Review: Sal and Gabi Break the Universe by Carlos Hernandez

sla and gabi.jpg


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.


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


Caterpillars and Butterflies Booklist

We’re crazy for caterpillars lately! The caterpillars we’ve been raising have been getting bigger every day. If you haven’t stopped in to check them out, you’re missing out! It’s pretty fun to see them crawling around and chowing down on their food. Here are some fun books about caterpillars and butterflies to share with your little ones.

Pete the Cat and the Cool Caterpillar by James Dean

Butterfly Birthday by Harriet Ziefert

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

Gotta Go, Gotta Go! by Sam Swope

In My Flower by Sara Gillingham

Life Cycle of a Butterfly by Karen Kenney

Caterpillars by Claire Llewellyn 

Butterflies by Nic Bishop

Love from the Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

Butterflies by Thea Feldman

How a Caterpillar Grows into a Butterfly by Tanya Kant

10 Little Caterpillars by Bill Martin, Jr.

The Prince of Butterflies by Bruce Coville

Little Bear and the Butterflies by Susan Quinn

10 Magic Butterflies by Danica McKellar

Waiting for Wings by Lois Ehlert

Miss Jessica

5 on Friday: May

Five on Friday

For this month’s Five on Friday, I’ve put together 5 articles about kids’ books and literacy that I found interesting. I hope you do too!

  1. Why do we read sad books? Are sad books helpful for kids? Author Jo Knowles’ article has a really interesting take on the purpose and value of sad books for kids here.
  2. Any children’s librarian will tell you the importance of reading to your child. But don’t just take it from us – a recent study found that kids who are read one short book per day start kindergarten knowing 290,000 more words than kids whose parents didn’t read to them. If you increase the number of books to five per day, the difference in vocabulary bumps up to 1.4 million words. Wow! Read more on why you should read to your kids here.
  3. I remember reading Richard Scarry books when I was a kid, and it makes me smile to see they are still around today. But they’re not the exact same books as they were when I was young, because Scarry has been subtly updating them to better reflect changing values in society. How cool! Check out some of the altered pictures here.
  4. To celebrate the 100th anniversary of Children’s Book Week, the Library of Congress has put 67 classic children’s books online! Their news release states that “From Humpty Dumpty to Little Red Riding Hood, the books in this collection were published in the United States and England before 1924, are no longer under copyright, and are free to read and share.” So why not head over to the School Library Journal article covering it and check it out?
  5. Speaking of books I grew up on, Baby-sitters Club was another series I remember enjoying. With Raina Telgemeier’s graphic novel adaptation, they’ve come back into popularity. Riding on the wave of sudden relevance, Elle Fanning and others are recording audiobooks for the entire 131-book series.

And that’s all for this month! Be sure to check back in June, same bat time, same bat channel for the next 5 on Friday.

Miss Jessica


Celebrating the Very Hungry Caterpillar

With Children’s Book Week and the 50th anniversary of Eric Carle’s classic the Very Hungry Caterpillar this year, we set up some fun activities throughout the department to celebrate.

Our lovely caterpillars are eating lots and growing bigger every day!


We have two crafts out – Build a Bug and Make a Butterfly.

We also have a Very Hungry Caterpillar book walk along the windows.

There is a sensory bin with bug hunting for the littles and plenty of Very Hungry Caterpillar props near the puppet theater for storytelling.

There is also a Feed the Caterpillar game using pom-poms and squeeze bottles.


And don’t forget to do the Very Hungry Caterpillar scavenger hunt.  When you spot all the story shapes throughout the department, you win a prize!

Can you spot the warm sun here?


Next week, we will add another craft, a Very Hungry Caterpillar obstacle course, and a Very Hungry food toss!

Miss Tess


If you like Who Would Win?

If you are a fan of the Who Would Win series by Jerry Pallotta, you might also like these books about animals and their unique traits!


The Biggest, Baddest Book series including

Sea Creatures  Dinos  Bugs

Biggest, Baddest Book of Bugs by Anders Hanson and Elissa Man

Biggest, Baddest Book of Dinosaurs by Anders Hanson & Elissa Mann

Biggest, Baddest Book of Sea Creatures by Jen Schoeller

The Animals Superpowers Series by Joanne Mattern

Super Strength   Super Senses 

Deadly Weapons   Masters of Disguise   Strange Bodies

The Animal Rivals series by Isabel Thompson

Scorpion vs. TarantulaLion vs. TigerElephant vs. RhinoShark vs. Killer Whale

Lion vs. Tiger            Scorpion vs. Tarantula

Shark vs. Killer Whale     Elephant vs. Rhinoceros

And be sure to check out these National Geographic Kids titles –

Animal Smackdown : Surprising Animal Matchups with Surprising Results

Animal Smackdown : Surprising Animal Matchups with Surprising Results  by Emily Krieger

