Ten Spooky Pumpkins by Gris Grimly

Cover image for 10 Spooky Pumpkins.

Ten Spooky Pumpkins by Gris Grimly (9781338112443)

Count backwards with plenty of Halloween creatures in this jaunty picture book full of autumn shadows. The ten pumpkins start us out by looking for a cat and finding 9. The black cats creep along the gate, finding eight bats. They discover seven goblins, then six ghosts, five wolves, and onward until we end up with everyone having a grand Halloween bash together. But the book isn’t done yet, as one round full moon rises in the sky, sending everyone running in fright. The little girl ends up fast asleep in bed, her Halloween candy nearby.

The text here is marvelously simple and has a merry rhythm and rhyme that bounces along nicely. That is combined with illustrations that are full of Halloween sights. All of the creatures are perfectly strange with snaggle toothed wolves, slinky black cats, flapping eerie bats, and whispy yet round ghosts. The creatures add to the strangeness of the book, bringing it fully into the Halloween spirit. With dark blacks, bright oranges and the light of the moon, the illustrations are full of seasonal colors.

A counting book sure to bring a Happy Halloween! Appropriate for ages 2-5.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Scholastic.

The Very Hungry Plant by Renato Moriconi

Cover image for The Very Hungry Plant.

The Very Hungry Plant by Renato Moriconi (9780802855763)

A little plant sprouted on one beautiful morning. The little plant was hungry! The sun couldn’t satisfy how hungry it was, because it was a carnivorous plant. It ate a caterpillar passing by. It ate a butterfly. The plant got bigger and hungrier. It ate a spider, a gecko, and a rabbit. It grew bigger and hungrier with each one. Then it ate a gymnast, an acrobat bear, and a parachuting cow. It even ate an entire airplane of parachuting cows. But it only got hungrier as it grew. It ate a flying mammoth, a bunch of witches, a UFO and a dragon. Finally, it ate an angel choir. Now it was finally satisfied, and stopped to rest. But the story doesn’t quite end there!

With a repeating structure and ever-increasing surreal silliness, this picture book is great fun. Readers will notice the nod to Eric Carle and his Very Hungry Caterpillar in the first part of the book, something that is marvelous to see incorporated so nicely. The carnivorous and voracious plant eats so many marvelous things, small and then so huge! The absurdity of it all is delightful as is the simplicity of the story and the twist at the end.

The illustrations are very simple as well, accompanied by hand-painted text that adds to the zany nature of the book. The plant stays an open, yawning mouth of green with red teeth-like cilia until it is finally satiated towards the end of the book. When it closes, the maw of hunger becomes almost docile, just in time for the ending.

Funny and immensely satisfying. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy provided by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

Let Me Fix You a Plate by Elizabeth Lily

Cover image for Let Me Fix You a Plate.

Let Me Fix You a Plate by Elizabeth Lily (9780823443253)

A family packs up and heads out on their annual trip. After driving for hours, it is dark when they reach West Virginia. The dark midnight kitchen is warm and light as the children doze off. In the morning, there is sausage, blackberry jam and coffee for Papaw and dad. The children help Mamaw make banana pudding. After three days, it’s time to leave and head to Florida. Their Abuela hugs them and invites them in for food. The midnight kitchen is full of Spanish words, tostones, and flan. In the morning there is fresh juice and arepas. The house fills with people, dancing and music and snacks eaten behind the couch. The trip comes to an end with full bellies but already missing all of the food and family. They get home late, and their own midnight kitchen fills with waffles before bed.

An ode to great food and grandparents, this picture book explores the connection between food and family, creating strong memories that linger once you return home and can still taste on your tongue. Told from the point of view of one of the children, the book looks at arrival at night to each home, the transformation in the morning, and then the special treats shared at each place. The homes may differ in terms of food, faith and language, but throughout the emphasis is sharing traditions, spending time together, and eating.

The illustrations are a joy, depicting such warm kitchens and filled with small details that create a real feeling of each home. The end pages in the book feature the various elements of each of the homes, including the tractor cups, coal minor portrait and cat plates in West Virginia and the toston press, rosary, and little house in Florida. The deep colors, friendly faces and warm hugs shown also demonstrate the love and connection with all of the homes.

