Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Rise of the Jumbies - a review

Rise of the Jumbies
by Tracey Baptiste
Algonquin Young Readers, 2017

Rise of the Jumbies is the second book in a new fantasy series,uniquely set within the culture of the Caribbean islands. It introduces the reader to the rich and sometimes frightening folk tales of the Caribbean islands and Africa.

      "There are more children missing," Mrs. Ramdeen said.  "Three of them, all of them lost by water.  The sea, the river, and now the well."  Her voice carried over the sounds of the market.  People dropped the produce they were buying to watch and listen.  Mrs. Chow tried unsuccessfully to hold back a sob.
     "Children fall into danger all the time," the witch said.  "Especially by the water."
     "But three in less than a day?" Mrs. Ramdeen asked.
     "Coincidence," the witch said, shrugging.  She looked pointedly at Corinne and pursed her lips as if she was waiting for something.
     Corinne swallowed.  "Could it be a jumbie?"
Through the adventures of  Corinne, the series' spunky protagonist who is half jumbie herself, the reader will meet the wily head of the mermaids, Mama D'Leau, and many more magical beings.  Some may be helpful if one is careful, like the land-loving, Papa Bois and the local white witch. Some will cause only evil.

Corinne and her friends travel with mermaids to Africa to unravel mysteries that may free the children of her village who have been trapped under the sea. They will meet danger and deception at every turn.

I suggest starting with the first book in the series, The Jumbies, to better familiarize yourself with the culture and the large cast of characters.

Can't get enough of jumbies?  Learn more.
Not having read the first book in the series, I wish I would have seen this first.  It, and the field guide below, would have been helpful.

Watch the trailer for the first book in the series, The Jumbies.

 My copy of Rise of the Jumbies was provided by the publisher at my request.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Under-the-Bed Fred - a review

By Linda Bailey
Illustrated by Colin Jack
Penguin Random House, 2017

Under-the-Bed-Fred is the first in a new chapter book series. Like many young kids, Leo is convinced there is a monster under his bed. He is right. Tired of leaping to/from the bathroom, Leo decides to confront the monster. Leo soon realizes that Fred is just doing his job—scaring kids is what he does. 

In Chapter 2, "The Monster Gets a Name," the author hits her stride and gives the reader a taste of Fred and Leo's personalities,

"What's your name?" asked Leo.
"I don't have one," said the monster.
"Everyone should have a name," said Leo.
"I know," said the monster. "I like Fred."
Leo blinked. "You want to be called Fred?"
"Could I?"
"I don't see why not," said Leo.
"Then say it," said the monster. "Say Fred. Say it nicely."
"Okay," said Leo. "Hi Fred. How are you doing, Fred? How's life, Fred?"
"Oh," said Fred. "That feels good!"
 And Fred, tickled pink with his new name, goes on to keep Leo up all night,

"Fred. Fred. Fred."
"Oh for Pete's sake," said Leo. He rolled over. He put his pillow over his head.
"Fred, Fred, Fred, Fred, Fred ..." said Fred.

The story continues with a requisite bully, Fred's visit to school, and a satisfactory conclusion. The vocabulary is simple enough for independent reading, but presented with humor and personality. The images are mixed media, but appear to be primarily watercolor. They are funny in a style that is reminiscent of a Nickelodeon cartoon. All of this is packaged in an attractive small-sized book with sturdy, glossy pages that will stand up in public and school libraries.

Although monsters under the bed are a trope in children's literature, Fred has charming tendencies that set him apart from the rest and he's worthy of investigation. It will be interesting to see the follow-up books. Kids should like this one!

Take a "look inside" Under the Bed Fred at the publisher's website.

My copy of Under the Bed Fred was provided by LibraryThing Early Reviewers

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

One Cheetah, One Cherry - a review

One Cheetah, One Cherry: A Book of Beautiful Numbers
Otter-Barry Books

My review as it appeared in School Library Journal:

 PreS –A simple animal counting book with a regal air. Each number is represented on a spread featuring a single type of animal, with dogs and mice being the only household varieties. In an interesting juxtaposition, the animals are lifelike and stately, yet playfully attired or engaged. Pandas sport “pretty painted parasols,” tigers play “pat-a-cake,” and mice sip from tiny china teacups. The subdued, earthy watercolor tones are accurate for each species, but the settings and attire have a hint of majesty as a result of the addition of gold leaf and a repeated paisley background motif, often in purple. Also adding a degree of opulence is a rich, mottled ochre color suggesting marble. No seeking or finding is necessary; the animals are large in scale and neatly arrayed for easy counting. White border space on the bottom of each page provides the location for simple, descriptive text that is sometime alliterative, sometimes loosely rhymed: “Two dogs, two balls, one big, one small.” Endpapers offer further opportunities for counting and contain the only numerical representations of the numbers one through 10. VERDICT A unique, artistic addition to the counting canon.

My review copy was provided by School Library Journal

Friday, September 29, 2017

Ultimate Space Atlas - a review

Just in time for World Space Week (October 4-10), 
 here's a review of Nat Geo's Ultimate Space Atlas.

Ultimate Space Atlas
by Carolyn DeCristofano
National Geographic Kids, 2017

Let me begin by saying that a space atlas inspired my eldest daughter to become a rocket scientist by the age of 20 (see note below).  It doesn't matter what your child's age may be.  If you have a space enthusiast (or any kind of enthusiast), nurture and feed that enthusiasm. Follow it wherever it leads.

