Save the Cake! by Molly Coxe

Published by Bright Owl Books

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Image result for save the cake coxe

Summary:  Snails Kate and Nate try to figure out how to transport their homemade birthday cake to Grandpa Jake while avoiding a snake they’ve seen.  After missing a plane and a train, they take a boat and sail across the lake. When they get there, Grandpa Jake introduces them to his best friend–the snake!  This is part of a series that introduces kids to different phonetic sounds. In case you can’t figure it out from my description thus far, the sound featured here is the long A.  40 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  A fun and somewhat unique way to introduce and reinforce phonics.  The illustrations are photos of fabric creations that may inspire kids to try to craft their own.

Cons:  These only seem to be available in paperback and library bindings.  At $21 each for the hardcovers, I’m probably going to pass on them for my library.

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


Acorn Books by Scholastic

Published by Scholastic

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Summary:  Similar to the Branches imprint, Scholastic now has Acorn, books for emerging readers.  They’re described as being at a Grade 1 Scholastic Reading Level, which translates to about a Level J in the Fountas and Pinnell world.  There are four series so far: Hello, Hedgehog! by Norm Feuti, featuring a friendly hedgehog and his guinea pig pal; Unicorn and Yeti by Heather Ayris Burnell, the somewhat surreal pairing of an extra-sparkly unicorn and a yeti; Crabby by Jonathan Fenske, all about a really crabby crab; and a reissued Dragon series by Dav Pilkey.  Each series has 2-3 books so far, each 48-64 pages long, with almost all the words in the form of cartoon bubble dialogue.  A final page offers extension activities, such as directions on how to draw a character and a writing prompt. 48-64 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  If the Branches series are any indication, these are sure to be a hit.  Cute, friendly, and mildly humorous characters paired with a graphic novel look and cartoon bubble dialogue seems like a recipe for success.

Cons:  At the risk of sounding like a cranky old librarian, I wonder if kids will even know what quotation marks are in another generation.

If you would like to buy the first Hello Hedgehog book, click here.

For Crabby, click here.

For Yeti and Unicorn, click here.

For Dragon, click here.

Motor Mouse by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Arthur Howard

Published by Beach Lane Books

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Image result for motor mouse rylant amazon

Summary:  The Mr. Putter and Tabby team has created a new early chapter book about Motor Mouse, an adventurous mouse who drives a delivery car for a living.  In the first story, he and his friend Telly are disappointed when the cake store where they usually celebrate Fridays is closed. A hedgehog guides them to a pie store, and they broaden their culinary horizons.  Next, Motor Mouse hires a taxi to take him down Memory Lane, where he reminisces about old friends and makes a new one. Finally, Motor Mouse and his brother Valentino go to the movies together and have to figure out the best way to share their popcorn.  When they do, they celebrate by going out for ice cream. 64 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  These cozy, mildly humorous stories are perfect for beginning readers who have already made friends with some of Rylant’s other creations like the aforementioned Mr. Putter and Tabby, Poppleton, and Henry and Mudge.  Plus, they’ll get to read about a lot of good food.

Cons:  While this seems to be targeting the easy reader audience, it’s in the larger picture book format, which will make it a bit tricky to shelve in many libraries.

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.

What Is Inside THIS Box? By Drew Daywalt, illustrated by Olivier Tallec

Published by Orchard Books

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Summary:  Monkey claims to have a cat inside his box, but the cat will disappear as soon as the box is opened.  Cake is skeptical, until Monkey tells him he can use his own imagination to decide what the box’s contents are. Cake decides there’s a disappearing dinosaur inside.  The two friends conclude that they will never know the answer for sure, and go off for a piece of pie. The penultimate page shows a cat peeking out of the box, and on the last page, he’s riding off on the back of a big green dinosaur.  Includes some questions on the final endpaper like “Do you believe in things you can’t see?” and concludes, “Read. Laugh. Think.” 48 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  Another early reader series derivative of Elephant and Piggie, with two friends conversing in different colored cartoon bubbles.  The storyline, which includes a nod to Schrodinger’s cat, could provoke some interesting discussions.

Cons:  Should a slice of cake be eating a piece of pie?  

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

I Lost My Tooth! by Mo Willems (Unlimited Squirrels)

Published by Hyperion Books for Children

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Image result for i lost my tooth mo willems

Summary:  When Zoom Squirrel loses her tooth, her squirrel friends are horrified, particularly when they find out it was a baby tooth!  They’re sure it must be alone, sad, and hungry, and they scatter in all directions to try to find it.  When they’re gone, Zoom Squirrel realizes it’s under her pillow, and goes off to retrieve it.  The other squirrels return to find her gone, too!  Finally, everyone is reunited, and the baby tooth is put into a carriage where it is oohed and aahed over.  Zoom Squirrel has the final word as she concludes with the lesson from the story: “Squirrels do not know much about teeth!”  The final third of the book includes jokes and facts about teeth.  85 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  Squirrels may not know much about teeth, but Mo Willems knows plenty about how to tickle kids’ funny bones, and his legion of fans is sure to welcome this new series (at least I assume it will be a series), with a size, shape, and illustrations that are similar to the Elephant and Piggie books.

Cons:  There’s a large cast of squirrel characters, all of whom look kind of similar to me.  Also, the back matter seemed unnecessary, although I suppose jokes, riddles, and fun facts will always find an audience with the preschool crowd.  And I feel foolish offering any criticism, as I know that anything even remotely resembling Piggie and Gerald with Mo Willems’ name on it will be a runaway best seller.

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

Meet Yasmin! by Saadia Faruqi, art by Hatem Aly

Published by Picture Window Books

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Summary:  Yasmin is a Pakistani-American girl who lives with her extended family.  In the four stories that are part of this book, she explores the city with her mom and makes a map that helps her when she gets lost; wins an art contest despite feeling like she has no talent; helps her class design and build a miniature city; and puts on a fashion show with her grandmother.  Each story is also sold as a separate book, and the stories straddle the line between easy reader and early chapter book (with three chapters per story). Includes four discussion questions (one for each story); an Urdu glossary that includes words from the text; a recipe for a yogurt drink called Mango Lassi; and instructions for making a flower motif bookmark.  89 pages; grades K-2.

Pros:  Yasmin is a likeable character who will resonate with Pakistani-Americans and teach a few things about her culture to readers who are not.  The artwork by Hatem Aly (The Inquisitor’s Tale) makes a cheerful complement to the text and will help kids understand the meaning of possibly unfamiliar words like hijab and kameez.

Cons:  Yasmin spends a whole recess in her classroom with no adult supervision, and her teacher seems just fine when she comes in and discovers Yasmin there.

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