Thursday, July 4, 2013

The Storybook Thief

My wonderful husband recently returned from the American Library Association's Annual Conference in Chicago. Since I was not able to attend this year he brought back some great books for me to read. The very best was a picture book in an uncorrected advance copy format. The hardcover of the book will be released in October of 2013.

The Snatchabook
by Helen Docherty and Thomas Docherty
The Snatchabook by Helen Docherty and illustrated by Thomas Docherty has instantly become one of my favorite books. Not only because it centers around a mystery and reading, but because it is also about parents reading to their children! I love a great mystery and when books start disappearing all around the forest. Eliza Brown (a little brown rabbit) decides she is going to solve the mystery by setting a trap for the storybook thief.

Eliza is successful in not only catching the thief, but also having all of the books returned to her forest friends. The book has a wonderful ending of redemption and turning a "wrong into a right". Although a mistake was made redemption and forgiveness is the moral of the story.

The illustrations are beautifully drawn by the author's husband, Thomas Docherty.  The stark contrast between the crispy, dark night with a large full moon and the warm bedrooms of the animals is amazing. It shows the coziness of the families as they share the special bedtime ritual of reading together. The expressions on each of the faces of the animals conveys the interest they have in book being read. Their demeanor changes dramatically and with wonderful characterization when the animals come together to discuss their situation. I don't want to ruin the heartwarming ending, but I will say I love the bright sunshiny day depicted at the end when everything is resolved. 

I would highly recommend this book for all libraries with children's collections. For bibliophiles like myself, you will most definitely want to add this title to your own collection of picture books. Just watch out, so it doesn't disappear!

*To comply with new guidelines introduced by the Federal Trade Commission, Sourcebooks, Inc. has provided a complimentary advanced reader copy of this book.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Kindergarten Rules

I don't remember a time in my life when I did not want to be a teacher. I always played school. There was never a doubt in my mind that I would grow up to be a teacher, and that is exactly what I did! I followed in my grandmother's and my mother's footsteps in not only becoming a teacher, but becoming a kindergarten teacher. I taught kindergarten for six years before becoming a librarian for pre-kindergarten students ~ still a teacher, with a bigger classroom, lots of books, and ALL of the students in the school!

I loved teaching kindergarten. I loved the bright shining faces and loving smiles of my students. They were always so eager to learn and open to the excitement of discovery. When I moved to the library I was able to share my passion for books and reading with the teachers, the students, and their parents. I love connecting people with books. I love the challenge of locating a book based solely on the description the child can provide (it was blue and had a bear and the moon - for future reference - Mem Fox's Sleepy Bears). Being a bibliophile (loud and proud) the exhilaration of being surrounded by books just can't be beat.

Loving pre-k and kindergarten as I do, I am always searching for books on this grade level. My school is specifically for pre-k students. It is the only grade level on our campus. My library is for four to five-year olds and all of the teachers teach the same grade level. Yes, some may feel like they are going to pull their hair out just reading this description, but it is heaven to me. I love everything about it. So, although my students have all been to school for an entire year during the second semester of the school year there is always a little apprehension of moving to kindergarten. All of the children are taken on a field trip to their "new" school in May. They are invited to visit the different kindergarten classrooms and see what they will be doing next year by visiting the gym, cafeteria, music and art teachers, and of course the library!

The Day My Mom Came to Kindergarten
by Maureen Fergus
When I discovered The Day My Mom Came to Kindergarten by Maureen Fergus I knew it would be a great addition to my library collection. The story is narrated by the daughter of the mom visiting the kindergarten classroom. The little girl invites her mom to visit her class, but soon discovers she is having to help her mother follow the rules. The "basics" of the classroom, such as raise your hand, use an indoor voice, and follow instructions are just a few of the rules mom has difficulty with during her day in kindergarten. 

This is a very humorous way to show children who are entering or in kindergarten how difficult it can be to follow all of the rules, even for an adult. By seeing the mother being corrected by the little girl it can help the children to remember how they are to act and behave in school. Mrs. Beaudry, the teacher, makes a very important observation that is really the key to the entire book, "Sometimes it takes a while to get comfortable with something new."

Not only is this a great book to share with children on the first day of school, but also a great reminder for students who are welcoming a new students to their classroom any time during the school year. I would recommend this title for early childhood and elementary school libraries and public libraries with a children's collection. I know it will be a great book for parents to share with their children prior to the start of school so they can share a laugh together while learning that kindergarten rules ~ and HAS rules too.

*To comply with new guidelines introduced by the Federal Trade Commission, Kids Can Press has provided a complimentary electronic copy of this book through

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Witches and Ghosts and Abhumans, Oh My!

The Last Apprentice: Revenge of the Witch
by Joseph Delaney
When my son was ten I was fortunate enough to get an ARC (advanced reader copy) of Joseph Delaney's The Last Apprentice while attending the Texas Library Association's annual conference. He read it almost immediately and was hooked.

