I Am Farmer: Growing an Environmental Movement in Cameroon by Baptiste and Miranda Paul, illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon

Published by Millbrook Press

Image result for i am farmer miranda paul amazon

Image result for i am farmer elizabeth zunon

Summary:  Growing up in Cameroon, Tantoh was sometimes laughed at for asking too many questions in school.  He loved nature, especially learning how to grow plants. His classmates gave him the nickname Farmer, meant to be an insult, but Tantoh embraced the title.  He purposely failed an exam that could have led to a well-paying office job so he could spend all his time outside growing crops. After studying agriculture in Cameroon and the U.S., Tantoh helped transform Cameroon by focusing on clean water and community gardens.  He founded the organization Save Your Future Association to build community, protect the environment, and promote education.  Includes an authors’ note with additional information about Farmer Tantoh, and photos and African proverbs on both the front and back endpapers.  32 pages; ages 7-11.

Pros:  As the authors write about Tantoh in their note: “His story is a reminder of many things–being true to your passion, using resources wisely, and never forgetting your roots.”  It’s an inspirational tale about one person making a big difference for many others.

Cons:  This is not likely to be a book most kids will pick up without some adult guidance.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

Recipe for Disaster (Didi Dodo Future Spy, book 1) by Tom Angleberger, illustrated by Jared Chapman

Published by Harry N. Abrams

Image result for recipe for disaster angleberger amazon

Summary:  Cookie baker Koko Dodo (a character from Angleberger’s Inspector Flytrap series) has been robbed! His Super Secret Fudge Sauce has been stolen just hours before the big cookie contest that he always wins.  Enter Didi Dodo, a high-energy dodo on roller skates who calls herself a future spy.  She’s sure she can solve the case, and whisks Koko off on a whirlwind adventure, trying one scheme after another to track down the culprit, and leaving a path of destruction as they go.  The robber is tracked down, the cookies are baked, and Koko gets another trophy.  On the last page, Didi whips out a card reading “Dodo and Dodo, Future Spies,” ensuring at least one more book, which is scheduled for release in September. 112 pages; grades 1-4.

Pros:  Kids will love the manic humor and energy of this new series by the much-loved Tom Angleberger.

Cons:  I liked the illustrations, but why didn’t Tom’s wife Cece Bell do them like she did for Inspector Flytrap?  Maybe she’s working on a sequel to El Deafo…we can hope.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

I wrote a book!

Remember the book A Wonderful Year by Nick Bruel?  Me neither.  It was the first book I reviewed on this blog on February 20, 2015, and I don’t think I’ve looked at it since.

Three days later I posted a review for The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, a book I still book talk many times a year and count among my favorite books of all times.

That’s the way it goes with reading.  Some books are just more memorable than others.

So when I realized that I’ve published almost 1,400 reviews, I decided it was time to do some weeding.  In a week or so, I’m going to take down the reviews from 2015 and 2016.  In preparation for this,  I’ve gone through all the books I’ve written about and picked out the ones I feel have stood the test of time.

I’ve compiled them into a book called Hit the Books: The Best of Kids Book A Day, 2015-2018.  There are about 150 books included; each entry has the summary I wrote on my blog and why it was included on the list.  They’re divided into eight sections: picture books, early readers, early chapter books, middle grade fiction, graphic novels, poetry, biography, and nonfiction.

I also put together ten lists of “Read-Alikes” from the books I’ve reviewed on the blog.  So if you have a fan of Diary of A Wimpy Kid or Raina Telgemeier, you can get some ideas for other books they might want to try.

Let me know if you find this book helpful.  Who knows, I may put together a second edition in another year or two!

