Money on a trip means less money at home and time away from her baby girl, but it also means the chance to be a “normal” teenager, even if only for two weeks.  Emoni is always having to make decisions and take on responsibilities well beyond her years based on the needs of the ones she loves.  She takes her responsibilities seriously and this trip breaks all the rules she has set for herself, but breaking free could be exactly what she needs to find herself where she is meant to be. This book is beautifully written, authentic, and includes recipes.

Miss Marta

Jessica’s Best Books of 2019

Jessica’s Top 10 of 2019

10. Field Trip

by Molly Brooks

The sequel to one of my favorite middle grade graphic novels, Sanity and Tallulah. This time, Sanity and Tallulah are on a class field trip from their spaceship to an actual planet that goes horrendously wrong. Field Trip has everything you could want: exploding planets, space bees, pirates, and plucky kids working together to save the day. The world-building is expanded on from the previous book and we get to meet Sanity’s awesome older sister, Prudence. I love the energy, humor, and curiosity of this series and can’t wait to see more of it in the future.

 

9. Give Me Back My Bones!

by Kim Norman

A pirate buried at the bottom of the ocean needs help gathering back up his bones! This fun, rhyming picture book uses the correct terms for bones (scapula, clavicle, humerus, etc.) but explains what the bones are used for in silly pirate speak, so it informs while it entertains. A great STEM-themed picture book that would be a hit with any young pirate lover.

 

8. The Scarecrow

by Beth Ferry

Ferry’s story of a lonesome scarecrow rescuing and befriending a baby crow is fine on its own, but it’s the Fan brothers’ illustrations that make this book truly outstanding. They make the scarecrow’s simple burlap face seem expressive and full of life and are equally skilled at capturing the changing seasons. A beautiful, moving story of friendship.

 

7. The Night Flower

by Lara Hawthorne

This nonfiction picture book depicts the flora and fauna of the Sonoran desert, particularly the titular flower of the saguaro cactus which blooms only one night a year. The rhyming prose paired with the lovely, simple illustrations show a softer, thriving side of the desert. It also includes the life cycle and parts of the saguaro, desert creatures, and glossary.

 

6. Skulls!

by Blair Thornburgh

An adorable picture book about – you guessed it – skulls! Thornburgh’s cheery, light-hearted picture book looks at an often scary subject and shows how useful skulls can be. The cool skull facts included at the end was pretty informative as well.

 

 

5. The Happy Book

by Andy Rash

This picture book about feelings stands out to me from the crowd of similar books because it not only identifies feelings and what may cause them, but that it is okay to not be happy all of the time. Even some pretty complex emotions (“I’m angry that I can’t make you happy and scared we won’t be friends anymore!” “I’m scared you won’t like me if I’m not happy.”) are presented but in a way that’s understandable to young children. And best of all, Rash has managed to create a book that is not only fun for kids, but adults will get a laugh out of reading as well.

 

4. The Absence of Sparrows

by Kurt Kirchmeier

This book is an odd duck, which I mean in the best way. The premise – spooky clouds roll in and cause people to randomly turn into glass statues – was strange and unique enough to capture my interest, but I was surprised by the sensitive portrayal of the main character’s grief, confusion, and struggle to keep his family together in the midst of a bizarre apocalypse.

 

 

3. Scary Stories for Young Foxes

by Christian McKay Heidicker

One of the best scary stories for kids that manages to be genuinely spooky but is still age-appropriate. Though some sensitive readers bothered by animal death/harm may want to pass on this one, any young middle grade horror fan eager for something truly spooky will fly through this like I did. You can read my full review here.

 

 

2. Pick a Pumpkin

by Patricia Toht

Anyone who has spent more than five minutes in my presence knows that Halloween is my favorite holiday, so it’s probably no surprise that a Halloween picture book would make it to my top ten. However, Toht’s lovely book, beautifully illustrated by Jarvis, would win me over even if I wasn’t already Halloween’s biggest fan. It captures the feeling of picking out a pumpkin and carving it into a jack o’lantern. Gorgeous, charming, and atmospheric.