Warm, loving and delicious. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Neal Porter Books.

A Soft Place to Land by Janae Marks

Cover image for A Soft Place to Land.

A Soft Place to Land by Janae Marks (9780062875877)

Joy has had to move with her family from their beloved house into an apartment, since her father lost his job. Other things have changed too, like sharing a room with her little sister and being able to hear her parents argue clearly through the thin walls. Joy also had to give up her piano lessons, since they can’t afford them any more. So her plans to be a composer for movies have been put on hold. She also has to start a new school, but luckily she meets a very friendly new neighbor who goes to her school too. Nora also shares the secret Hideout that all of the kids in the building use to escape their small apartments. It’s top secret and no adults even know the room exists. Joy and Nora also start their own dog walking business for residents of the apartment. But when disaster strikes, Joy may lose it all: the business, the hide out and all of her friends.

The author of From the Desk of Zoe Washington returns with her second book. This novel explores socioeconomic layers from the point of view of a girl caught in the midst of difficult life changes that she has no control over. Written with a deep empathy for young people and the difficulties they face, the book also mixes in humor and a strong sense of larger community that keeps it from being overly dark. The book offers a couple of moments of mystery, where Joy must figure out what happened to one of the dogs and another where she has been exchanging messages with someone who may be in trouble.

Throughout it is clear that even though some things may be outside of Joy’s control, she has agency to make some changes and choices. Joy is a great character, one who could have become sullen and shut down in the face of the situation, but instead makes new friends and finds a way forward. She is a character full of caring for others, always helping out her sister, trying to fix friendships, and in the end solving the mysteries and finding a solution for a hideout that works for the adults too.

Friendship, families and finding your way are central in this middle grade novel. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Katherine Tegen Books.

Top 10 Most Challenged Books in 2020

The American Library Association Office for Intellectual Freedom has released its list of the top ten most challenged books in 2020 In 2020, 273 books were targeted for removal from libraries, schools and universities. Here are the most challenged books along with the reasons cited for censoring them.

Cover for George

George by Alex Gino

Reasons: Challenged, banned, and restricted for LGBTQIA+ content, conflicting with a religious viewpoint, and not reflecting “the values of our community”

Cover for Stamped

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds

Reasons: Banned and challenged because of author’s public statements, and because of claims that the book contains “selective storytelling incidents” and does not encompass racism against all people

Cover for All American Boys

All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely

Reasons: Banned and challenged for profanity, drug use, and alcoholism, and because it was thought to promote anti-police views, contain divisive topics, and be “too much of a sensitive matter right now”

Cover for Speak

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Reasons: Banned, challenged, and restricted because it was thought to contain a political viewpoint and it was claimed to be biased against male students, and for the novel’s inclusion of rape and profanity

Cover for The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Reasons: Banned and challenged for profanity, sexual references, and allegations of sexual misconduct by the author

Cover for Something Happened in Our Town

Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story about Racial Injustice by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, and Ann Hazzard, illustrated by Jennifer Zivoin

Reasons: Challenged for “divisive language” and because it was thought to promote anti-police views

Cover for To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Reasons: Banned and challenged for racial slurs and their negative effect on students, featuring a “white savior” character, and its perception of the Black experience

Cover for Of Mice and Men (Penguin Great Books of the 20th Century)

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Reasons: Banned and challenged for racial slurs and racist stereotypes, and their negative effect on students

Cover for The Bluest Eye

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

Reasons: Banned and challenged because it was considered sexually explicit and depicts child sexual abuse

Cover for The Hate U Give

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Reasons: Challenged for profanity, and it was thought to promote an anti-police message

It Fell from the Sky by The Fan Brothers

Cover image for It Fell from the Sky.