Ultimate Predator-Pedia

Ultimate Predatorpedia by Christina Wilsdon

Miss Tess


5 on Friday: Spring Picture Books

5OF April

It’s finally starting to feel like spring! Winter seemed to drag on forever this year, so I am especially glad to see plants start poking their heads out and feel some warmer weather. In honor of that, I chose my 5 favorite picture books about spring for this month’s 5 on Friday.


andthen it's spring

And Then It’s Spring by Julie Fogliano

Fogliano won the Ezra Jack Keats Book Award for New Writer and the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award Nominee for Picture Book Honor Book awards for this sweet story about a boy and his dog planting a garden. They both wait…and wait…and wait some more for the garden to grow.


when spring comes

When Spring Comes by Kevin Henkes

Henkes is a bestselling author for a reason, but what really makes this book a standout to me are Laura Dronzek’s beautiful illustrations. No one knows how to capture the wonder of a season the way she does.



Fletcher and the Springtime Blossoms by Julia Rawlinson

Fletcher the fox mistakes the falling blossoms as snow and rushes to warn his friends that they have returned from their migrations or woken from hibernation too soon. I really enjoy the Fletcher books and I think kids will too.


wake up

Wake Up, it’s Spring! by Lisa Campbell Ernst

One day, the sun whispers to the earth, “Wake up, it’s spring!” And the earth tells the worm, who tells the seed, and so on until everyone is awake and cheering for springtime. The simple, playful text makes this great for read-alouds.



Abracadabra, it’s Spring! by Anne Sibley O’Brien

As you might be able to guess from the title, this charming picture book focuses on the magic of winter transforming into spring. Some of the magic words are a bit of a stretch – I’ve never heard anyone say “Alizebu!” before – but the fold-out pages showing the change to a new season are lovely.

And that’s all for this month! Be sure to check back in May, same bat time, same bat channel for the next 5 on Friday.

Miss Jessica


Reading to Kids Who Won’t Sit Still

Oaktuck Clothing

Sitting still and listening to a story? For some kids, that nearly amounts to torture. However, we still want them to have the experience of being read a story. So what can you do? With a little patience and creativity, I think it’s still possible. Here are 7 tips to help get started reading with your wiggly little one.

  1. Just keep reading. Just because they’re moving doesn’t mean they aren’t listening, too. Once kids are mobile they want to move, and honestly, they should! Even if they’re dancing or rolling around on the floor, they’re still benefiting from hearing you read aloud, and oftentimes kids are paying more attention than you realize. Feel free to paraphrase and cut things short if necessary; this is something we do in storytime when the audience is getting antsy and it works just as well at home.
  2. Read at a time when they are already expected to stay in one place, like bedtime, or even mealtimes and bathtime. Start off with a short book and choose more and longer books as their attention span increases. As they get used to this routine, try introducing some of the favorites during other times of the day as well.
  3. Try interactive picture books. Here’s a list of some of my favorites. These books ask readers to participate with the book by touching, shaking, making faces, or otherwise engaging with the book beyond just listening. For kids who hate sitting still, this can be a good way to keep them interested in the story.
  4. Try pop-up books, books with flaps or textures, or other interesting additions they can physically interact with. Fiona Watt has an adorable series of touch-and-feel board books like That’s Not My Bunny or That’s Not My Dinosaur that are a great example.
  5. Give audiobooks a try. Audiobooks are especially great for when you’re in the car or on the move. There are audiobooks and Playaways available at the library for kids of all ages. Stop by and see if we have your favorite or else get a recommendation from the Children’s staff.
  6. Ask questions and talk about the pictures in the story. Not only is this a great literacy strategy, it also helps keep kids engaged. Questions like “What’s happening in this picture?” or “What do you think will happen next?” build reading comprehension skills.
  7. Try keeping their hands busy to stave off the fidgets. I’m an adult and I still have trouble sitting and listening (even to something that I enjoy!) for long periods of time without some way to keep my hands busy. You can use paper and crayons, fidget toys, playdough, blocks, whatever works! This may seem like a distraction, but like I said before – even if kids aren’t sitting perfectly still, they may still be listening to you.

If none of these strategies work, they may just need to mature a little before they are ready, and that’s okay! Pushing them before they’re ready will turn reading into a chore and that’s the last thing anyone wants. So model positive reading behavior and try again frequently, but don’t sweat it too much.

Miss Jessica