 

 

1. Sal and Gabi Break the Universe

by Carlos Hernandez

Hands down, not only my favorite book of this year, but probably one of my favorites ever. Part of the excellent Rick Riordan Presents publishing imprint, the science fiction aspect of the story isn’t as significant to the plot as the summary makes it sound, but Sal is a wonderful protagonist and I could happily have spent an entire book of him narrating going grocery shopping or something equally mundane. I’ve got the release date of the sequel marked on my calendar, and you should too. You can check out my full review here.

 

Miss Jessica

Tess’ Best Books of 2019

 

Tess’ Top 10 of 2019

10. The Frog Book

by Steven Jenkins and Robin Page

Everything you’d want to know about frogs with full-color, gorgeous illustrations.  According to the book, there are 6,000 species of frogs.  Several are represented here, along with snippets on how they protect their eggs, their diet, and their defense mechanisms.  Kids who enjoy learning facts and dropping knowledge will love this book.  Even adults can amaze friends with obscure frog facts.  Like, did you know a group of frogs is called an army? Or that the desert rain frog lives in sand dunes and gets all its water from fog? There is also a table in the back listing all the frogs in the book, their diet, size, and range, which is handy for fact-loving readers.

 

9. Does It Fart?: A Kid’s Guide to the Gas Animals Pass

by Nick Caruso and Dani Rabaiotti and illustrated by Alex G. Griffiths

This book teaches about the ins and outs of the digestive system.  And it is HILARIOUS.  One of our regular moms here told me her kids were LOL’ing so much at bedtime while reading this book, and she highly recommended it!    Each page features a different animal, and asks the age-old question, “Does it fart?”  Answers are on the back.  My favorite “Does it Fart?” question is a tie between the Spider and the Unicorn, but I won’t spoil the answers!

 

8. A Boy Like You

by Frank Murphy and illustrated by Kayla Harren

This story encourages boys to celebrate all facets of their personalities and love themselves.  In the author’s note, Murphy wrote that as a youth basketball coach he saw boys struggling with society’s confusing messages on masculinity.  He wanted to show boys that being strong also means being thoughtful, kind, attentive, and helpful.  Some of my favorite lines are, “Fear and bravery are partners.  You can’t be brave without first being afraid.” Great book to share with all the kiddos in your life.

 

7. When Aidan Became a Brother

by Kyle Lukoff and illustrated by Kaylani Juanita

“When Aidan was born, everyone thought he was a girl…But Aidan didn’t feel like any kind of girl.  He was really another kind of boy.”  Aidan learns he will be a big brother, and he is worried about making his new sibling feel welcome right from the start.  The story follows Aidan and his family while they prepare for the new baby.  Great story about welcoming a new sibling with thoughtful transgender representation.  I really enjoyed the illustrations and Aidan’s loving family!  Lukoff himself is Trans and this book is part of the #OwnVoices movement that recognizes books written by a member of a community represented in the work.  Be sure to read his touching author’s note in the back of the book too!

 

6. Skulls!

by Blair Thornburgh and illustrated by Scott Campbell

This book is fantastic!  It looks like a graphic novel with the chunky, fun illustrations.  The text is pretty simple, which makes it a fun read-aloud too, but the back matter contains lots of great info for those who want to dig a little deeper into the subject.

 

 

5. Our Favorite Day by Joowon Oh and Saturday by Oge Mora

I love both of these picture books so much, and I just could not decide between the two.  Since they both focus of spending time with loved ones, I am including them together but not to diminish the specialness of either in any way.

 

In Saturday, a child and her mother intend to spend the day together doing their favorite Saturday activities.  Mom only has one day off a week, so Saturdays are their day!  But, as so often happens, things just don’t go according to plan.  I appreciated the parenting realness Mora shows when Mom starts to melt down (because, as a parent, who hasn’t been there?) and also the super-sweet conclusion.

