Samira and the Skeletons by Camilla Kuhn

Samira and the Skeletons by Camilla Kuhn

Samira and the Skeletons by Camilla Kuhn (InfoSoup)

Samira is having a good day, enjoying school and spending time with her best friend, Frida. But then her teacher says something perfectly horrible. She explains that inside everybody is a skeleton with a skull, ribs, spine and more. Samira is horrified and soon can’t see anyone without seeing their skeleton without skin. She starts to avoid her classmates, particularly Frida. Luckily her mother has a great plan. She offers to remove Samira’s skeleton entirely right there in the kitchen. But Samira’s skeleton doesn’t want to lay still for the operation and runs outside and off to the park where Samira’s skeleton and Frida’s skeleton run around together and soon Samira can see Frida as herself once again. Of course, there is still tomorrow’s lesson to get through…

Samira is a child with a huge imagination, one that just won’t shut off easily either when it gets an idea. The story is a refreshing one with a parent who deals with the issue in a calm and playful way, saving the day. Samira herself is complex and interesting, a girl who visualizes ideas intensely, reacts to her own imagination with zing and has no problem being entirely herself.

The illustrations are fantastic with plenty of personality and good humor. Samira is an African-American child and her best friend is Caucasian. Another very clever aspect of this story is to show that we are all the same underneath our skin. So when Samira is seeing everyone as a skeleton, suddenly there is no race in the class, just bones. It’s a subtle message that the book introduces and never belabors.

A dynamic and funny look at the intersection of science and imagination. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

Delilah Dirk and the King’s Shilling by Tony Cliff

Delilah Dirk and the Kings Shilling by Tony Cliff

Delilah Dirk and the King’s Shilling by Tony Cliff (InfoSoup)

Released March 8, 2016.

This second book in the Delilah Dirk graphic novel series will have fans cheering once again for this Victorian sword-wielding heroine. When an English army officer threatens Delilah’s good name, her thirst for revenge takes over. But Selim sees it in a calmer way, trying to divert her attention back to their travels. He wishes to travel to England, though Delilah has no interest in going there. That is until she discovers that it may be the way to take down the office who wronged her. Soon the two travelers are in England where Delilah reveals her own background and Selim attempts to enjoy his first trip there even as he is pressed into service for Delilah’s family.

This second book is just as delightful and refreshing as the first. Delilah stays entirely herself, taking on those doing wrong, defending her personal honor, and managing to have many amazing battles along the way with her sword whirling. Selim too remains the calm epicenter of Delilah’s world as the two of them travel together. He can’t get her to listen any better in this book, though in the end he seems to have known best all along. Their dynamic with one another is a major part of these books, the two of them both appreciating one another at times and then almost breaking into fist fights others. It was a particularly good choice to put their dynamic at risk in this book, making it all the more readable.

Cliff’s art is gorgeous. He has action galore here whether it is horses galloping or near escapes. Of course his battles in particular are incredibly done, frame after frame offering detail but also keeping the pacing brisk and the story line firmly in hand. The swirling skirts of Delilah match her swords and she fights in a most decidedly feminine and brutal way. It’s a delight to see.

Another winning Delilah Dirk book that anyone who loves a great sword fight will enjoy. Appropriate for ages 12-15.

Reviewed from copy received from First Second.


This Week’s Tweets, Pins & Tumbls

Here are the links I shared on my Twitter, Pinterest, and Tumblr accounts this week that I think are cool:

Raise readers!:


6 Children’s Books To Read Before They Become Movies In 2016

10 Strategies to Help a Reticent Reader Love to Read by Susie Rolander

2016 Books from Caldecott Winners — 100 Scope Notes

3D printed picture books are helping visually impaired children to read | Gadgette

Australia’s First Ever Children’s Book About Same-Sex Marriage Has Been Long-Awaited

The benefits of reading to your child are priceless

Dr. Seuss books remade in yarn will make you want to be a kid again

Great children’s picture books about same-sex parenting – in pictures

The Horror Story of Publishing Children’s Books in Russia

More than 2.5m Minecraft books sold by Egmont Publishing

My book on George Washington was banned. Here’s my side of the story

Something Beautiful | Spring 2016 Titles for and About Latinos

Seven Years of College So I Can Cut Scrap Paper - Professional Library Literature :


Chicago library housing historic collection of black literature in jeopardy

Patrons fret cuts coming to Cedar Rapids libraries | The Gazette

Re-pinned by:


Scholastic and Ubisoft Partner for YA Novels Tied to ‘Assassin’s Creed’

Top 10 female friendships in YA

When is YA going to shape up to body diversity?

