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San Francisco Mountains in Autumn

Fall in Flagstaff, AZ with the San Francisco Mtns in the background

It is finally Autumn in Arizona. Now I realize it is late November and winter storms are plaguing most of the Midwest and East coast, but it has only in the last few weeks gotten cool enough here to warrant long sleeves in the morning and evening (with temps in the low 70s – 21C for the rest of the world) and leaves starting to fall. The majority of the trees are still green and still have their leaves. Fall is my favorite time of year. I miss having real seasons in Arizona, we mostly just have a lot of summer with a very small fall/winter/spring. In October, I started craving cozy foods like homemade mac ‘n’ cheese and stews, and more importantly hot tea and cider. And this was when it was still 90 degrees outside. I also started crocheting again, and have made three scarves so far. I have decided to do “Autumn” as my theme for the last DiscoveryTime (DT) of the year. Sadly I can’t do a lot of the experiments I found online because almost no leaves have fallen. I added more songs and fingerplays in though, and an extra book so hopefully that will make up for it. I started doing take-home activity sheets as well, to have the parents and children do something fun related to the storytime.

While I was researching for the DT, I found a couple of poems, one of which I decided to add because it was from an award-winning children’s book called A Child’s Calendar by John Updike, illustrated by Tricia Schart Hyman. I also decided that if it was possible, I would like to include more poetry in my storytimes, as I enjoy it and it would be nice to expose the children to it as well. One that I could not add, not because it wasn’t a great poem (it is gorgeously vivid and lovely) but because it is a bit long and too complicated for 1-4 yr olds to sit through, was the following Keats poem. I’m sure most people have heard of it or heard it quoted before.

To Autumn

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cider-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings, hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,–
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft,
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Judy: A Dog in a Million



Judy: A Dog in a Million by Damien Lewis

To be published Dec 2, 2014

Judy was a remarkable liver-colored (chocolate brown) and white English Pointer born in Shanghai, China in 1936. When she was about 6 months old, she was adopted as the ship’s dog (mascot) aboard the HMS Gnat and later the HMS Grasshopper. This gunboat patrolled the Yangtze River when the British were still a colonial power there. After the Japanese started attacking the Chinese during the second Sino-Japanese War, and Judy was especially adept at hearing oncoming aircraft and warning the crew ahead of time. It was on the Grasshopper that Judy was involved in the Battle for Singapore, but nearly died after the ship sunk trying to get evacuees from Singapore to the Dutch East Indies. Thankfully she was rescued by a crew mate. The remaining crew, evacuees and Judy managed to make it to Sumatra and after hiking 200 miles through the island’s jungle, they were unfortunately captured by the Japanese and put into Prisoner of War (POW) camps. It was at her second camp that she met the man who would change her life, an airshipman named Frank Williams. With his help, she managed to survive many attempts on her life and she became the only dog to be registered as a POW in World War II. Judy helped him and other British POWs survive the hellish experiences of the workers on the Sumatran railroad by being their mascot, alerting them to danger and saving many lives. 3-1/2 stars.

Judy and Frank Williams

This book was one that I originally wasn’t all that interested in but it was offered as a “Read Now” so I decided to try it. In the end, the book reminded me a lot of Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, in that Judy, like Louis, faced incredible odds many many times and still survived. Plus they both managed to survive Japanese Internment camps, which had even more deplorable conditions than those of the German POW camps (at least in my opinion). Despite the grimness of the subject matter, I really enjoyed reading the book and was curious to see how it ended. My only gripe about this book is that the beginning was so slow I almost lost interest in it before the story really got going. I am curious now to read his other book on a WWII hero dog entitled The Dog Who Could Fly. 

Book Reviews Oct 2014

Wow, I’ve had this blog for three years and I have published over 200 posts on it. I have been pretty proud of myself for reading more adult books in the last couple of months. I’ve been on a bit of a reading lull after I finished one really good nonfiction, but it looks like it is starting to pick up again. I am finally (after months of waiting) listening to The Blood of Olympus (Heroes of Olympus, #5) by Rick Riordan, the last book in the series. His books are just so fun to listen to, and I can’t wait to read/listen to his newest series on Norse gods. I am currently reading  an advanced reader’s copy of Damien Lewis’s Judy: A Dog in a Million, an English Pointer who was most likely the only canine prisoner of war and helped comfort POWs in Japanese Internment Camps during World War II. Ooh my other great piece of book news is that I had recently entered a contest to win some Gail Carriger (one of my favorite writers, does steampunk books for YA and adults) signed books, of her first series The Parasol Protectorate and some other swag and I am one of the winners! So hope to be getting that in the mail in the next month or so.

I’ve finally started the Nobel Prize Challenge that I mentioned last month. I am currently looking up book recommendations from other people to decide what to read from the list of prize winners. I’m just hoping my library has most of these or I’m gonna have to use Interlibrary Loan (ILL) again or maybe buy some of them. Ah well, at least it will be good literature (at least in theory).  My yearly reading total is up to 290 out of 321, so not bad. Granted most of those are picture books but can’t be helped when you’re a children’s librarian who does storytimes plus has a 3 year old.  As usual I rate books on a scale of 1 – 5 stars, with one being the lowest and five the highest. I will add pictures from books I like.


