Motor Mouse by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Arthur Howard

Published by Beach Lane Books

Image result for motor mouse rylant amazon

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

Image result for what is inside this box daywalt amazonImage result for what is inside this box daywalt

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

Image result for i lost my tooth mo willems amazon

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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Image result for yasmin hatem aly

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.

Mr. Monkey Bakes a Cake by Jeff Mack

Published by Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers

Image result for mr. monkey bakes a cake amazon

Image result for mr. monkey bakes a cake amazon

Summary:  When Mr. Monkey decides to bake a cake, bananas figure heavily into the production.  So much so, that Mr. Monkey is too stuffed to sample his cake when it comes out of the oven.  No problem…he decides to take it to the big cake contest. The trip is fraught with peril, as Mr. Monkey encounters traffic, a deranged biker, and multiple chases by a variety of animals.  He manages to arrive safely with his cake, only to discover that the contest is over. Don’t worry, Mr. Monkey has a way of making pretty much any situation turn out okay. 64 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  Filled with slapstick humor, this is sure to be a hit with the newly independent reading crowd.  A second book, Mr. Monkey Visits A School is also available.

Cons:  64 pages seemed a little long to me.

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

The Itchy Book by LeUyen Pham

Published by Disney Hyperion

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Summary:  A bespectacled dinosaur comes across a rock reading “Dinosaurs Do Not Scratch”.  He shares his new knowledge with other prehistoric friends who come along, stopping them from scratching an itchy back, a bee sting, and the place where a tag rubs on the back of the neck.  The original dinosaur claims it is tough not to scratch, and proves his own fortitude when the others tickle him with a feather and wrap him in a woolly sweater.  Finally, the turtle lying in front of the rock slowly moves away, revealing the word “Alone” at the bottom of the message.  Relieved, the whole crew goes for it, scratching every itch they can find on each other.  Elephant and Piggie enjoy the story, commenting at the end that “A good story scratches an itch.”  64 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  Elephant & Piggie + funny dinosaurs = a winning combination.

Cons:  It was a tough book to read while suffering from poison ivy.

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

The Party and Other Stories by Sergio Ruzzier

Published by Chronicle Books

Image result for party and other stories sergio amazon

Image result for party sergio ruzzier

Summary:  Friends Fox and Chick share three stories for early readers.  In the first, Chick asks to use Fox’s bathroom, then proceeds to have a party with her friends there.  Next, Chick can’t understand why Fox prefers vegetables to small animals, but when she realizes she herself is a small animal, is happy to share his vegetable soup.  Finally, Chick asks Fox to paint her portrait, but can’t sit still look enough for him to do it.  56 pages; grades K-3.

Pros:  Early readers will love the cartoon dialogue and friendship reminiscent of Elephant and Piggie or Frog and Toad.  With any luck, this will be the beginning of a new series.

Cons:  A friendship between a fox and a chick makes me a bit nervous.

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

Baby Monkey, Private Eye by Brian Selznick and David Serlin

Published by Scholastic

Image result for baby monkey private eye amazon

Image result for baby monkey private eye

Summary:  Baby Monkey solves one case after another: missing jewels, missing pizza, a missing nose, a missing spaceship, and a missing baby.  For each one, Baby Monkey has a routine.  First he looks for clues, then he takes notes and has a snack, and finally, he puts on his pants, a difficult task that generally takes several pages.  The mystery is solved immediately after that, usually by looking no further than outside his office door.  The routine is disrupted in the final mystery, because the missing baby turns out to be…well, I’ll let you take a guess.  Or read the book to find out.  Includes a guide to the different works of art that appear in Baby Monkey’s office for each mystery and an unusual index and bibliography.  192 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  Brian Selznick’s award-winning illustrations carry the day here.  Kids will crack up over Baby Monkey’s various struggles with his pants, while older readers will enjoy noticing all the details that change from one rendering of the office to the next.  The text is repetitive, making this a perfect choice for beginning readers.

Cons:  Librarians may have a tough time deciding where to put this book: chapter book, picture book, graphic novel, or early reader?

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


My Friends Make Me Happy! by Jan Thomas

Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Summary:  What makes Sheep happy?  He has his friends guess, giving them a hint that it starts with the letter F.  Is it fish? Fans? Turnips? (Pay attention, Duck, turnips does not start with an F!).  Finally, he has to tell them…it’s his friends!  Sheep’s friends make him happy.  And occasionally drive him crazy.  40 pages; ages 3-7.

Pros:  Part of a new (or newly revived) series for emergent readers, this cartoon-illustrated entry will surely live up to The Giggle Gang’s name.

Cons:  Sheep’s friends seem a bit slow on the uptake.

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