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

Seashells: More Than a Home by Melissa Stewart, illustrated by Sarah S. Brannen

Published by Charlesbridge

Image result for seashells more than a home amazon

Image result for seashells more than a home brannen

Summary:  How is a shell like an anchor?  A crowbar? A butterfly? The team who brought you Feathers: Not Just for Flying explains how shells serve different purposes for the animals who live inside them.  The pages are designed like pages from a scrapbook, with a paragraph of text accompanied by pictures that look like photographs or sketchbook drawings.  Two pages at the end give more information about five different kinds of shells. Also includes notes from the author and the illustrator, as well as resources for further research.  32 pages; grades K-4.

Pros:  This beautiful science book offers a good introduction to a lot of different types of shells with detailed illustrations that will help kids begin to learn how to identify them.

Cons:  Although I thought Feathers: Not Just for Flying was an equally attractive book, I’ve had a hard time generating any interest in it with kids.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

Nikki On the Line by Barbara Carroll Roberts

Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Image result for nikki on the line amazon

Summary:  Nikki dreams of playing high school basketball, and making the elite eighth grade team Action is an important step toward that goal.  Moving to the next level proves difficult for her, though, since she’s one of the shortest girls on the team and no longer playing point guard. When she overhears her teammate’s father calling her “a black hole on the basketball court”, she loses her confidence, and with it, her joy in playing the game.  A fight with her best friend, a new boy in her life, and some discoveries about her absent father all lead her to a new determination to re-create herself on and off the court. Her coach’s advice, “Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do” finally inspires her to focus on her strengths on the court that allow her to help her team to victory.  336 pages; grades 4-8.

Pros:  In her debut novel, Barbara Carroll Roberts has created a character readers will root for from beginning to end.  There’s plenty of sports action, too, and several interesting subplots.

Cons:  Nikki’s mom finally came through in the end, but for much of the story she seemed clueless at best and at worst, unsupportive of her daughter’s passion.  And the teammate’s dad who made the black hole comment was awful with nothing to make him the least bit sympathetic.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Kadir Nelson

Published by Versify

Image result for undefeated kwame amazon

Image result for undefeated kadir nelson

Summary:  “This is for the unforgettable/The swift and sweet ones/who hurdled history/and opened a world of possibility.”  Kwame Alexander’s poem is an ode to African Americans, both the famous and the unknown ones who played important roles in America’s history.  Kadir Nelson’s oil paintings on white backgrounds portray the subjects; a list at the end identifies them and gives more information about each one. Alexander has also written an afterword to tell how he came to write this poem in 2008, the year his second daughter was born and Barack Obama became president.  He concludes in the final line of the poem, “This is for the undefeated./This is for you./And you./And you./This is for us.” 40 pages; grades 1-5.

Pros:  The poem is extremely moving, as well as being an excellent introduction to a chunk of African-American history.  I hope Kadir Nelson’s amazing paintings will be recognized with some kind of an award.

Cons:  In the group pictures, each person is identified, but it’s just a list, so it’s difficult to tell who is who in the painting.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

Butterflies in Room 6 by Caroline Arnold

Published by Charlesbridge

Image result for butterflies in room 6 amazon

Image result for butterflies in room 6 caroline arnold

Summary:  Mrs. Best’s kindergarten class, featured in Hatching Chicks in Room 6, is back, this time hatching butterflies.  The kids are shown observing eggs, caterpillars, chrysalises, and finally, full-grown painted lady butterflies.  They do more than observe, feeding the caterpillars, helping to move them to the cup where they’ll build their chrysalises, and getting to (gently) hold butterflies before releasing them.  Photos and text provide plenty of information about each step in the process. The camera captures kids’ expressions from concentrated attention to wonder to joy on the last page as their butterflies fly away.  Includes a page of questions; vocabulary; and lists of websites and books for more information. 40 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  I’d like to spend a few days hanging out in Mrs. Best’s room.  The kids look like they’re having a ball, and learning about science in the process.  There’s plenty of information about the butterfly’s life cycle; integrating it with a real class makes it accessible to young kids.

Cons:  You just know some kid is going to take the fact that larva poop is called frass and run with it.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.