It Fell from the Sky by The Fan Brothers (9781534457621)

It fell from the sky on a Thursday. The insects gathered around to take a closer look at it. They debated how it had arrived and then all agreed that it was the most amazing thing they had ever seen. Some of the tasted it, others tried to move it, and then Luna Moth tried to hatch it all night in case it was a chrysalis. The next morning, the spider insisted that it had fallen right into his web. He proposed creating a Grand Exhibit to show off the Wonder from the Sky properly. The Grand Exhibit opened and Spider charged one leaf per insect to see it. He raised the price and soon was wealthier than anyone else. But Spider was left alone with his leaves and Wonder. Then a giant reached down and took back the Wonder, demolishing the Exhibit too. But Spider knew what to do. He was busy and patient and soon more Wonders arrived from the sky.

The Fan Brothers have once again created a gorgeous picture book. Here the questions raised are about greed and wealth. The craftiness of Spider is delightful, toned just right to have children immediately wondering at his motives but still likeable enough to cheer on at the end of the book as his patience is rewarded. The community of insects is detailed and interesting, each with their own personality and perspective. Perfect for sharing aloud, the story arc is strong and readers will enjoy watching greed play out, though the ending keeps the book from becoming didactic at all.

As always, the Fan Brothers’ illustrations are noteworthy. Here, they do much of the book in soft pencil grays. It allows the wonder of the marble to take over the page, even while keeping the beauty of the natural miniature world full of its own magic.

Full of its own Wonder. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy provided by Simon & Schuster.

2021 Kids’ Book Choice Award Finalists

Every Child a Reader has rebranded their annual awards into the Kids’ Book Choice Awards with new categories. The awards are voted on by children with voting currently open until November 14th. Here are the finalists in each category:


Cover for Beautiful Shades of Brown

Beautiful Shades of Brown: The Art of Laura Wheeler Waring by Nancy Churnin, illustrated by Felicia Marshall

Cover for Click, Clack, Good Night (A Click Clack Book)

Click Clack, Good Night by Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin

Cover for The Heart of Mi Familia

The Heart of Mi Familia by Carrie Lara, illustrated by Christine Battuz

Cover for How Do Dinosaurs Show Good Manners? (How Do Dinosaurs...?)

How Do Dinosaurs Show Good Manners? by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Mark Teague

Cover for Lift

Lift by Minh Le, illustrated by Dan Santat

Cover for The Merry Christmas Mittens

The Merry Christmas Mittens by Sarah Janco, illustrated by Blayne Fox


Cover for All Along the River

All Along the River by Magnus Weightman

Cover for All Because You Matter

All Because You Matter by Tami Charles, illustrated by Bryan Collier

Cover for The Alphabet's Alphabet

The Alphabet’s Alphabet by Chris Harris, illustrated by Dan Santat

Cover for Arlo the Lion Who Couldn't Sleep

Arlo the Lion Who Couldn’t Sleep by Catherine Rayner

Cover for Babbit and Joan, a Rabbit and a Phone

Babbit and Joan, a Rabbit and a Phone by Denise Turu

Cover for How to Spot an Artist

How to Spot an Artist by Danielle Krysa


Cover for Billie B. Brown

Billie B. Brown Series by Sally Rippin, illustrated by Aki Fukuoka

Cover for I'm On It! (Elephant & Piggie Like Reading!)

Elephant and Piggie Like Reading Series by Ryan T. Higgins and Mo Willems

Cover for A Feel Better Book for Little Poopers

Feel Better Books Series by Leah Bowen and Holly Brochmann, illustrated by Shirley Ng

Cover for Martin Luther King Jr. (Little People, BIG DREAMS #33)

Little People, Big Dreams Series by Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara, illustrated by Sophie Beer

Cover for It's Halloween, Little Monster

Little Monster Series by Helen Ketteman, illustrated by Bonnie Leick

Cover for The Magnificent Makers #1

The Magnificent Makers Series by Theanne Griffith, illustrated by Reggie Brown


Cover for Bee Heartful

Bentley Bee from Bee Heartful by Frank J. Sileo, illustrated by Claire Keay

Cover for Little Blue Truck's Valentine

Little Blue Truck from Little Blue Truck’s Valentine by Alice Schertle, illustrated by Jill McElmurry

Cover for Nibbles

Nibbles the Book Monster from Nibbles: Colors by Emma Yarlett

Cover for The Noisy Classroom

Ms. Johnson from The Noisy Classroom by Angela Shante, illustrated by Alison Hawkins

Cover for This Old Dog

Old Dog from This Old Dog by Martha Brockenbrough, illustrated by Gabriel Alborozo

Cover for The Princess in Black and the Giant Problem

The Princess in Black from The Princess in Black and the Giant Problem by Shannon and Dean Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham


Cover for Bedtime for Sweet Creatures

Bedtime for Sweet Creatures by Nikki Grimes, illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon

Cover for Evelyn Del Rey Is Moving Away

Evelyn Del Rey Is Moving Away by Meg Medina, illustrated by Sonia Sanchez

Cover for Every Color of Light

Every Color of Light by Hiroshi Osada, illustrated by Ryoji Arai

Cover for I Am Every Good Thing

I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Gordon C. James

Cover for I Talk Like a River

I Talk Like a River by Jordan Scott, illustrated by Sydney Smith

Cover for We Are Water Protectors

We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom, illustrated by Michaela Goade


Cover for 50 Adventures in the 50 States

50 Adventures in the 50 States by Kate Siber, illustrated by Lydia Hill

Cover for Brave. Black. First.

Brave. Black. First.: 50+ African American Women Who Changed the World by Cheryl Hudson, illustrated by Erin K. Robinson

Cover for Hop to It

Hop To It: Poems to Get You Moving by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong, illustrated by Franzi Paetzold

Cover for I Ate Sunshine for Breakfast

I Ate Sunshine for Breakfast by Michael Holland, illustrated by Phillip Giordano

Cover for Kate the Chemist

Kate the Chemist: The Big Book of Experiments by Kate Biberdorf

Cover for A Search for the Northern Lights

A Search for the Northern Lights by Elizabeth and Izzi Rusch, illustrated by Cedar Lee


Cover for Big Nate

Big Nate: The Gerbil Ate My Homework by Lincoln Pierce

Cover for Class Act

Class Act by Jerry Craft

Cover for InvestiGators

InvestiGators by John Patrick Green

Cover for Max Meow Book 1

Max Meow: Cat Crusader by John Gallagher

Cover for Camping with Unicorns

Camping with Unicorns by Dana Simpson

Cover for When Stars Are Scattered

When Stars Are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed


Chris Grabenstein

Jeff Kinney

Dav Pilkey

Jason Reynolds

Rick Riordan

Trudi Trueit

Jacqueline Woodson


Cover for Beetle & the Hollowbones

Beetle and the Hollowbones by Aliza Layne

Cover for Girl on a Motorcycle

Girl on a Motorcycle by Amy Novesky, illustrated by Julie Morstad

Cover for Honeybee

Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera by Candace Fleming, illustrated by Eric Rohmann

Cover for The Paper Boat

The Paper Boat by Thao Lam

Cover for Skunk and Badger (Skunk and Badger 1)

Skunk and Badger by Amy Timberlake, illustrated by Jon Klassen

Cover for Ways to Make Sunshine (A Ryan Hart Story #1)

Ways to Make Sunshine by Renee Watson


Cover for All Thirteen

All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys’ Soccer Team by Christina Soontornvat

Cover for Efrén Divided

Efren Divided by Ernesto Cisneros

Cover for Fighting Words

Fighting Words by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Cover for Loretta Little Looks Back

Loretta Little Looks Back: Three Voices Go Tell It by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Brian Pinkney

Cover for Once Upon an Eid

Once Upon an Eid edited by S. K. Ali and Aisha Saeed

Cover for Twins

Twins by Varian Johnson, illustrated by Shannon Wright


Cassandra Clare

Suzanne Collins

Helena Dahlgren

Melissa de la Cruz

Sabaa Tahir

F.C. Yee


Cover for All Boys Aren't Blue

All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson

Cover for Camper Girl

Camper Girl by Glenn Erick Miller

Cover for Fangs

Fangs by Sarah Anderson

Cover for Felix Ever After

Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender

Cover for Legendborn (The Legendborn Cycle)

Legendborn by Tracy Deonn

Cover for What if . . . ?