 

Our Favorite Day is a lovely, gently paced book about a grandfather’s daily routine compared to his routine on Thursday, the day his granddaughter visits.  I love the water-color collage illustrations and the simple, beautiful story.  Great representation of the special relationship between grandparent and grandchild.

 

 

 

4. August Isle

by Ali Standish

This book had me hooked!  It reminded me a lot of Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech.  Miranda has grown up seeing postcards from August Isle, where her mom spent summers as a child.  She soon travels there to and begins to unravel the mysteries surrounding the seemingly perfect town and her mom’s life.   Mysterious and emotional story of loss and friendship.

 

 

 

3. Magic Ramen: The Story of Momofuku Ando

by Andrea Wang and illustrated by Kana Urbanowicz

This book really surprised me!  I thought the story of ramen noodles would be pretty dry (ha ha!), but this book was anything but.  It tells the story of Momofuku Ando and his drive to create a nutritious, affordable, easy-to-prepare meal in post-WWW II Japan.  Lots of lessons in perseverance and helping others.  The illustrations are fantastic and bring the story to life.

 

 

2. New Kid

by Jerry Craft

Seventh grade is tough.  It is even tougher to be the new kid.  Jordan Banks, a gifted student and artist, is not only the new kid at his fancy prep school, but one of the few students of color.  This graphic deals with some complex issues on race and socioeconomics while being totally enjoyable, relatable, and funny!  As Jordan’s school year progresses, he tries new activities and makes friends, and we see his unique perspective on the situations in his drawings that are interspersed with the action of the story.

 


1. The Undefeated

by Kwame Alexander and illustrated by Kadir Nelson

This ode to African-American resiliency was originally performed as a video poem for ESPN’s The Undefeated website and was made into this superb children’s book.  Nelson’s oil-painted figures are incredible and so life-like.  Alexander’s poem is powerful, and the book’s pacing with the accompanying images are just perfect here.  My favorite picture book of the year.  You can see the original video poem and read more about it here.

 

Miss Tess

Review: Scary Stories for Young Foxes by Christian McKay Heidicker

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Summary: 

From the publisher:

The haunted season has arrived in the Antler Wood. No fox kit is safe.

When Mia and Uly are separated from their litters, they discover a dangerous world full of monsters. In order to find a den to call home, they must venture through field and forest, facing unspeakable things that dwell in the darkness: a zombie who hungers for their flesh, a witch who tries to steal their skins, a ghost who hunts them through the snow . . . and other things too scary to mention.

Featuring eight interconnected stories and sixteen hauntingly beautiful illustrations, Scary Stories for Young Foxes contains the kinds of adventures and thrills you love to listen to beside a campfire in the dark of night. Fans of Neil Gaiman, Jonathan Auxier, and R. L. Stine have found their next favorite book.

Review:

I admit, I was skeptical by the premise of this book. Scary stories…for animals? Young animals? But I like foxes, and I like scary stories, so I was willing to give it a shot. And I’m so glad I did, because this book was a hit for me. Scary stories for kids are tricky; most standard horror fare is not kid-friendly, but young readers will protest at anything that’s not scary enough. So I have to give kudos to Christian McKay Heidicker for coming up with the perfect solution by making all of the characters (save one surprisingly familiar human antagonist) animals. The threats to our adorable fox kit characters are both realistic and scary, including hunters’ traps, badgers, and in my personal favorite of the stories, rabies. I was almost immediately attached to our two main characters, Uly and Mia, and rooted for them to overcome the terrifying trials that threaten them. I also really liked the framing of the story, where seven fox kits are listening to these scary stories that build on one another. After each story, one kit is too frightened to continue and goes home, but the rest beg the elderly storyteller to know what happens next.