National Geographic Kids Ultimate Space Atlas is a picture book-sized, softcover atlas.  It's small and light enough to take with you on car trips, vacations, etc.  That's the beauty of an atlas.  The reader can invest as much or as little time as she wants—scan the Cool Facts, enjoy the images, or read more in-depth passages about constellations, lunar phases, favorite planets, or the possibility of life in space.

Immediately following the Table of Contents is the very helpful section "How to Use This Atlas." Despite this being the digital age, using an atlas is a useful exercise in learning how to group, classify, and present information.  The same skills that are used in creating an atlas, are those used in creating research papers, PowerPoint presentations, essays, and more. An atlas helps a child to process the questions:
  • What information do I have?
  • What portion of that information do I want to share?
  • What is my purpose in sharing it?
  • What is the best way for me to present it? 
But enough of librarian geekery, the point is that the atlas is organized into tabbed sections, Sky-High, Observing Space, Inner Solar System, Outer Solar System, Our Galaxy and Beyond, and Mapping Space.  Each section contains similar insets against a background of images - natural photographs, colorized images, and artistic impressions. The lack of glossy pages takes away a bit of space's luster, but space is magnificent even in matte finish. A few pages of fun activities round out the atlas and will suffice to keep a child occupied while waiting for dinner at a restaurant.

Ultimate Space Atlas includes:
  • Table of contents
  • How to Use section
  • Glossary
  • Index
  • Seven tabbed chapters 
  • Credits

You can download a National Geographic Kids fun pack here.

If you'd be interested in learning how an old space atlas inspired my daughter to become a rocket scientist by the age of 20, please jump over to this post I wrote back in 2013. [http://kidlitwhm.blogspot.com/2013/03/yes-you-can.html]

My review copy of Ultimate Space Atlas was provided by the publisher's publicity agent.

Sunday, September 24, 2017


Don't forget—Banned Books Week starts today!
"Every year, there are hundreds of known attempts to remove books from bookstores, libraries and schools.  That’s thousands of lost opportunities to explore ideas that fuel understanding. Words have power and access to diverse ideas makes all of us more powerful. Celebrate the freedom to read by reading your favorite banned book during Banned Books Week, September 24 -  30.  Visit your local library for more information."

If you haven't created anything for your library yet, be sure to check out the #BannedBookWeek resources at the American Library Association website. [www.ala.org/bbooks].

Easy things that you can use right away include:

Finally, I've posted this before, but Dav Pilkey's video contains my favorite words of wisdom on the topic of banned books. I hope you agree. 😊

Friday, September 22, 2017

Nothing Rhymes with Orange - a review

Nothing Rhymes with Orange
by Adam Rex
Chronicle Books, 2017 

It's hard not to like Adam Rex. His take on anything is usually genius, and so it is with fruit. Nothing Rhymes with Orange is funny metafiction that contains an orange who lamentingly inserts himself and his plight into the cheery rhymes,

"Happens every time ...
"The date is on a date and things are going pretty great."
"me and kumquat: always ignored."

"The kumquat and the currant felt left out until they weren't."
As the frontpapers note, "The illustrations in this book were rendered in fruit." Actual fruit images are given wildly expressive ink faces. A particular favorite is the manga-like expression of the starry-eyed orange when he finally receives some attention.

Requisite puns are in the author's bio.

Nothing Rhymes with Orange is simply good, fruity fun! Kids will eat it up.

Want more fun?  Download the Nothing Rhymes with Orange readers theater script from Chronicle Books.

Starred reviews in Kirkus and Publishers Weekly

Monday, September 18, 2017

Freedom in Congo Square - an audiobook review

Freedom in Congo Square
By Carole Boston Weatherford
Illustrated by Gregory Christie
Read by JD Jackson

Although I read the print book earlier, I recently reviewed the audio version of Freedom in Congo Square for AudioFile Magazine.

You can read my review of Freedom in Congo Square at AudioFile Magazine.

The following are some additional thoughts:

Freedom in Congo Square is a multiple award winning book, and the audio production with sound effects and music is flawless. However, the digital audiobook suffers without the accompanying picture book.  For full disclosure, I should mention that I've hosted the illustrator, Gregory Christie at my library and I am a huge fan, but the fact that he's a joyous and interesting person who wows children, is beside my main point. In the picture book version (for which he earned a Caldecott Honor), he captures the moods of each day so perfectly, and his transition from the torture of day-to-day chores to the joy of a music-filled Sunday afternoon at New Orleans' Congo Square captures a joy and resiliency of spirit missing in the audio version.  Although the narrator, JD Perkins, does a stellar reading, the accompanying music for the Sunday afternoon of freedom is rhythmic drumming with no hint of the tambourines, flutes, fiddles, and triangles mentioned in the foreword.

By all means, listen to the audiobook version, but have the picture book on hand as well!

You can still visit Congo Square!  It's located within New Orleans' Louis Armstrong Park. It is on our National Register of Historic Places.

I am slowly getting back up to speed following Hurricane Irma, which impacted almost every part of Florida. If you are a resident of hurricane impacted areas in Texas, Florida, Georgia, or Louisiana, please remember that your libraries may need your support, but they're also there to support you!  Libraries and everyday people are a combination that can weather any storm. 😊

If you want to help libraries in Florida and Texas, here's how:
  • The Florida Library Association has set up a Florida Libraries Disaster Relief Fund at http://www.flalib.org/.
  • Want to help Texas libraries recover from Hurricane Harvey?  Click Here for more details about the Texas Library Association Disaster Relief Fund.