Bear’s New Friend written by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Jane Chapman

I love the Bear books! This book was super cute as well. Bear hears a noise in the trees and then on the ground while heading to the swimming hole to meet his friends. He thinks it is one of his friends. Just Whoo is it? Eventually they discover that it is a little burrowing owl who is too shy to come out of his hole until convinced to do so by Bear and his friends. Then they all go off to play together and swim. Recommended for ages 3-6, 4 stars.

Hug Me written and illustrated by Simona Ciraolo

Hug Me

My son and I loved this book! Even describing this book to others made them think it was adorable. Felipe is a young cactus who is part of a very traditional cactus family. They must remain respectable and are firm believers of personal space. Felipe only wants a hug, especially after he accidently puts his friend Balloon in the hospital and is shunned by his family. He decides he must leave, but is not welcome anywhere (for obvious reasons). He is living all by himself until one day when he hears someone crying and knows just what to do to make her feel better. After that, Felipe and Camilla (the rock) are the best of friends! My son loved looking at the end pages and telling me exactly what they were doing in all the pictures. Recommended for ages 3-6, 5 stars.

Little Owl’s Orange Scarf written and illustrated by Tatyana Feeney

Little Owl's mother

My son loved this book and I did too. Little Owl’s mom knits him an orange scarf but he really doesn’t like it and tries his best to lose it at every turn. When he manages to get rid of it at the zoo, his mother is determined to make him another, but this time he is to help. He picks a better color and falls in love with it. I would love to use this for a Toddler Storytime on Owls. Recommended for ages 3-6, 5 stars.

Penguin written and illustrated by Polly Dunbar

I rather enjoyed this book though I didn’t think it was right for the storytime I had originally selected it for. My son enjoyed it as well. A young boy named Ben is given a penguin for a present and he does everything with it. He tickles it, sings and dances with it, stands on his head, and even sticks out his tongue at it, but no response from the penguin. He tries to offer it to a passing lion in his frustration, but the lion won’t take it. He eats the boy instead. Only then does the penguin respond by biting the lion’s nose. Once rescued and unharmed, the penguin explains in pictures all the things the boy and him did together and how much he enjoyed them. They are friends from then on. Recommended for ages 3-6, 3-1/2 stars.

The Tiny King written and illustrated by Taro Miura

The Tiny King

My son adored this book and asked me to read it over and over again. I loved the big bright illustrations and the simple story. The Tiny King has a huge castle, lots of food, a giant army and a giant bed. But he is lonely. One day he meets a Big Princess, falls in love and they are married. They have 10 children and soon his large castle and bed are full, he can eat all the food on his table, and he dismisses his army. He is so happy. I can’t wait to read the book about the Big Princess! Recommended for ages 3-6, 5 stars.

The Really, Really, Really Big Dinosaur written and illustrated by Richard Byrne

My son adored this book! Jackson is a small dinosaur who is counting out jelly beans for himself and his friend. Suddenly a bigger and much ruder dinosaur barges over and demands the candy because he is bigger and stronger. Jackson politely refuses and says that he has a really really really big dinosaur friend. They go back and forth until Jackson dares him to go into a cave, which the bigger dinosaur does only to be trapped in a much larger dinosaur’s mouth. He is let go though as the really really really big dinosaur is nice, and the bigger dinosaur is humbled. It is a great book for kids that might be dealing with bullies. Recommended for ages 3-6, 4 stars.

Quest written and illustrated by Aaron Becker


The two children from the Caldecott Honor winning book “Journey” are back on another adventure. Waiting under a bridge, the boy and girl are surprised by a king who pops out of a hidden door and hands them two keys. They open the door he’s come from and start gathering up all the colors and manage to save the king at the end. It is amazing that so much storytelling can be done with a gorgeous wordless picture book. I liked this one even better than the last one. Recommended for ages 4-7, 5 stars.

Neo Leo: The Ageless Ideas of Leonardo da Vinci written and illustrated by Gene Barretta

This book is all about how Leonardo da Vinci came up for the idea for many modern inventions back in the 15th and 16th centuries, 400 years before they were invented properly in the 19th and 20th centuries. The book discusses his plans and drawings for the first man-powered aircraft, a glider, contact lenses, a projector, a single-span bridge, tanks whose designs were based off of turtles and other war paraphenalia (such as grenades, machine guns and a giant catapult called a trebuchet) , the helicopter, and he improved upon the designs of scuba gear. Leonardo also figured out how blood travels through the heart, steam power and air pressure, and robots and automobiles. The book talks about modern inventors who uses his notes to create prototypes of his inventions. It’s pretty crazy to think that we still haven’t found 2/3 of his notes and just think about all the things we discovered about him already! Recommended for ages 5-10, 4 stars.