I will warn you that Heidicker doesn’t pull any punches and is realistic about the brutality of nature. Some animals do die. Some family members are cruel. Not everyone gets a happy ending. But, as the publisher recommends, if you/your child enjoys Coraline, Goosebumps, The Night Gardener, or The Graveyard Book, then they are sure to enjoy Scary Stories for Young Foxes. Ages 10 and up, highly recommended.

Check it out on the catalog here!

Miss Jessica

 

Review: Sanity & Tallulah by Molly Brooks

sanity

Summary: 

I usually add the publisher’s description here, but in my opinion it doesn’t do this book justice, so we’re doing things my way today! This graphic novel is the story of best friends Sanity and Tallulah, who live on the space station Wilnick. Sanity loves to do science experiments and creates an adorable – and huge – three-headed kitten named Princess Sparkle, Destroyer of Worlds. But when Princess Sparkle, Destroyer of Worlds gets loose on the station, Sanity and Tallulah have to track her down before security makes them give her up. Meanwhile, unexplained power outages all across the station have everyone in a panic, and if they don’t figure out what’s causing it soon, the whole station could blow up! Will Sanity and Tallulah be able to save Princess Sparkle and the day? 

Review: 

I just finished reading this book myself not too long ago and have been trying to convince everyone I know to read it since then. Sanity and Tallulah is a super fun scifi adventure with a diverse cast of characters. Between the hunt for Princess Sparkle, Destroyer of Worlds, and the mysterious power failures on the station there is plenty of action. The art is fun and eye-catching without falling into the boring, monochromatic silvery palate a lot of futuristic media does, and the writing is similarly breezy and enjoyable. The science itself is mostly of the made-up, “reverse the polarity of the neutron flow” variety, but I really liked that it shows women and girls with an interest in STEM. Sanity herself is a budding scientist smart enough to create Princess Sparkle, Destroyer of Worlds solo and Tallulah’s mom is the engineer in charge on Wilnick. 

With the sequel coming out this fall, now is a great time to read Sanity and Tallulah! Recommended for ages 8 – 12.

Check it out on the catalog here!

Miss Jessica

Review: Sal and Gabi Break the Universe by Carlos Hernandez

sla and gabi.jpg

Summary:

From the publisher: How did a raw chicken get inside Yasmany’s locker? When Sal Vidon meets Gabi Real for the first time, it isn’t under the best of circumstances. Sal is in the principal’s office for the third time in three days, and it’s still the first week of school. Gabi, student council president and editor of the school paper, is there to support her friend Yasmany, who just picked a fight with Sal. She is determined to prove that somehow, Sal planted a raw chicken in Yasmany’s locker, even though nobody saw him do it and the bloody poultry has since mysteriously disappeared. Sal prides himself on being an excellent magician, but for this sleight of hand, he relied on a talent no one would guess . . . except maybe Gabi, whose sharp eyes never miss a trick. When Gabi learns that he’s capable of conjuring things much bigger than a chicken–including his dead mother–and she takes it all in stride, Sal knows that she is someone he can work with. There’s only one slight problem: their manipulation of time and space could put the entire universe at risk. A sassy entropy sweeper, a documentary about wedgies, a principal who wears a Venetian bauta mask, and heaping platefuls of Cuban food are just some of the delights that await in his mind-blowing novel gift-wrapped in love and laughter.

Review:

You ever read a book so good that once you finish it, you hug it and thank it for its existence like some kind of nerdy version of KonMari? That is exactly what I did after finishing Carlos Hernandez’s middle grade debut, Sal and Gabi Break the Universe. Sal is one of the most delightful and charming protagonists I’ve read in a long time, and even though the scifi part of the plot wasn’t as significant as I had expected, it never dragged because I loved Hernandez’s style so much. Filled with heart and humor, this is a story about love and grief and friendship without ever getting preachy. The publisher suggested ages are 8 to 12, but I think kids on the older end of that range and even into young adult readers would better appreciate it. Highly, highly recommended.

 

Check it out on the catalog here!

Miss Jessica