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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”
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
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.
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:
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.
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: