Friday, December 20, 2019

Vivian Kirkfield Helps Make Voices Heard

My colleague and friend, Vivian Kirkfield, has a new book coming out next month. Making Their Voices Heard is an inspiring story about the friendship of two amazing women, jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald and movie star Marilyn Monroe. I invited Vivian to share her thoughts about how they stepped outside the norms society had set for them. 

Take it away, Vivian!

Thank you so much, Sue, for inviting me over today. Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe made their voices heard onstage and in the fight for gender equality and against discrimination. I feel so honored to tell their story.

Back in the 1950s, most women didn’t have much control over their lives. It wasn’t until the Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974 that a woman could get a credit card or a mortgage without having it co-signed by a male relative. Literally and figuratively, women were put in a box – a bit like Barbie dolls on department store shelves. They were expected to act and dress a certain way, and carry out certain roles like being a mother, secretary, nurse, or teacher. Even female entertainers had to stay within the confines of society’s strictures.

And then, along comes Ella Fitzgerald. Although she had a difficult childhood, once she won the Amateur Night at the Apollo Theatre, Ella believed in her talent – her gift for singing jazz. It gave her the strength to fight for what was right and remain true to herself. When she was bumped from a Pan Am flight on her way to Australia for a concert tour in 1954, she sued the airline for racial discrimination…and won! This was before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on a bus. It was before Martin Luther King, Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Ella was breaking down the walls that society had erected around her.


Marilyn Monroe also had a sad and difficult childhood. Growing up in an orphanage, she’d stand on her bed and act out scenes from movies before bedtime. Many choices she made were because of the box society had put her in. She agreed to get married at age 16 to avoid being returned to an orphanage. And after signing with a movie studio, Marilyn was in more of a box than ever before. The studio told her what color lipstick to wear and what parties to go to.

But Marilyn had a mind of her own. She went overseas to entertain the troops in Korea.  She visited jazz clubs in New York City – at a time when jazz clubs were places most white women did not go to. And she loved Ella Fitzgerald. Marilyn listened to Ella’s records to prepare for a big singing role in the movie, “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.” When critics gave her rave reviews, and studio bosses agreed to give her more control over her script choices, Marilyn bought a ticket to Ella’s next show so she could thank her in person.

After the show, Marilyn and Ella shared their hopes and dreams and plans of what might be. Ella revealed that she’d been unable to get a booking at one of Hollywood’s top clubs. The owner didn’t want ‘jazz’ music at his nightclub, and he didn’t want a plain-faced, overweight black woman performing for his guests. But, after a phone call from the wildly popular Marilyn, and because Marilyn had agreed to sit in the front row every night, the club owner agreed to give Ella a week’s booking.

Many of us know of Ella Fitzgerald as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, female jazz singers. In the first year of the Grammys, 1959, Ella won Best Female Pop Vocal Performance and Best Improvised Jazz Solo…another example of how she broke down the barriers. And many remember Marilyn Monroe as the sexy blonde bombshell – but how many know that she was the first female movie star to start her own movie production company?

I hope my book will help children realize how important it is to stand up for what is right and to make your voice heard…to stand by your friends…and to be inclusive when choosing those friends. I’m honored that I got the opportunity to write this story and I’m thrilled that it has become a real book that will inspire parents and children alike.

Thank you so much, Sue, for giving me the opportunity to visit with your blog readers.


The next couple of months will be busy and exciting for Vivian. On Saturday, January 18 she has an 11am book launch at Barnes & Noble bookstore in Nashua, NH. On January 24 she’s participating in an Author Night at her granddaughter’s school in Chicago, and in March she’s heading to New York City for a book event Books of Wonder. You can keep up with her at her website and by following her  on Facebook , Twitter, and other social media.

Once the holidays are over, we'll be joining Perfect Picture Book Friday, an event where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's website

Monday, December 16, 2019

Yay for Holiday Story Finalists

Today is the day! Head on over to Susanna Hill's blog to read - and vote on - holiday stories.

There were TONS of stories submitted - and the poor judges had to winnow that down to eleven finalists. And those stories are fun, fun, fun!

While Moose's doggie treats didn't make it, plenty of other treats did: latkes with toppings, fudge, gingerbread, peach pie -

Go. Read. Have fun!

See you back here on Friday for a wonderful book talk with author Vivian Kirkfield.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Stories from Miss Bunsen's School for Brilliant Girls

Light as a Feather [series: Miss Bunsen's School for Brilliant Girls]
by Erica-Jane Waters
128 pages; ages 7 - 9 years
Albert Whitman & Company, 2019

Miss Bunsen’s School for Brilliant Girls is a new chapter book series that celebrates STEM STEAM. Pearl, Millie, and Halinka are a tight trio of friends who tackle all kinds of challenges throughout the series.

In Light as a Feather they are trying to design and build a flying machine for the Annual Girls of Science Games Day. A famous astronaut has issued a challenge: to build their flying craft from environmentally-friendly materials. The winning team gets to spend a week at her space center, plus a trip into space aboard a shuttle.

I like how the three friends work as a team, and their plan to use recycled metal from drink cans and re-purpose other materials. When a fire breaks out and destroys their machine, they rebuild, making do with old tomato cans, rubber hoses, wire whisks, and a few other intriguing “found” items. But will their craft remain airborne long enough? And can they pedal it fast enough to win?

This is the second book in the series about the trio of best friends who attend a funky old school. The school is old, underfunded, and perpetually plagued by squirrels.

The first book in the series, If the Hat Fits features an invention/engineering competition. If they win, the money could help keep the school open.

And there’s a third book coming out next spring: Penny for Your Thoughts. The blurb from the publisher says that Pearl, Millie, and Halinka put their problem-solving skills to the test in a maze competition. But… they find themselves trapped in a strange maze, and Miss Bunsen has to give up her book of secrets in order to set them free. They will need to keep their wits to solve their way out of the puzzle.


Review copy provided by the publisher.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Dog on a Secret Mission

Filigree's Midnight Ride (At the Heels of History)
by Pam Berkman & Dorothy Hearst; illus by Claire Powell
192 pages; ages 6-9
Margaret K. McElderry Books (S&S), 2019

It’s April 18, 1775 in Boston, Massachusetts and Filigree is headed toward danger. “He might be the smallest dog in Boston,” write the authors, “but he was ready to fight for freedom.”

Even if he is only a five-pound Pomeranian. Filigree wants to help pull tent stakes out of the ground where the Redcoats have set up camp. But the other patriot dogs think he is nothing but a lapdog – an insult if ever there was one.

Like the colonists in their families, the dogs of Boston are divided into Loyalists (loyal to the King) and Patriots. They alert “their” people when the opposition forces are nearby, and conduct their own missions. Which is how Filigree becomes an unlikely participant in a certain midnight ride.

What I like about this book: It is fun to read! And it’s an engaging story – especially if you love stories about heroic dogs. I also like that there is back matter. An author’s note spills the beans about the facts behind the story, and raises a few questions. For example, what took John Hancock and Sam Adams so long to leave town? Did they stop at a tavern for “refreshment”?

Filigree’s Midnight Ride
is the first book in the new “At the Heels of History” series. Look for future books in this series. Coming next year: one story set in the gold rush, and another focused on a dog separated from his family when they reach Ellis Island.

Looking for another series for dog lovers? Check out my reviews of the Dog Chronicles here, here, and here.

Review copy provided by Blue Slip Media.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Bird Tales

Winter is coming and it’s the perfect time to watch birds ~ birds that visit our back yard, birds that peck for bugs on the side of our house, and birds that inspire us.
So today I’m sharing books about birds ~  here on Sally’s Bookshelf and over at Archimedes Notebook.

 Theme for the day: birds, friendship




Hello, Crow
by Candace Savage; illus. by Chelsea O’Byrne
32 pages; ages 4-8
Greystone Kids, 2019

Franny was a dreamer. That’s what her dad said.

Dad thinks Franny doesn’t pay attention to the things she is doing. But Franny is paying attention – to the trees outside, and the calls of the birds. And one special crow.  Dad doesn’t think a crow can be a friend, but this crow greets her every day and even brings her small gifts. A button. A bead.

What I like about this book: Crows are smart birds, and can identify friend from foe. And sometimes they really do leave presents for people, like the crow in this book. I like that the author includes back matter with some crow facts. And the end pages are fun – you can look for things in a meadow of flowers and leaves.




Johnny’s Pheasant
by Cheryl Minnema; illus. by Julie Flett
32 pages; ages 3-8
Univ Of Minnesota Press, 2019

Johnny and Grandma were on their way home from the Grand Market with a sack of potatoes, a package of carrots, a bundle of fresh fruit, and frosted cinnamon rolls.

Then Johnny sees a lump near the ditch. When Grandma stops the car, Johnny runs over to discover it is a pheasant. He thinks it’s sleeping, and wants to take it home and make a nest for it. Grandma thinks it is dead, and wants to use its feathers in her craftwork.

What I like about this book: I love Johnny’s enthusiasm (Hoot! Hoot! he shouts) as he makes the nest. I love the surprise when the pheasant hoots back. And flaps about. And eventually finds its way outside. And leaves a gift for Johnny.

Beyond the Books:

Do birds really leave gifts for people? Crows do – you can watch a video here.

Learn more about pheasants – and listen to the sounds they make - here

Be a friend to winter birds – make a pinecone bird feeder. (allergy warning: uses peanut butter)

Today we're joining Perfect Picture Book Friday, an event where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's website. Review copies provided by the publishers.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Kid + Chameleon = cool new series!

There’s a new series of early readers featuring a girl and her chameleon comrade written by  Sheri Mabry and illustrated by Joanie Stone. I had the opportunity to review two in the series, and I sure wish I had fun books like these when I was learning how to read. (Of course, growing up reading Dr. Seuss isn’t such a bad fate…) They are part of the Time to Read series, weigh in at 48 pages, and are published by Albert Whitman & Company, 2019.

Theme: friendship, STEM, early reader


 A chameleon sat on a leaf. He looked down. He saw a kid.

Tessy looks up and sees a chameleon. She is excited to “find” him – but the chameleon, named Newton, insists he is not lost. Tessy wants to turn Newton into a pet, but he will have none of that nonsense. He won’t live in a jar, and doesn’t like the sort of food she offers.

What I like about this book: I love when they hang out and try to find something to do together. Newton’s idea: let’s change color. But hard as she tries, Tessy can’t make herself turn orange. Tessy takes Newton bike riding, but that is Not His Thing. In five short chapters we learn a lot about the give-and-take of making a new friend, even if it’s not someone of your own species.


The Kid and the Chameleon Go to School  opens just like the other one, with a chameleon sitting on a leaf and seeing a kid below. It’s Tessy.

“Newton! I’ve been looking everywhere for you!”
“You didn’t need to look everywhere, Tessy,” said the chameleon. “Just here.”

What I like about this book: Tessy takes Newton to school. But Newton doesn’t seem to care about the things Tessy loves learning about. All he wants to do is nap. Finally, Newton’s had enough of the classroom. He heads outside where he shows Tessy about chameleon school.

I also like that each book has a section at the back called “Chameleon Facts”. In the first, it’s an explanation about how chameleons change color. In the second we learn how to catch bugs with our tongues. I am looking forward to learning more about chameleons as more of the books in the series come out.



Beyond the Books:

Despite his name, Newton is a lizard, not a newt. Learn more about chameleons here.

Chameleons don’t change color to camouflage themselves. They change for a lot of reasons. Check out this video showing chameleons changing colors.

What if you could change your color based on your mood or the weather? What color would you turn when you are happy? What about when the sky turns gray and stormy?

Draw your own chameleon companion. Need help? Check out these printable coloring pages.

Today we're joining Perfect Picture Book Friday, an event where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's website. Review copies provided by the publisher.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Wanted: a Friend

This week we’re celebrating friends with two books about making friends, and one book about what it takes to keep a friend.

Theme: friendships

A Friendship Yarn 
by Lisa Moser; illus. by Olga Demidova (Illustrator)
32 pages; ages 3 - 5
Albert Whitman & Company, 2019

Badger and Porcupine met under the walnut tree and shared a pot of tea like they did every morning.

Winter weather is coming and Porcupine needs wood. Badger offers to help. So Porcupine heads off in one direction to gather logs, and  Badger heads off in another. Then a brightly colored ball of yarn falls out of a peddler’s cart. Badger decides to make a gift for Porcupine, and starts knitting at one end of the yarn. Meanwhile, Porcupine starts knitting a gift for Badger at the other end of the yarn.

This is not going to end well…



What I like about this book: I love the sounds the needles make: clickety-click, snickety-snick. I love the sound of yarn unravelling: floop, floop. Most of all I like the underlying theme: will Badger and Porcupine’s tight-knit friendship come unraveled?

Dog and Rabbit 
by Barney Saltzberg
48 pages; ages 3 - 7
Charlesbridge, 2019

Dog was fine being alone. But sometimes Dog was lonely.

Dog wants a friend. Over there is Rabbit, who also wants a friend. But Rabbit is looking for friendship from Bunny – who just ignores Rabbit. And Dog can’t get Rabbit’s attention. Will they ever get to play catch the stick or hop over small obstacles?

What I like about this book: It’s a typical friendship story about looking for friendship in the wrong place while missing a potential friend somewhere else. One of my favorite lines is, “How hard can it be to find a friend?” The short lines, repetition, and large text is perfect for “just beginning to” readers. Illustrations are simple, fun, and don’t get in the way of the words. There’s no back matter, but end papers extend the story.

Duck and Penguin Are Not Friends 
by Julia Woolf
32 pages; ages 4-8
Peachtree Publishing, 2019


This is Betty and her favorite toy, Duck. 

Best friend, Maud has a favorite plush Penguin.
Betty and Maud are best friends. Duck and Penguin are NOT! They do NOT want to swing together. They do NOT play well together in the sandbox.

While Betty paints a picture of Duck and Maud paints a picture of Penguin, the two toys are painting each other. Literally.

What I like about this book: Duck and Penguin are so relatable. Whether you’re kittens stuffed into strollers or toys dragged to play dates, there are times when you just don’t like your human’s bestie. This is a fun story about what it takes to find common ground – and what happens once you do.

Beyond the Books:

Make a friendship bracelet. All you need is some embroidery floss or thin yarn and a safety pin. Oh, and this video.

Duck may not want to be friends with Penguin, but some animals make friends with the unlikeliest species. Here’s a collection of animal friendship stories.

Today we're joining other book bloggers over at Perfect Picture Book Friday, an event where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's website. Review copies and ARCs provided by the publishers.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Dear Mr. President...

Dear Mr. President
by Sophie Siers; illus by Anne Villeneuve
40 pages; ages 5-8
Owlkids, 2019

theme: siblings, sharing, conflict resolution

Dear Mr. President, I’m writing you a letter from my bedroom.

Sam shares a bedroom with his older brother who, he thinks, perfectly fits the President’s description of “undesirable” people. He wonders if, maybe, he needs to build a wall. After all, TV news coverage has been covering the idea of building a wall.

In a series of letters from Sam to an un-named President, we learn about the problems of sharing space with his older sibling. Parents suggest negotiating peace. And eventually – after a scary nightmare – Sam and his brother reach an equitable solution.

What I like about this book: It makes adult readers think about how the daily news is perceived by children. And, in this case (since the author resides in New Zealand) how one nation’s news is perceived by people far away. I like how Sam experiments with building a wall in his yard, and how he studies defensive walls such as the Great Wall of China and Hadrian’s Wall – and one wall that came down: the Berlin Wall. And I really like the diversity of signatures Sam tries out when he signs his letters; I’m pretty sure the “a” in one is really a pepperoni pizza.

Beyond the Books:

What sorts of walls do you find in your neighborhood or town? Are there walls designed to keep people out? To keep people in? To protect gardens? Here are some famous border walls.

If you’ve ever thought it would be cool to build a wall out of giant Lego-type blocks, check out this video.

Looking for more books about walls? Check out this earlier post 

Today we're joining Perfect Picture Book Friday, an event where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's website . Review ARC provided by the publisher.

Friday, November 1, 2019

A perfect book for Day of the Dead reading...

Ghosts
by Raina Telgemeier
256 pages; ages 8-12
Graphix (Scholastic), 2016

Graphic novels don’t usually find their way into my library book bag, but this one has depth to its story. Plus it’s about Día de Muertos.

Catrina (Cat) is moving to the coast of Northern California with her family in hopes that the cool, salty air will help her sister, Maya’s cystic fibrosis. But Cat will miss her friends. On one of their explorations they discover an arcade on a boardwalk – an arcade that is closed, dark, dusty. Then they hear … footsteps … and it’s a guy who asks if they are there for the ghost tour.

Wait! Ghosts? Real ghosts?

Sure, he says. They hang out in the area – and on Día de Muertos the townspeople gather for a party and invite the ghosts to take part. You can almost hear Cat roll her eyes. At least until she meets some of the ghosts on their own turf. The ghosts really bother her; to find out why you’ll need to read the book.

While Cat does everything she can to avoid ghostly contact, Maya constructs an ofrenda (altar) for their grandmother. Then Cat meets an elderly ghost at the celebration - Is it her her grandmother?


Thanks for dropping by today. On Monday we'll be hanging out at Marvelous Middle Grade Monday with other  bloggers. It's over at Greg Pattridge's blog, Always in the Middle, so hop over to see what other people are reading. Review copy from the library.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Away with Words

Away with Words: The Daring Story Of Isabella Bird
by Lori Mortensen; illus by Kristy Caldwell 
36 pages; ages 6-10
Peachtree Publishing, 2019

theme: adventure, women’s history, biography

Isabella Bird was like a wild vine stuck in a too-small pot. She needed more room. She had to get out. She had to explore.

But… Isabella suffered from illnesses. Maybe fresh air would do her good? Her father put her atop his horse and together they rode through the country side. Isabella dreamed of becoming an explorer. Later, she went on a sea voyage to Nova Scotia, hoping the sea air might help. She explored North America by steamboat, train, and horseback.

And when she returned home to England, she wrote about her adventures. Later, she set out again, climbing a volcano, hiking through Tibet … even causing consternation in a Chinese town. Each time she returned to share her adventures with readers eager to expand their horizons – even some readers who thought women should stay at home!

What I like about this book: I’m a sucker for adventure. Plus I’d read a couple of Isabella Bird’s books a few years ago. So it was fun to see some of her words on the pages of this picture book. Like other travelers of the time, Isabella kept a journal and sketched pictures. She noted distances traveled and wrote about the people she met.

I also like the way the illustrator portrayed Isabella and her travels, and the use of panels on the page. And there’s back matter: more about Isabella in an author’s note, a timeline of her travels, citations for quoted material, and a bibliography for armchair explorers who want to follow in Isabella’s footprints.

Beyond the Books:

Read more about Isabella Bird over at Amy Poehler's Smart Girls
https://amysmartgirls.com/meet-isabella-bird-19th-century-travel-writer-cbf309f3776c

Be an explorer! Take a sketchbook and pens, colored pencils, and a water bottle (and maybe a snack) and head off on an adventure. It might be to a park you’ve never visited before, or the very back of your yard where tall grass grows and there might be tigers… Draw pictures of plants you discover. Talk to someone and write down what you learn. Have fun!

Today we're joining Perfect Picture Book Friday, an event where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's website. Review copy provided by the publisher.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Carter Reads the Newspaper

Carter Reads the Newspaper 
by Deborah Hopkinson; illus by Don Tate
36 pages; ages 6-10
Peachtree Publishing, 2019

theme: biography, black history,

Each February we celebrate Black History Month. It’s a time to honor heroes like Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, and Martin Luther King, Jr. But there’s one hero we sometimes forget.

That hero is Carter G. Woodson. He didn’t help people escape from slavery. He didn’t protest in the streets or lead bus strikes. Instead, he changed the way people think about history. When told that Black people had no history, Carter was appalled. Of course they did! His parents, born into slavery, had shared their family stories. He listened to stories of Civil War veterans who had fought for their freedom. He read the newspapers and discovered more stories of black men and women – people who were left out of the history books.

So in 1926, Carter began his own fight: to include Black Americans in the history books. He established Negro History Week – which later became Black History Month.

What I like about this book: I always love true stories about empowerment and perseverance. I am drawn to heroes who fight for truth, freedom, and justice. And because I’m a journalist, I’m a bit partial to stories that show the power of information.

I like Don Tate’s illustrations, beginning with the end papers. Open the front and you see sketched portraits of historical Black people: Nat Turner, Phillis Wheatley, Elijah McCoy. Back end pages feature more recent Black Americans: Mae Jemison, Katherine Johnson, Colin Kaepernick.

I like the back matter: resources for learning more, notes from the author and the illustrator, a list of Black leaders pictured throughout the book (with a snippet of bio facts), and a timeline of Carter Woodson’s life and accomplishments.

If you are looking ahead for books to feature this coming February, put this one on your list.

Beyond the Books:

Newspapers provide the first draft of history. So challenge yourself to read the print edition of a local newspaper each week. I read mine at the library.

Ask your parents, grandparents, and great grandparents to share stories of when they were kids. Write your own newsy article about them.

Visit a local history museum, or find a local history book in the library. What was your town like 50 or 100 years ago?

Today we're joining Perfect Picture Book Friday, an event where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's website. Review copy provided by the publisher.

Friday, October 11, 2019

The Jumbie God's Revenge

The Jumbie God's Revenge 
by Tracey Baptiste 
pages 272; ages 8-12
Algonquin Young Readers, 2019

Corinne La Mer leapt from one tall coconut tree to another. Nothing but air surrounded her and there was only the sand and a few sharp rocks below.

By the end of the first paragraph, author Tracey Baptiste has grounded us so firmly into the setting that one can almost smell the salty breeze and feel the warmth of the Caribbean sun. Even if you haven’t read the first two books of the Jumbies series, you will feel at home in this story.

Corinne’s island is hit by a June storm – an early hurricane – and she knows in her bones that this is no ordinary storm. It must be the work of the Jumbies. If you don’t know what a jumbie is, just ask Tracey. They are tricksters from Caribbean folktales, she says, “a group of malevolent creatures who [are] hell bent on harming or at least tricking any human who dared to cross their path.”

So Corrinne sets off to find Mama D’Leau, the half-woman, half-snake who protects and rules the ocean. But Mama D’Leau is just as worried about the storm. Even worse, Mama D’Leau is frightened. What, Corinne wonders, would scare a jumbie?

When a second, more ferocious storm wrecks the island, and villagers flee to the mountain for safety, Corinne discovers that the storms are caused by the angry god, Huracan. Confronting this god is too large a task for a single girl. In addition to her friends, Corinne needs the help the jumbies – but can she trust them?

What I like about this book: I like the story of courage, the theme of community, the action-packed adventure. And the luscious language. Take a listen:

Everything about the white witch looked like it was near expiration: the sun-bleached pattern on her dress, the threadbare wrap that tied her head, the few drooping twists of short white hair that refused to be contained in her headwrap.

If I gave stars, I’d toss a basketful into the sky for this book. It’s a great read-aloud for the week before Halloween, or a cold, gray, rainy week – make a pot of hot cocoa, put on a CD of ocean waves lapping on the beach, turn on your best warm yellow lights, and enjoy a magical adventure.

Thanks for dropping by today. On Monday we'll be hanging out at Marvelous Middle Grade Monday with other  bloggers. It's over at Greg Pattridge's blog, Always in the Middle, so hop over to see what other people are reading. Review copy provided by the publisher.



Friday, October 4, 2019

The Dark Lord Clementine

The Dark Lord Clementine 
by Sarah Jean Horwitz
336 pages; ages 9 - 13
Algonquin Young Readers, 2019

Last month I was checking out the pile of books in my To Be Reviewed basket… and was just about to put this in the “later” stack when I flipped it open to read the first sentence. Good thing I did, because… well, I’ll let the book speak for itself.

Clementine Morcerous awoke one morning to discover that her father had no nose.

And really! How could I put it down after that!

I love the premise: Clementine’s father, the Dark Lord, is wasting away. And if he disappears completely, she is the only one to carry on his name – and his life’s work. But Clementine isn’t nearly as dark as her dad. We can see this when she’s in the garden and there, away from the spiky, carnivorous, bloodsucking plants, she’s raising flowers. Dark Lords do NOT raise flowers!

What I like about this book:

  • There is mystery. What is happening to her father? Who is responsible for chipping bits off him?
  • There is fear. How will Clementine get on with managing the estate should her father’s magic disappear?
  • There is a longing. While on a trip to town to buy bread and candles and other necessities, Clementine hides in the trees behind the schoolyard to watch the kids play. Wouldn’t it be fun to have friends?
  • There is a challenge. Someone wants to usurp the Dark Lord’s power. Or are they really after something else?
  • There are unexpected allies. Like Sebastian, who wants to be a knight and had seen Clementine hiding in the forest. And while there is no sword in the stone, there are plenty of swords stuck in the ground, courtesy of the Lady of the Lake, who has really bad aim.
  • There are adventures.
  • And there is an inside glimpse of the sorts of intellectual property disputes that rage between Evil Overlords.
  • Mostly, there is a lot of fun!

Thanks for dropping by today. On Monday we'll be hanging out at Marvelous Middle Grade Monday with other  bloggers. It's over at Greg Pattridge's blog, Always in the Middle, so hop over to see what other people are reading. Review copy provided by the publisher.




Friday, September 27, 2019

The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy

The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy 
by Mackenzi Lee 
464 pages, YA
Katherine Tegen Books (Harper Collins), 2018

When I heard someone mention the title of this book, I hoped it might be nonfiction. You know, a tell-all about famous women pirates.

But I was delightfully surprised to find it an adventure tale spun in the eighteenth century starring a young woman who desperately wants to become a doctor. That is SO not socially acceptable for her family’s station, besides which no hospital (or physician) will accept her as a student.

Plus there’s her name, Felicity Montague: a star-crossed name if ever there was. And this intriguing first line: “I have just taken an overly large bite of iced bun when Callum slices his finger off.” We learn that Felicity works in the bakery that Callum owns. And he’s a bit distracted as they wash the dishes, which is how he ends up slicing the tip of his finger off. Felicity, who has been reading medical treatises for so long, is now faced with an actual medical emergency.

And not to put too much of a damper on her relationship with the baker, she reveals that “with a chunk of his finger missing, Callum is the most interesting he has ever been to me.” Then we dive into Felicity’s mind. She is thinking about the 27 bones four tendon, three nerves, two arteries, and other aspects of hand anatomy. Callum, on the other hand, would like Felicity as his wife. She could do worse than marry a baker, he posits…

We know she’s going to leave before she knows it. She’s got a brother in London. Surely he’ll take her in. Before long, Felicity is up to her eyeballs in intrigue. My favorite part is where she runs off to join a pirate expedition to protect sea monsters – a far cry from applying to medical studies. But science is science.

The writing is fun to read! For example: “…traveling with Johanna and Sim will be like trying to wrangle kittens into the bath…” This is the kind of writing that leaves the sting of sea salt on your face and your hair tangled in knots by the wind.

And then – there’s Back Matter. As many of you know, I love back matter, and Mackenzi Lee does not disappoint (though I will point out the distinct lack of end notes). She talks about women characters in historical fiction and then addresses the aspirations of her three women characters. And she shares stories of real-life women in history who inspired each of them. And so we learn about women in medicine, scientist, and piracy in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Review copy discovered @ my library.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Astro-Nuts to the Rescue!

Astro-Nuts Mission One: The Plant Planet 
by Jon Scieszka  ; illus by Steven Weinberg
220 pages; ages 8-12
Chronicle Books, 2019

If you’re looking for a funny, smart book that combines climate change with a zany space adventure, then look no further. AstroNuts begins with a count-down to an emergency blast-off. Emergency, because “humans finally crossed a BIG RED LINE – putting more than 400 ppm (parts per million) of CO-2 (carbon dioxide) into my beautiful atmosphere.”

Yep, the story is told by planet Earth, and boy does Earth have a story to tell. It’s about four super-powered animal astronauts who launch into space to search for a Goldilocks planet. You know… not too hot, not too cold, juuuust right! ”Like I used to be,” says Earth. “Before you got here.”

Need a quick lesson on climate change and why 400 ppm is so important? Read this and this.

So, our mutant heroes arrive at a planet full of plants. No dangerous animals, but… viney vines wind around the rocket. Alas, our trusty Astronuts are captured by intelligent vegetation and imprisoned in a plant cell (complete with a map blueprint diagram).

Will they escape? Will they go on another mission? Will they find a Goldilocks planet before we humans set off a huge extinction brought on by our inability to moderate our addiction to fossil fuels?

And now, a word from our sponsor - Earth.

What I like about this book: I love the point-of view. I love the occasional astronaut reports, the glitch computer, and “Official NNASA transcripts”. The illustrations are fun, the presentation combines elements of comics, and there’s a bit of atmospheric chemistry tossed in. Plus I love the way the Astronuts harness the golgi apparatus and a bunch of mitochondria to escape the plant cell. There are plenty of space references some readers will appreciate and new words, such as “snotrocketing” (verb). And no, it’s not in the glossary.

There’s also a couple pages at the back of the book that describe how the collage illustrations were created. And a challenge for readers to create their own collage artwork, along with a link to an Astronut website where you can download some helpful printouts.

Thanks for dropping by today. On Monday we'll be hanging out at Marvelous Middle Grade Monday with other  bloggers. It's over at Greg Pattridge's blog, Always in the Middle, so hop over to see what other people are reading. Review copy provided by the publisher.


Friday, September 13, 2019

Hide and Seek ~ Splish and Splash!

If you’re looking for some fun books featuring animals, these might fit the bill.
themes: animals, colors, adaptations

If You Played Hide-And-Seek with a Chameleon 
by Bill Wise; illus. by Rebecca Evans
32 pages; ages 8 - 12
Dawn Publications, 2019

If you played games with animals, would you win or lose?

Come to the Animal Fair and play games with twelve different animals – from basketball to twister. There’s the pie-eating contest with a hippo. Of course you’d lose that because a hippo has the biggest mouth of all the land animals. And of course, if you play hide-and-seek with a chameleon, you’d lose! Because … chameleons!

What I like about this book: Each game is matched with an animal whose natural traits would give it a great advantage. Shoot hoops with a giraffe? Race against a cheetah? A paragraph of animal facts accompanies each game, explaining why you have no chance against your animal competitor. Except the snail; you might have a chance against a snail.

I like the bright and fun illustrations that invite you to imagine yourself as part of the games. And I really like the back matter – four pages of fun facts, a challenge to look closer, and great STEM activities.

Splish, Splash, Foxes Dash! Canadian Wildlife in Colour 
by Geraldo Valério
24 pages; ages 2 - 5
Owlkids, 2018

Red, yellow, blue, here they come… Canadian animals in colour!

Brown features a duck, dabbling under the water. Green caterpillars munch green leaves. Pink prawns pirouette.

What I like about this book: The language is fun: dabble, pirouette, perch and peck. The colors are bright, and the illustrations are created using paper collage. Text on the page is simple and direct. But don’t fear; there is Back Matter! That’s where you’ll find out more facts about the animals featured in the book.

Beyond the Books:

 Go on an animal color-safari. If you can get to a zoo, great! If not, walk through a pet store. Look at the colors and patterns of the animals.

Make collage art to show one of your favorite animals doing something it would normally do. Use up old magazines, newspapers, and gift wrap to create your art. You can check out some of Geraldo Valério’s art at his website – just click on a book.

Today we're joining Perfect Picture Book Friday, an event where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's website. Review copies provided by the publishers.

Friday, September 6, 2019

My Name is Wakawakaloch!

My Name Is Wakawakaloch! 
by Chana Stiefel; illus. by Mary Sullivan
32 pages; ages 4 - 7
HMH Books for Young Readers, 2019

theme: names, friends, problem-solving

Wakawakaloch was in a volcanic mood. Everyone was bungling her name.

Schools in our neck of the woods are just getting started this week, and teachers are faced with learning new names.  So I thought this might be a fun book for the new year!

In this book, the kids at school mangle Wakawakaloch's name. They call her Walawala or Wammabammaslamma. But those aren’t her names, and Wakawakaloch gets so mad that she wants to change her name to something easy to pronounce. Besides, she can’t ever find a T-shirt with her name printed on it. Gloop would be a good name, right?

What I like about this book: I love the language: the image of Wakawakaloch being volcanic. I like the mis-names that kids give her. And I like when Wakawakaloch sees images of her great-great-great-great-great-grandmother’s acts of bravery, and understands how powerful her family's name is. Not only that - she comes up with a way she can help other kids with unusual names. It involves T-shirts.

I also like the end papers with illustrations of children and how to pronounce their names. No Wakawakaloch, but there is a Chana (like the author) and, according to the handy-dandy guide, the way to pronounce her name is Kh-ah-nah. Make sure you begin with a throat-clearing “ch” ant the beginning!

Beyond the Books:

Check out this brief interview with Chana, and watch the book trailer.

Names are important. Where does your name come from? You might discover an exciting family tale when you ask about your name.

Write down the way you say your name. And when you meet new friends, ask how to say their names. You don’t want to bungle it up!

Today (or as soon as it starts up again) we're joining Perfect Picture Book Friday, an event where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's website . Review copy provided by my friends at Blue Slip Media.

Friday, August 2, 2019

A Break to Indulge in Summer Reading



Sally’s Bookshelf is taking a break from book reviews to indulge in summer reading. While Sally's gone ...


  • Check out your library's summer reading program. 
  • Grab some books for the next road trip.  
  • Build a fort (and read in it).
  • Read a good bug book - and then go find some bugs.
  • Write haiku in sidewalk chalk.
  • Learn to identify trees - then tie a hammock between a couple of them and read.


Friday, July 26, 2019

Operation Frog Effect

Operation Frog Effect
by Sarah Scheerger
320 pages; ages 8-12
Random House Books for Young Readers, 2019

Some books have a prologue. This book starts its story on the jacket cover with a letter to the reader from some kids:

Hi--
It's us, Ms. Graham's class. We didn't mean to mess things up. But we did. We took things too far, and now Ms. Graham is in trouble--for something we did. We made a mistake. The question is, can we fix it? Ms. Graham taught us that we get to choose the kind of people we want to be and that a single act can create ripples. So get ready, world--we're about to make some ripples.
Sincerely,
Kayley, Kai, Henry, Aviva, Cecilia, Blake, Sharon, Emily (and Kermit, class frog)

The thing is – everyone makes mistakes. This book explores what happens when your mistakes hurt someone else. It begins with a rescued frog who becomes a resident in Ms. Graham’s fifth grade classroom. And is told through the perspectives of eight students through the pages of their journals:

  • Blake ~ who would rather draw than write words (and makes excellent frog noises)
  • Emily ~ who is feeling hopeful about her first day of school, but heartbroken when she thinks her two best buddies are leaving her out
  • Kayley ~ who seems to have her nose in a snit most of the time
  • Sharon ~ who writes in verse
  • Henry ~ who sees the world through the eyes of a film director (or screenwriter)
  • Kai ~ who writes his journal entries to the frog
  • Cecelia ~ who misses her abuelita tremendously and writes letters to her, including “words to practice” that are translated to Spanish; besos y abrazos!
  • Aviva ~ BFF of Kayley but wants to include Emily but then what will Kayley think?

It’s fifth grade and for some kids, the academic pressure is on - which leads to stealing (or borrowing) ideas for the egg drop challenge. There are lunch table exclusions (and inclusions), making new friends (and worrying whether that means you have to leave old friends behind), and desk-top letter boxes. There are group projects that sometimes go sideways – which is how the gang of eight end up in hot water.

Mostly, fifth grade is about learning who you are – and the kids in Ms. Graham’s class get an A for effort. This book came out near the beginning of the year, but makes a perfect summer read.

Thanks for dropping by today. On Monday we'll be hanging out at Marvelous Middle Grade Monday with other  bloggers. It's over at Greg Pattridge's blog, Always in the Middle, so hop over to see what other people are reading. Reviewed a copy from my library system

Friday, July 19, 2019

Taking Cover

Taking Cover, One Girl’s Story Of Growing Up During The Iranian Revolution
By Nioucha Homayoonfar
160 pages, ages 12 &  up
National Geographic Children’s Books, 2019

“I knew I was in trouble when the white jeep made a U-turn. Driven by the Zeinab Sisters (or the Black Crows, as I called them), it raced toward me and screeched to a stop.”

This book opens like an action movie: a young girl is snatched off the street, pushed into the back of a car, and taken to an apartment building that’s under construction. There she’s locked in a room.

For what? Showing the tiniest bit of skin. A sliver of her wrist. A crime, in the eyes of the “Moral Police” and the religious leaders who, after the revolution, control Iran. Post-revolution, the country has become a place where women and girls have lost the rights to work, attend school, have an opinion.

Though it sounds like a dystopian novel, this is a true story of one girl’s life – Nioucha – and what happened to her country after the fall of the Shah.

But Nioucha didn’t always live in Iran. She spent her early life in Pittsburgh, PA until she was five years old. That was when her father wanted to move back to his home country, back to relatives and a vibrant civilization that he missed.

Things were fine, at first. But when Nioucha was eight years old the Shah went into exile and the country moved in a different direction. Where she was once free to run and play and go to school, now her world is circumscribed by rules. Her loss of rights begins simply: she must wear a scarf. Girls must attend a separate school from boys. There is mandated religion class. She can’t be seen in public with a boy who is not related.

This is a book about how easy it is to lose your freedom. Lose your voice. So Nioucha uses her words and stories to give voice to those who are still taking cover. And maybe to warn us about just how easily we could lose the rights we take for granted.

Thanks for dropping by today. On Monday we'll be hanging out at Marvelous Middle Grade Monday with other  bloggers. It's over at Greg Pattridge's blog, Always in the Middle, so hop over to see what other people are reading.  Review copy provided by the publisher.

Friday, July 12, 2019

A Possibility of Whales

A Possibility of Whales
by Karen Rivers 
288 pages; ages 8 - 12
Algonquin Young Readers, 2019 (paperback)

On her fourth day at the new place, Natalia Rose Baleine Gallagher walked down the long, lumpy trail to the beach that lay at the bottom of the slope.

We learn a lot about Natalie, or Nat (as she’s called):

  • Nat is 12 years old
  • she’s moved a lot – dad’s job
  • the Baleine in her name is silent – a secret between her and her mom
  • her dad is famous – he’s an actor
  • Nat loves possibilities – and there are many

Life as the daughter of a famous actor is challenging, and Nat wants just to be Nat. Not XAN Gallagher’s daughter. She also wants to know what kind of mom abandons her baby? “Even in nature, when animals were faced with actual danger, mother animals stuck by their babies,” she once told a friend. The friend who she left behind. The friend who, we learn, did One Terrible Thing.

Nat has found other friends. Harry, who she meets in the girl’s bathroom at her new school in Canada. Harry who is a boy on the inside regardless of the fact their birth certificate says they are a girl. Harry, who plans to write a book to help other kids feel OK in their own skin.

There is Bird, a woman she knows only on the phone. A secret friend, and maybe her mom…

What I like about this book: I like the chapter titles. For example: “The things you find when you aren’t looking.” I like the postcards that Nat writes to Solly – or at least attempts to write. I like that Nat collects words from a diversity of languages to help her understand how she feels about things, and how to describe things. And I like the adventure to Baja with Harry’s family, where Nat discovers that she is definitely not ready to grow up.

Because of her middle name, Nat loves whales. I think she’d be a whale if she could. She loves to watch them, listen to their calls.

Want to learn more about baleen whales? Check out this NOAA website.

You can listen to a recording of a humpback whale here.

Thanks for dropping by today. On Monday we'll be hanging out at Marvelous Middle Grade Monday with other  bloggers. It's over at Greg Pattridge's blog, Always in the Middle, so hop over to see what other people are reading. Review copy provided by the publisher.


Friday, July 5, 2019

Celebrate Independence Day & Weekend





Drop by for a book next week. 
But this weekend head out to celebrate the Fourth of July!

Friday, June 28, 2019

Pack your duffle for "Camp Average"

Camp Average 
by Craig Battle
240 pages; ages 8 - 12
Owlkids, 2019

I spent many memorable weeks at summer camp – hiking, doing arts and crafts, canoeing, and learning archery – and later as a camp counselor. Author Craig Battle has spent his share of weeks coaching rambunctious boys at a sports camp. Years later he began wondering, what if a camp director pushed kids to become more competitive?

The first chapter sets the tone for this fun summer romp. We see yellow buses bumping their way over a potholed dirt road into camp [I’m pretty sure all roads into camps are required to have a minimum number of potholes]. From inside the buses comes a loud chant: “We’re number two!” as the buses roll to a stop at Camp Avalon – or Camp Average, as the kids call it. There’s a mess hall, the baseball diamond, the lake, and counselors wearing bright orange camp T-shirts. There are pranks, the annual telling of the camp legend, and camp food.

As the kids settle in to their cabins, readers settle in for some fun summer reading.  Except all is not well at Camp Average! Because in the morning, when Mack and his buddies head to the main field, they discover it has been transformed. As Craig writes, “…it looked less like their old camp and more like something straight out of the NFL Scouting Combine, the event where college football players showcase their skills for professional coaches.”

And Mack and his friends do not like this one bit. They were looking forward to a summer of fun on the waterfront, and friendly ball games against the other camps. Now they are pushed to show athletic aptitude. The guys decide they need to nip this competitiveness in the bud – but how?

Over the summer the kids deal with interpersonal challenges as well as challenges on the field. I don’t want to give away the fun, but let’s just say that it’s harder to intentionally lose games than you’d think. This is definitely one book you’ll want to pack in your duffel for summer reading!

Thanks for dropping by today. On Monday we'll be hanging out at Marvelous Middle Grade Monday with other  bloggers. It's over at Greg Pattridge's blog, Always in the Middle, so hop over to see what other people are reading. Review ARC provided by the publisher.



Friday, June 21, 2019

Shelter dogs and midnight mischief

It’s Summer Solstice... a night of mischief and fun. Also the shortest night of the year. So why not spend part of it reading some fun picture books!

themes: family, friends, imagination

Madeline Finn and the Shelter Dog
by Lisa Papp
32 pages,  ages 4 - 8
Peachtree publishers, 2019

I ask Mom every single day.
In the morning.
In the evening.
Even when we’re out…

Madeline Finn wants a dog – and finally Mom says yes! Now Madeline has to feed her new puppy, take him on walks, and make sure he has a safe home. Later, when she visits the animal shelter she notices that all the animals seem a little sad. What can she do to make them feel loved? “Mom,” she asks, “does anyone read to the shelter dogs?”

What I like about the book: This is a sweet story about how one small person can make a difference in the world – at least in the doggy world. I also like how that one act has a ripple effect, engaging even more people. I like that the story is grounded in compassion. And I love the warm and soft feeling that Lisa Papp’s illustrations generate.

In the Middle of the Night: Poems From A Wide-Awake House
by Laura Purdie Salas; illus. by Angela Matteson
32 pages; ages 4-8
WordSong, 2019

Sun and moon have traded places – 
Time for games! Time for races!

Did you know that when you fall fast asleep the things in your house wake up and play? I’ve always suspected this, and now Laurie Purdie Salas has collected the data – er, I mean she’s written a slew of poems imagining the shenanigans that go on while you sleep. Stuffed animals flip and skate, scraps of paper fold into planes and dive into the air… even the lunchbox is on a midnight mission.

What I like about this book: Pure imagination! Fun poems that will have you looking at the objects in your home in a new way – and may even have you documenting where and how you left them before nodding off for the night. I am sure my coffee cup goes on adventures as it is never where I thought I left it!

Beyond the Books:

Read to a dog – or two. Find out if your local shelter has a reading program, and how else you can help out. Here’s how one Shelter Buddies reading program works.

What do the things in your house do at night? Find out – and then share your discoveries by writing a poem or short story, or drawing a picture to show what goes on when the lights go out.

 Today we're joining Perfect Picture Book Friday, an event where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's website. Review copies provided by the publishers.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Badger's Perfect Garden

Badger’s Perfect Garden
by Marsha Diane Arnold; illus. by Ramona Kaulitzki
32 pages; ages 4-8
Sleeping Bear Press, 2019

theme: gardening, nature, friendship

One spring morning, Red Squirrel found Badger surrounded by dozens of jars.
The jars were filled with seeds. The seeds looked hopeful, just like Badger.

Badger wants to plant a perfect garden. That means getting the soil perfectly smooth. And planting perfectly straight rows. All of this takes a lot of time, but finally Badger’s garden is planted. All he needs is rain…. but then a HUGE storm washes away the seeds.

All is lost. Or is it?

What I like about this book: I love the idea that Badger is planting seeds that he has collected from local plants. And that his friends help him plant the garden. (As a gardener, I have yet to plant perfectly straight rows or get my soil perfectly smooth.)  Having your garden washed away by a severe storm is becoming a more likely event these days, but I was a bit astonished that Badger didn’t head back out and replant.

That doesn’t matter, though, because what happens is even more fun. As most of us know (when we stop to think about it) seeds will grow wherever they find themselves. But what I really liked was that "the seeds looked hopeful!"

Beyond the book

Plant a garden. One year a skunk dug up a section of our yard (searching for beetle larvae). My kids turned the now grassless area into a flower garden. Here are some resources for gardening with kids: How to Plant a Garden, and Gardening Basics (with lots of info).

Seek flowers that are native to your region. Check with your local county extension, or find a list of native plants at National Wildlife Federation and Xerces Society

Go on a flower walk to learn more about what’s growing in your neighborhood. Here’s a list for a scavenger hunt.

Today we're joining Perfect Picture Book Friday, an event where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's website . Review copy provided by publisher.

Friday, June 7, 2019

Little Doctor and the Fearless Beast

Little Doctor and the Fearless Beast
By Sophie Gilmore
32 pages; ages 5-8
Owlkids Books, 2019

theme: kindness, animals, imagination

There once lived a child the crocodiles called Little Doctor.

Little Doctor treats the creatures with care, bandaging and splinting and washing off scrapes and cuts. Then one day Big Mean shows up. Big Mean is every bit as big as her name implies, and when Little Doctor tries to take her temperature, Big Mean resists. But Little Doctor persists… and accidentally lands inside Big Mean’s big, toothy mouth – where she discovers something important. I don’t want to spoil this wonderful and sweet story, so please, please find a copy and read it for yourself. You’ll definitely want to read this story again and again.

What I like love about this book: The story seems so simple, and yet is a mile deep. It is about persistence, compassion, and respect. It also alludes to our human impact on the creatures who share this planet with us. I like that this story is inspired by a real-life crocodile doctor in the author’s family. And I really like the illustrations. They show us a lot about Little Doctor's life, from the way she dresses to the cool skeleton hanging from the ceiling of her room. They invite you to spend time on the page, poring over every detail.



Beyond the book:

Learn more about crocodiles here and here

Make a crocodile – you'll find a collection of many croc-crafts for kids here.

Plastic pollution is killing marine wildlife – even crocodiles. Learn more here. And here’s a list of ways you can reduce your use of plastic.

My colleague, Maria Marshall reviewed this book a couple months ago – you can find her thoughtful comments here.

Head over to Archimedes Notebook for some crocodilian nonfiction.

Today we're joining Perfect Picture Book Friday, an event where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's website . Review F&G provided by the publisher.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Mr Penguin and the Lost Treasure


Mr. Penguin and the Lost Treasure
by Alex T. Smith
208 pages; ages 8-12
Peachtree, 2019

Mr. Penguin is a dapper gent, what with his hat and bow tie and satchel. He has just started a new business: Professional Adventurer. But it wasn’t going according to plan and he’s down to his last fish finger sandwich.

“It was supposed to have been nonstop Adventures—people ringing up with mysteries for him to solve, missing diamonds to find, jungles to run through under a shower of poison-tipped darts….” Instead, his phone stayed silent. And if he didn’t get an Adventuring job soon, there would be no more crabsticks!

Fortunately, the phone rings! Mr. Penguin’s services are required to find a Lost Treasure somewhere in the Museum of Extraordinary Objects. Accompanied by his sidekick, a karate-kicking spider named Colin, Mr. Penguin heads off on a crazy Indiana Jones-style quest.

What I like about this book:

The wacky characters, from Edith the pigeon lady to Mrs. Bones and her brother Montague.

The clues, including a carved saber-toothed ostrich tusk.

An X that literally marks the spot!

I like how Alex Smith uses color to help tell the story. Most pages include illustrations in black, white, and orange – great penguin colors. But as the adventurers descend into the darkness of the basement, the pages are gray with white text.

I like that there are lessons to learn. If a large knobby tree trunk floats by at exactly the same time you need to cross a river, you might want to check for teeth!

And I like that there is always a way to save the day, though it will invariably require a personal sacrifice. So carry extra candy bars – or fish finger sandwiches, as the case may be.

Beyond the Book: Have some fun with these Mr. Penguin activity sheets!

Thanks for dropping by today. On Monday we'll be hanging out at Marvelous Middle Grade Monday with other  bloggers. It's over at Greg Pattridge's blog, Always in the Middle, so hop over to see what other people are reading. Review copy provided by the publisher.