The Ghost Prison
by Joseph Delaney

When I opened the ARC of Delaney's novella The Ghost Prison last night, my son (now a high school graduate and seventeen years old) was excited to see it. He began reminiscing about The Last Apprentice and how much he enjoyed the books. We also talked about the upcoming movie (to be released in 2014). Like all book adaptations we agreed the book would be far superior to the movie. It is always a pleasure to talk about books with someone, especially when it is my son.

The Ghost Prison will be released in early October, just in time for Halloween, is a fantastic read. I loved the black and white illustrations that perfectly reflected the text. One of the greatest elements was close to the end of the book when young Billy, the fifteen year old prison guard, is plunged into darkness when his torch was blown out by a gust of wind. The illustrations turned from black on white to white on black. I love this effect. Not only does it make the ghostly images pop, but it also creates a more intense and scarier element to the story.

I will admit. I started reading during the late hours of the night and stopped. I finished reading in the bright light of the new day. I can't say I was exactly scared, because I have always LOVED spooky stories, but I can say that even though the pictures are in black and white, I could very clearly see the color red surrounding on particular illustration! For those of you who have seen the original black and white Psycho you can attest to the fact that the blood flowing down the drain was RED! Well, this is the case with the illustrations by Scott M. Fischer. Without saying which illustration to which I am referring (you can see it two different times in the book, the last on the second page of the "About the Illustrator" section). Now, when you read this great book, I want you to see if the red glows for you as well.

I will highly recommend this book for all libraries who serve children from the fifth grade and up. I'm sure it will be devoured just like Delaney's previous novels. Pair this book with books like Alvin Schwartz's collection of folklore in Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark and More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark in order to have enough terror for any and all readers for October.

*To comply with new guidelines introduced by the Federal Trade Commission, Sourcebooks, Inc. has provided a complimentary electronic copy of this book through

Monday, July 1, 2013

Summer Reading Challenge 2013 - Update

On June 12th, I posted the information about our 2013 Summer Reading Challenge. At the time I said, "Piece of Cake". Well, I have "eaten" that particular piece of cake almost three times! This year's challenge was to read 500 pages of our choosing. To date I have read 1399 pages! I think I have done a pretty decent job considering this is July 1st!

Okay, enough bragging for now. I have to go back to reading!

Being the Best Me!

Cheri J. Meiners has written a number of great books for early childhood educators to share with their students, including twelve titles in the "Learning to Get Along" series. The latest two books I have had the pleasure of reading are no exception. Being Positive!  and  Feel Confident!, both to be released in September of this year, are titles in the new series "Being the Best Me!" At this time I cannot find any other titles for this series.

Feel Confident!to be released September 1, 2013
by Cheri J. Meiners

Feel Confident!,  is a cheerful book about having confidence in one's life. It is a delightful book to share with young children in order to help them understand they are an important person, not only in their own family, but in the world. Confidence is not always a strong character element in people. I see this book as a means of helping to build this area of self esteem.

At the end of this book there is a list of twelve ideas in order to remain confident in oneself. Also included are questions to ask as you read the book to create a dialogue between the reader and the child or children to whom they are reading. Eight activities / games with a confidence theme are provided in order to help promote a confident outlook on life.

Be Positive!
to be released September 30, 2013
by Cheri J. Meiners
Be Positive!, is a cheerful book about having a positive outlook on life. No matter what happens during the day, you have to remember the saying "this too shall pass". As I read the text for this book for young children, this quote kept running through my head. Like Fish! for young children, choose your attitude. I think this is a nice way to start  the day. Reminding everyone that if we are positive, we will feel much better about ourselves and the activities of the day.

At the end of this book there is a list of twelve ideas in order to keep a positive outlook on life. Also included are questions to ask as you read the book to create a dialogue between the reader and the child or children to whom they are reading. Eight activities / games with an optimism theme are provided in order to help promote a positive outlook.

I would recommend these titles to be added to an early childhood school library or public library serving young children and their families. This new series, along with Ms. Meiners's other character building books are a wonderful asset to any collection in order to help build children's self esteem and improve their social skills.

*To comply with new guidelines introduced by the Federal Trade Commission, Free Spirit Publishing has provided a complimentary electronic copy of these books through

Spaghetti is NOT a Finger Food

I recently found out the son of one of my oldest friends was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome. I have heard of Asperger Syndrome, and actually have a few books on the subject in my library. I am aware of some of the symptoms: lack of empathy towards others, difficulty with routine changes, avoidance of eye contact, obsession with interests (trains, dinosaurs, etc.), and the inability to pick up on social cues.

Spaghetti is NOT a Finger Food (and Other Life Lessons)
by Jodi Carmichael

It was ironic that I discovered this information right before starting to read Jodi Carmichael's book Spaghetti is NOT a Finger Food and Other Life Lessons. This delightful book provides an informative and insightful look through the eyes of a young boy with Asperger Syndrome. I could not see where Connor's age or grade was mentioned. I would say Connor is approximately nine to ten years old and in the fourth, maybe fifth grade. Through his personal dialogue, a day in the life of Connor is written in fourteen life lessons (chapters). In a humorous manner Connor's idiosyncrasies are presented for the reader.

