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Monday, March 27, 2017

Look for the Helpers: 5 Picture Books About Helping Others

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'” - Mr. Rogers

Whenever I'm overwhelmed by the news, stressful days, and hard times, I think of the above quote from the infinitely wise Mr. Rogers. In considering Mr. Roger's advice, I couldn't help but think of some of my favorite picture books that feature a few notable helpers.

Pass It On
Sophy Henn

Henn's newest picture book, which follows Where Bear? and Pom Pom Panda Gets the Grumps, sends a powerful message about spreading joy and wonder to others and the reciprocal nature of kindness. The text down to the colorful illustrations evoke feelings of happiness and encourage sharing.


Turtle Tug to the Rescue
Michael Slack

Slack's unassuming hero Turtle Tug will be beloved by both children and adults! In times of danger, Turtle Tug can be depended upon to face the churning sea and offer aide to those in need. Slack's use of color and facial expression is fabulous, adding depth to the simple rhyming text.


Antoinette
Kelly DiPucchio / Christian Robinson

In this follow-up to Gaston, DiPucchio and Robinson follow Antoinette, a puppy who doesn't quite fit in. Unlike her brothers, nothing about Antoinette is special - or so she thinks! When Ooh-La-La goes missing, Antoinette is determined to save the day regardless of obstacles. Fans of Gaston will be happy to see the return of some favorite pups.
 
  
Wolf in the Snow
Matthew Cordell

In this gorgeous wordless story by Cordell, a young girl and a wolf are lost in a snowstorm. When the girl helps the wolf to find his pack, the wolves return her kindness. The little girl's fear and determination is skillfully portrayed by Cordell; this story resonates.


A Hat for Mrs. Goldman
Michelle Edwards / G. Brian Karas
IndieBound / Amazon

When Sophia realizes that Mrs. Goldman, always busy knitting for others, does not have a hat to keep her warm, Sophia learns to knit to create something special for the caring older neighbor. Edwards' text coupled with Karas' soft illustrations will warm readers as thoroughly as a mug of hot chocolate. An incredibly sweet story of friendship and kindness.
 
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Do you have favorite picture books about helping others
Let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Cover Reveals - Middle Grade Roundup (90)



The Great Hibernation by Tara Dairman
Goodreads

The most important tradition in tiny St. Polonius-on-the-Fjord is the annual Tasting of the Sacred Bear Liver. Each citizen over twelve must eat one bite of liver to prevent the recurrence of the Great Hibernation, when the town founder's fell asleep for months.

This year is Jean Huddy's first time to taste the liver. It doesn't go well. A few hours later, all the adults fall asleep. And no one can wake them.

The kids are left to run things, and they're having a blast. That is, until the town bullies take over the mayor's office and the police force.

Jean suspects that this "hibernation" was actually engineered by someone in town. She starts to investigate, and inspires other kids to join her in a secret plan to save St. Polonius.

Courage, teamwork, and scientific smarts unlock a quirky mystery in this delightful and funny story.

We Are Party People by Leslie Margolis
Goodreads
A funny and sweet middle-grade novel about friendship, family, and overcoming shyness, perfect for fans of Wendy Mass.

Shy twelve-year-old Pixie is the opposite of her gregarious parents, owners of the top party planning company in town. When Pixie's mom has to go away to support her ailing grandmother, it falls on Pixie to help out with the family business and step into the spotlight—and mermaid costume—her worst nightmare. Along the way she learns important life lessons, like maybe her family isn't so bad after all and that stepping out of her comfort zone might not be as scary as she thought. With a little help from her friends, she discovers her courage and faces her fears.

The Incredible Magic of Being by Kathryn Erskine
Goodreads
Some might say Julian is sheltered. But he lives large, and his eternal optimism allows him to see infinite possibilities wherever he looks.

Despite his optimism, he is anxious about his stressed family falling apart. Even his ability to "uni-sense" what's happening with his sister is gone. If he can make his family focus on the magic in the universe, surely they'll appreciate life again. Now that they are moving from Washington, DC, to rural Maine, Julian can use his beloved telescope without any light pollution. He can discover a comet, name it for himself, and show his family how they're all truly connected.

As Julian searches the night sky, he encounters a force that may drive his plan apart. His neighbor, Mr. X, could bring an end to his parents' dream of opening their B&B. Could one negative force unravel everything? An avid student of science, Julian understands that there is much about the universe that we don't yet know. Who is to say what's possible and what's not?

The Witch Boy by Molly Ostertag
Goodreads
A middle-grade graphic novel about a boy growing up in a magical community where all men are trained as shapeshifters and all women as witches. When a mysterious foe from his family's past reappears, Aster is the only one who can help them – but he'll have to reveal that he has learned witch magic in secret.

Lost Boys by Darcey Rosenblatt
Goodreads
Based on historical events, this unforgettable and inspiring tale for middle-grade readers is about a young boy torn from the only life he’s ever known and held captive as a prisoner of war.

In 1982, twelve-year-old Reza has no interest in joining Iran’s war effort against Iraq. But in the wake of a tragedy and at his mother’s urging, he decides to enlist, assured by the authorities that he will achieve paradise should he die in service to his country.

War does not bring the glory the boys of Iran have been promised, and Reza soon finds himself held in a prisoner-of-war camp in Iraq, where the guards not only threaten violence—they act upon it. Will Reza make it out alive? And if he does, will he even have a home to return to?

Friendship, heartbreak, and Reza’s very survival are at stake as he finds solace through music and forges his own path—wherever that might take him.
Oakwing: A Fairy's Tale by E.J. Clarke
Goodreads

A twelve-year-old girl finds herself on an epic adventure of tiny proportions after she’s magically transformed into a fairy in this stunning debut novel from EJ Clarke.

Rowan’s mother went missing seven years ago. On the anniversary of her disappearance, Rowan cries herself to sleep beneath their favorite tree in Hyde Park, in the very heart of London. When she wakes up she’s tiny…and has wings.

She uncovers a hidden world of fairies and foxes, and sets out on a perilous journey to find the one person she misses more than any other. With new friends by her side and fierce enemies at her heels, she’ll discover powers she never imagined, and a courage she never knew she had.
The Best Kind of Magic by Crystal Cestari
Goodreads


Amber Sand is not a witch. The Sand family Wicca gene somehow leapfrogged over her. But she did get one highly specific magical talent: she can see true love. As a matchmaker, Amber's pretty far down the sorcery food chain (even birthday party magicians rank higher), but after five seconds of eye contact, she can envision anyone's soul mate.

Amber works at her mother's magic shop--Windy City Magic--in downtown Chicago, and she's confident she's seen every kind of happy ending there is: except for one--her own. (The Fates are tricky jerks that way.) So when Charlie Blitzman, the mayor's son and most-desired boy in school, comes to her for help finding his father's missing girlfriend, she's distressed to find herself falling for him. Because while she can't see her own match, she can see his--and it's not Amber. How can she, an honest peddler of true love, pursue a boy she knows full well isn't her match?

The Best Kind of Magic is set in urban Chicago and will appeal to readers who long for magic in the real world. With a sharp-witted and sassy heroine, a quirky cast of mystical beings, and a heady dose of adventure, this novel will have you laughing out loud and questioning your belief in happy endings.

I Love You, Michael Collins by Lauren Baratz-Logsted
Goodreads


It’s 1969 and the country is gearing up for what looks to be the most exciting moment in U.S. history: men landing on the moon. Ten-year-old Mamie’s class is given an assignment to write letters to the astronauts. All the girls write to Neil Armstrong ("So cute!") and all the boys write to Buzz Aldrin ("So cool!"). Only Mamie writes to Michael Collins, the astronaut whowill come so close but never achieve everyone else's dream of walking on the moon, because he is the one who must stay with the ship. After school ends, Mamie keeps writing to Michael Collins, taking comfort in telling someone about what's going on with her family as, one by one, they leave the house thinking that someone else is taking care of her—until she is all alone except for her cat and her best friend, Buster. And as the date of the launch nears, Mamie can't help but wonder: Does no one stay with the ship anymore?

The Secret Sheriff of Sixth Grade by Jordan Sonnenblick
Goodreads

In sixth grade, bad things can happen to good kids. Bullies will find your weakness and jump on it. Teachers will say you did something wrong when really didn't mean to do anything wrong. The kids who joke the loudest can drown out the quieter, nicer kids.

Maverick wants to change all that. One of the last things his father left him was a toy sheriff's badge, back when Maverick was little. Now he likes to carry it around to remind him of his dad - and also to remind him to make school a better place for everyone... even if that's a hard thing to do, especially when his own home life is falling apart.

THE SECRET SHERIFF OF SIXTH GRADE is a story about standing up for yourself - and being a hero at home and in the halls of your school.

One Mixed-Up Night by Catherine Newman
Goodreads




This book is like From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler . . . but instead of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, these two friends are running away to somewhere a little more modern--Ikea.

Frankie and Walter aren't really running away. Just like the kids in their favorite book, they are running to somewhere. Specifically, a massive furniture store. They've been obsessed with the Ikea catalog for years. So they make a plan, pack their backpacks, give their parents the sleepover switcheroo . . . and they're in.

One night all on their own, with no grown-ups or little brothers.

One night of couch jumping, pillow forts, and unlimited soda refills.

One night of surprises and twinkle lights and secrets they have each been keeping--and waiting to share.

One unforgettable night in Ikea.

The Summer of Own Todd by Tony Abbott
Goodreads

About an 11-year-old boy whose best friend is sexually abused over the course of one summer and swears him to secrecy about it.
One Shadow on the Wall by Leah Henderson
Goodreads


An orphaned boy in contemporary Senegal must decide between doing what is right and what is easy as he struggles to keep a promise he made to his dying father in this debut novel laced with magical realism.

Eleven-year-old Mor was used to hearing his father’s voice, even if no one else could since his father’s death. It was comforting. It was also a reminder that Mor had made a promise to his father before he passed: keep your sisters safe. Keep the family together. But almost as soon as they are orphaned, that promise seems impossible to keep. With an aunt from the big city ready to separate him and his sisters as soon as she arrives, and a gang of boys from a nearby village wanting everything he has—including his spirit—Mor is tested in ways he never imagined.

With only the hot summer months to prove himself, Mor must face a choice. Does he listen to his father and keep his heart true, but risk breaking his promise through failure? Or is it easier to just join the Danka Boys, whom in all their maliciousness are at least loyal to their own?

Skeleton Tree by Kim Ventrella
Goodreads
Stanly only stopped once to look back at the bones. Maybe it was his imagination, but he could have sworn the finger twitched. Like it wanted him to come closer. He remembered the feeling he’d had when he first saw the bone, like nothing would ever be the same again. The bone changed things, and no matter how hard he might try, he could never go back to before.

Twelve-year-old Stanly knows the bone is a little weird, but that’s okay, because now he’ll have the perfect photo to submit for the Young Discoverer’s Competition. With such a unique find he’s sure to win the grand prize.

But, oddly, the bone doesn’t appear in any photos. Even stranger, it seems to be growing into a full skeleton . . . one that only children can see.

There’s just one person who doesn’t find any of this weird—Stanly’s little sister. Mischievous Miren adopts the skeleton as a friend, and soon, the two become inseparable playmates.

When Miren starts to grow sick, Stanly suspects that the skeleton is responsible, and does everything in his power to drive the creature away. However, Miren is desperate not to lose her friend, forcing Stanly to question everything he’s ever believed about life, love, and the mysterious forces that connect us.
The Wolf Hour by Sara Lewis Holmes
Goodreads



Welcome, my little lambs, to the Puszcza. It's an ancient forest, a keeper of the deepest magic, where even the darkest fairy tales are real.

Here, a Girl is not supposed to be a woodcutter. Or be brave enough to walk alone.

Here, a Wolf is not supposed to love to read. Or be curious enough to meet a human.

And here, a Story is nothing like the ones you read in books, for the Witch can make the most startling tales come alive. All she needs is a Girl from the village, a Wolf from the forest, and a woodcutter with a nice, sharp axe.

So take care, little lambs, if you step into these woods. For in the Puszcza, it is always as dark as the hour between night and dawn -- the time old folk call the Wolf Hour. If you lose your way here, you will be lost forever, your Story no longer your own.

You can bet your bones.
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Do you have a favorite recent new cover? Or a favorite from this list? Let me know in the comments!