X-Files Origins: YA Novels of Teen Mulder and Scully Coming

Snappsy the Alligator by Julie Falatko

Snappsy the Alligator by Julie Falatko

Snappsy the Alligator by Julie Falatko, illustrated by Tim Miller (InfoSoup)

Snappsy discovers his day taken over by a narrator in this picture book. The book begins with the narrator explaining that Snappsy was feeling “draggy” and even his skin was “baggy.” Meanwhile, Snappsy himself actually feels hungry. The narrator keeps talking about Snappsy’s every move, sometimes just describing what is happening in each image and other times adding too much drama. When Snappsy reaches the grocery store, the narrator focuses on the letter P too much. Snappsy decides to throw a party so there is something to do, and the narrator continues to cause mayhem as the story progresses.

Falatko’s writing is very funny. Her timing is wonderful, Snappsy often reacting just the way that the reader would, calling the narrator out for doing a bad job at times and other times getting snarky when the narrator has miscalled what is about to happen. The influence of the narrator’s voice on a story is shown very clearly here and is a great way to talk about the tone of writing and how that can change an entire book to read one way or another. That said, this book can also just be read for the giggles which is the perfect reason to pick up any picture book.

Miller’s illustrations have the feel of a vintage picture book, just right for this subject matter. They add to the humor from the expressions on Snappsy’s face to the homey aspects to the house that Snappsy lives in.

A smart, silly and richly funny picture book that is sure to have people laughing when it’s shared aloud. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

Surf’s Up by Kwame Alexander

Surfs Up by Kwame Alexander

Surf’s Up by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Daniel Miyares (InfoSoup)

Dude comes to the window to let Bro know “Surf’s up!” But Bro is busy reading his book. Dude is shocked that Bro would prefer reading to heading to the beach. Bro comes along, still reading his book as they walk along. As they walk, he tells Dude about Moby Dick’s story and then reacts with gasps and amazement as the story continues. Bro finishes the book as they reach the beach and suddenly it is Dude who wants to read more than he wants to surf.

Told in a merry back and forth between the two frogs, this picture book is entirely in dialogue. The dialogue is wonderfully effortless, reading just like any two real people shooting the breeze, lightly teasing one another, and then enjoying the drama of a tale well told. There is a breeziness and hipness to the book as well that will appeal to modern children looking for a cool read.

Miyares’ illustrations are double-spread and cover the entire page. The world he creates wraps around the reader, much the way the story of Moby Dick encompasses both of the frogs. The drama of the story is told in a deep blue and gray palette while the frogs’ world is lighter. When both frogs are caught up in the whale tale together, that story entirely takes over the page and the frogs become characters in the book.

A dynamite and fresh book to show that everyone can get into a good book, even when the surf’s up. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

The Book Itch by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson

The Book Itch by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson

The Book Itch: Freedom, Truth & Harlem’s Greatest Bookstore by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie (InfoSoup)

This book is about the National Memorial African Bookstore and how it became a center for black culture in the 1960s. Told from the point of view of the son of Lewis Michaux, the owner of the store, this book looks at the figures like Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali who come to the store. It is also the story of how Michaux fought to have a store, selling books out of a pushcart at first and being denied a business loan from banks. Michaux was known for his slogans which he shouted on the street, told to his son and painted on the front of his store. The book continues through the assassination of Malcolm X. Readers must look to the note at the end to discover what happened to the store.

This nonfiction picture book speaks to the power of bookstores to inform and to keep a culture strong. One man’s vision comes to life thanks to his own determination and also the way that it spoke to others. The choice location near the Apollo Theater also helped get African-American celebrities to come to the store. The choice to have the story told from a child’s point of view was what makes this book appropriate and understandable for children.

The illustrations by Christie are filled with deep color and thick paint. They directly show the effort and intensity of determination of running a book store like this one. Some pages light with oranges and yellows while others are darkened by death.

A powerful book about an important book store and the vital need for information and books as part of a movement. Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from library copy.