Ms. Carmichael has created a character who can provide information to children of a similar age information about Asperger Syndrome without being disingenuous. Children do not always have an understanding of why they do the things they do, especially when they are a little different than everyone else. Connor provides the reader with a better understanding of what it is like to have Asperger Syndrome.  His character can be helpful for children with the same diagnosis, but can be just as informative to children who interact with someone with this condition.

I have found when a parent needs a recommendation for the title of a book to read in order to help them understand a complex subject matter it is helpful to provide them a book written for adults, but also a book written for children. I am not saying the parent is not capable of understanding the more complex book It can be easier to make personal connections when dealing with a young child if you can relate to the text, especially if it is in a picture book format. I believe this is a perfect example of a title I would recommend to a parent who is seeking information about Asperger Syndrome.

I would highly recommend this title for any children's library collection, or the personal collection of families who have been affected by Asperger Syndrome.

*To comply with new guidelines introduced by the Federal Trade Commission, Little Pickle Press LLC has provided a complimentary electronic copy of this book through

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Storytelling and The Storyteller

When my husband and I went back to school to work on our Master's degrees we were fortunate enough to be able to take a few classes together. One of my favorite was a storytelling class. I had been a teacher for about two years and loved reading to my students, but I don't think I ever told them a story until I had this class.

Not only we were responsible for reading a lot of folk and fairy tales, but we were also tasked with telling stories to our fellow classmates. This was the scariest part for me. Growing up I loved to sing. I sang for a number of recitals, solos, competitions and performed at some events for different organizations. However, getting up in front of my peers to tell a story really terrified me. So, I did found stories I could sing. It was the easiest way for me to tell my stories in a manner that not only suited my personality, but also my cultural heritage.

My favorite story that I told (sang) was The Massacre of Glencoe. During the early morning hours of February 13, 1692, in the Highlands of Scotland, specifically Achnacon, Invercoe, and Inverrigan, thirty-eight MacDonalds from the Glencoe Clan of MacDonald were killed in their homes by their own house guests. The reason for the massacre, they had not been prompt in pledging their allegiance to William and Mary. In addition to the thirty-eight slaughtered in their homes, forty women and children died from exposure to the freezing temperatures after their homes were destroyed by fire.

The Old Banjo
by Dennis Haseley
My husband, a very talented musician, chose to tell the story The Old Banjo by Dennis Haseley. It is a wonderful story where a banjo in an old farm house attic reminisces about all of the instruments  and the beautiful music they made together. It is a very moving story that reminds me of the poem by Myra Brooks Welch, "The Touch of the Masters Hand". He masterfully paired the story with beautiful banjo music to enhance the telling of the story and I am mesmerized to this day by his re-telling of this amazing story.

Another assignment given to us during this spring semester class was to attend the Tejas Storytelling Festival in Denton. I don't think we had ever heard of the festival, let alone attended. If I'm not mistaken the festival had only been going on for eight years. We had a wonderful time! I think we would both agree, our favorite storytellers at the event were Donald Davis and Barbara McBride-Smith. They were phenomenal! Every time I see a CD of their storytelling I have to get it. I just love their accents and their way of telling.

Jim Henson's The Storyteller

Well, this all started when I received an eBook edition of Jim Henson's The Storyteller, a graphic novel which was originally released in December of 2011. For those who loved the television series back in the late 1980s you will love the the interaction between the Storyteller and his faithful companion, Dog, at the start of each of the stories. In this beautifully illustrated graphic novel, there are nine stories. They include the following:

  • "Old Nick and the Peddler", a Scandinavian folk tale, adapted and illustrated by Roger Langridge
  • "The Milkmaid and her Pail", an Aesop's Fable, adapted and illustrated by Colleen Coover
  • "An Agreement Between Friends" a Romanian folk tale, adapted and illustrated by Chris Eliopoulos
  • "Old Fire Dragaman" an Appalachian Jack Tale, adapted by Jeff Parker, and illustrated by Tom Fowler
  • "Puss in Boots" a French fairy tale, adapted by Marjorie Liu and illustrated by Jennifer L. Meyer
  • "The Frog Who Became an Emperor" a Chinese folk tale, adapted by Paul Tobin and illustrated by Evan Shaner
  • "Crane Wife" a Japanese folk tale, adapted and illustrated by Katie Cook
  • "Momotaro the Peach Boy" a Japanese fairy tale, adapted by Ron Marz and illustrated by Craig Rousseau
  • "The Witch Baby" a Russian folk tale, adapted from a screenplay by Anthony Minghella, script by Nate Cosboy, and illustrated by Ronan Cliquet
This graphic novel eBook would make an excellent addition to any library's digital collection, especially because of the variety of tales provided within. I was only familiar with two of the tales ("The Milkmaid and Her Pail" and "Puss in Boots") but I enjoyed reading all of the stories. I believe readers of all ages will not only find the stories entertaining and engaging, but the illustrations by the different artists diverse and intriguing.

*To comply with new guidelines introduced by the Federal Trade Commission, Archaia Entertainment, LLC has provided a complimentary electronic copy of this book through