What If…? by Carrie Turley, illustrated by Lara Law


Cover for The Black Friend

The Black Friend: On Being a Better White Person by Frederick Joseph

Cover for Blood and Germs

Blood and Germs: The Civil War Battle Against Wounds and Disease by Gail Jarrow

Cover for Finish the Fight!

Finish the Fight!: The Brave and Revolutionary Women Who Fought for the Right to Vote by Veronica Chambers

Cover for No Voice Too Small

No Voice Too Small: Fourteen Young Americans Making History by Lindsay H. Metcalf, Keila V. Dawson, and Jeanette Bradley

Cover for This Is Your Time

This Is Your Time by Ruby Bridges

Cover for We Had to Be Brave

We Had to Be Brave: Escaping the Nazis on the Kindertransport by Deborah Hopkinson


Cover for Dragon Hoops

Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang

Cover for Everything Sad Is Untrue

Everything Sad Is Untrue by Daniel Nayeri

Cover for Raybearer

Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko

Cover for The Rise and Fall of Charles Lindbergh

The Rise and Fall of Charles Lindbergh by Candace Fleming

Cover for Stamped

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi

Cover for We Are Not Free

We Are Not Free by Traci Chee

The Beatryce Prophecy by Kate DiCamillo

Cover image for The Beatryce Prophecy.

The Beatryce Prophecy by Kate DiCamillo (9781536213614)

A master children’s book author takes readers on a journey to medieval times in her new middle-grade novel. Answelica, the goat, has long terrorized the monastery, butting everyone she can and biting them too. So when Brother Edik finds a young girl asleep and feverish next to Answelica, he is alarmed for her safety. As the girl cared for and recovers, the danger mounts. Beatryce doesn’t have any memory of her previous life, but it is clear that she is being sought by the king’s guards for some reason. The monastery sends her away, leaving Brother Edik to return to his solitary work illuminating manuscripts. Beatryce must face the unknown as she journeys disguised as a small monk, her head full of stories. Soon she has others who follow her, including Answelica the evil goat, a boy who longs to be able to read, and a man who had once been king. Perhaps Beatryce is as dangerous as the current king fears after all.

Two-time Newbery Medalist DiCamillo once again provides a unique and compelling book for young readers. Here readers are taken on a medieval journey that doesn’t shy away from the darkness of the time, the bloodthirsty nature of kings, and the way that the lower classes are kept subservient. DiCamillo gives space for her characters, young and old, to make critical decisions and move the story forward. Full of humor to offset the darkness, terrible swords that return old memories, and one ornery goat, this novel is amazing for what it packs into its small number of pages.

The illustrations by Blackall are pay homage to illuminated manuscripts of the time period. With several large format illustrations, Blackall captures the seminal moments of the story. Readers will also appreciate the small illustrations that adorn the pages.

A must-read novel from a master storyteller that can be shared aloud or read curled up with your favorite goat. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from ARC provided by Candlewick.

Winter/Spring 2022 Indies Introduce Titles

The American Booksellers Association has announced their picks for the Winter/Spring 2022 Indies Introduce program. The books selected by booksellers across the country are focused on debut titles. There is both an adult and kids list. Here are the titles on the 2022 Kids’ Debuts list:

Cover for And We Rise

And We Rise by Erica Martin

Cover for Cameron Battle and the Hidden Kingdoms

Cameron Battle and the Hidden Kingdom by Jamar Perry

A Comb of Wishes

A Comb of Wishes by Lisa Stringfellow

Cover for Hell Followed with Us

Hell Followed with Us by Andrew Joseph White

Cover for Hide and Geek

Hide and Geek by T. P. Jagger

Love Radio

Love Radio by Ebony LaDelle

Messy Roots: A Graphic Memoir of a Wuhanese-American

Messy Roots: A Graphic Memoir of a Wuhanese-American by Laura Gao

Cover for A Magic Steeped in Poison (The Book of Tea #1)

A Magic Steeped in Poison by Judy I. Lin

Cover for The Way I Say It

The Way I Say It by Nancy Tandon

Cover for What We Harvest

What We Harvest by Ann Fraistat