A Beginner’s Guide to Bear Spotting by Michelle Robinson

A Beginners Guide to Bear Spotting by Michelle Robinson

A Beginner’s Guide to Bear Spotting by Michelle Robinson, illustrated by David Roberts (InfoSoup)

A child heads into bear country with a helpful narrator who tries to offer needed advice in dealing with bears. First, the narrator tells the child of the two kinds of bears, but assures them that they will never see one. But then on the next page, the child is lucky enough to encounter a bear right away. And it’s apparently a black bear, not only due to its coloring but because it chases the child right up a tree. The child backs away slowly and runs right into a brown bear next. The child plays dead, but that only invites the black bear to come closer. Pepper spray doesn’t help, it just makes them hungry. But perhaps gum will be the solution! Or maybe not.

It is the interplay between the knowledgeable adult narrator and the child who manages to get into all sorts of furry trouble that makes this book such a great pick to share aloud. The bears are huge and fearsome but the book also makes sure to show that there are ways to interact with nature that leaves everyone alright in the end, if a little shaken. The book also mentions that it is not safe to really interact with bears like the child does in the book.

The illustrations are wonderful. They move from cartoon friendliness to pages of information that have a graph paper background. The use of a gender-free main character who has brown skin, makes this book all the more friendly to children from a variety of backgrounds. And the merry way that the child faces each obstacle adds to the light-hearted feel of the book.

A silly and jolly look at nature and bears that is sure to add laughter to a storytime. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Bloomsbury.

The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman

The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman

The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman (InfoSoup)

The author of Eon and Eona returns with an amazing book of fantasy set in Regency London. Lady Helen Wrexhall is getting ready for her presentation to the Queen, something that her aunt and uncle are depending on to offset the claim that Helen’s mother was a traitor to the crown. Helen has also noticed that her senses are growing more acute. Soon she is told by the intriguing Lord Carlston that she has a destiny inherited from her mother that makes her one of only a few people alive who can hunt demons. As part of the upper class, Helen must figure out how to navigate the dangers and darkness she is discovering without losing sight of her place in society.

Goodman makes a great choice here, creating a Regency England setting filled with a secret layer of darkness and intrigue. She keeps the society of the time intact throughout, allowing everything else to seethe under those strict and proper restrictions. This creates a feeling of dread, harrowing danger at every turn, and the reader has no idea who to trust. Goodman keeps revealing new details and truths throughout the novel, even towards the end, creating a book that is rich and detailed.

Helen is a fabulous protagonist. She is a woman who is fighting against the strictures of her place in society already and then given a way to move forward that is exciting and tantalizing but also scandalous. It is to Goodman’s credit that Helen does not leap into action without hesitation, making her someone who really fits into her time period and setting in a natural way.

Add in a little heat with male protagonists and you have a fantasy-laced romantic novel that is luminous and riveting. Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from library copy.

The Perfect Tree by Chloe Bonfield

The Perfect Tree by Chloe Bonfield

The Perfect Tree by Chloe Bonfield (InfoSoup)

Jack headed out to find the perfect tree, one that was just right to chop down for firewood. But he was having trouble finding that perfect tree. Jack finally sat down under a tree in the forest in despair. Then a woodpecker offered to help Jack find the perfect tree. She flew to a tree and after knocking on a branch all sorts of birds flew out of it. Then a squirrel said that he too could show Jack the perfect tree. Taking Jack into a great oak tree, the squirrel revealed his stash of nuts and berries for the winter. Next a spider showed Jack her favorite tree where a web hung filled with water drops. It was then that Jack was inspired by the rain to find another perfect tree that was just right to stay dry under.

Bonfield has written an ecology picture book that focuses not on how wrong it is to cut down trees, but instead how the definition of “perfect” means different things to different creatures. And how your appreciation of an object in a new way leads to changes in the way you see the world. I appreciate that the book does not lecture about the environment or appreciating nature. Instead the book focuses on the beauty of nature and how it can transform us if we pay attention.

Bonfield’s illustrations are amazing. Done in papercut images and collage, they form two and three dimensional structures and then are lit so that there are shadows that play against other parts of the illustration that glow. The result is a picture book landscape that feels immersive and tangible.

A clever look at the pursuit of perfection and the power of nature. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.