I find Leonardo da Vinci to be an amazing artist and inventor. I’ve been to Leonardo’s museum in Vinci and was fortunate to see a lot of his inventions as they were revealed in his copious notes. So when I found out about his involvement in the development of robots, the topic for my latest DiscoveryTime (Preschool Storytime + STEM), I had to add a page from the book to the storytime. Leonardo was the first person to create robots in the late 15th or early 16th century in the form of a robot knight and the drawings for a mechanical lion. There is actually a full adult book on Leonardo’s robots, but it is pretty technicial, so couldn’t use that volume.

The Sandman and the War of Dreams (The Guardians of Childhood, #4) written and illustrated by William Joyce

The Sandman the War of Dreams

I recently watched Rise of the Guardians, the movie based on Joyce’s books, which I loved. This re-peaked my interest in the Guardian series and I remembered that I hadn’t yet read this book. This version of Sandman was a lot quieter but a bit more in the front view as compared to the movie. Joyce is such an excellent storyteller, I sometimes forget that this book is intended for children, it is that good.

Lord Pitch, the Nightmare King, has abducted Katherine and the Guardians don’t know how to proceed until the intervention of the mysterious Sandman. We learn the entire back story of Pitch and his family (yes he had a wife and daughter), even more about Nightlight, and of course Sandy (who is more formally known as Sanderson Mansnoozie – great name right?). Will Sandy be able the free Katherine from Pitch’s clutches? To find out, read this fantastic fourth book in the “Guardians of Childhood” series. Recommended for ages 7-11, 5 stars.

Young Adult

Waistcoats & Weaponry (Finishing School Book the Third) by Gail Carriger

Code Name Verity (Code Name Verity #1) by Elizabeth Wein, narrated by Morven Christie and Lucy Gaskell

The book is about a young Scottish woman called Queenie (not her real name) who is part of the British Special Intelligence, aka a spy for the Allies during World War II. After she is captured by the Germans in a small French town, her story comes from having to retell it in “a confession” to the commanding officer of the Gestapo headquarters. She is tortured by the Gestapo and the other prisoners see her as a snitch for talking to the Germans. So the first half of the book we get to know Queenie’s family, find out how she gets into spy work, and how she meets her friend Maddie and how she is involved with her coming to France. The second half of the story is narrated by Maddie, an English pilot for the Air Transport Auxiliary, which is essentially the civilian branch of the Royal Air Force. Recommended for ages 16+, 5 stars.

I think this may be one of my favorite books read this year. The topic was so fascinating and unlike any teen World War II book I’d ever read. The torture scenes, which I honestly wasn’t expecting, were pretty graphic and somewhat hard to read. The narrators were fantastic, especially Morven Christie. I had never heard of the Air Transport Auxiliary before and it was cool to know that so many British and European women helped with the Allied War effort by flying planes. I also found the whole part of the story about the French Resistance intriguing and it’s kind of crazy what they managed to get away with right under the noses of the Germans.

Rose Under Fire (Code Name Verity #2) by Elizabeth Wein, narrated by Sasha Pick

The book picks up about 6 months after the events of “Code Name Verity”. Rose Justice is an American female pilot who comes to England to be part of the Air Transport Auxiliary during World War II. She knows Maddie, the English Pilot we met in the first book of the series. She ends up flying a plane to the Front and gets picked up by the Germans on her flight back to England. They put her in Ravensbruck Concentration Camp in Germany for six months. It is here where she discovers women she would never dream about meeting including medical experiment victims, a Soviet female pilot, and a documentary filmmaker. These women change her life and become her family through the course of her ordeal, as they must work together to survive. Recommended for ages 16+, 4 stars.

My biggest gripe about this book was that it moved so slow in the beginning, which almost made me give up on it. I never expected the second main character to be an American. I wasn’t too sure about the narrator when the book first started, but she did a good job on all the different accents and there were many. This book was almost as graphic as the first, in covering difficult topics, this time about the medical experiments done by the Nazis. I had heard about the experimentations on twins by Dr. Mengele, but the ones they did in this book, to illustrate the science of death/dying – said to be helping soldiers, but really just finding a better way to kill people. I was a little disappointed there wasn’t more storyline on Maddie, as the first book really just touches on her story. I loved hearing about the Soviet “night witch” pilot. I had no idea that women were even allowed to fly planes in the Soviet Union. I’m hoping the author continues the series beyond this book as it is nice to see strong female characters, especially portrayed in an era where women by and large didn’t work.


City of Lies: Love, Sex, Death and the Search for Truth in Tehran by Ramita Navai

I’ve been fascinated with Iran/Persia for awhile now, so when I saw this book in the new Nonfiction section, it definitely caught my attention. The author is a British-Iranian foreign affairs journalist, so she definitely knows what she is talking about. The book follows eight very different individuals who live in Tehran, the capital city of Iran. There is a Iranian-American extremist who is part of the MEK group (the Mojahedin-e-Khalq, the Warriors of the People) who has come to the city for an assassination , a teenage girl from a very traditional family who has no problems wearing the hejab/hijab and marrying her cousin (it is considered very auspicious to do so in Iranian culture), and a young man confronted by the Revolutionary judge responsible for having his parents killed because of their according to the government “un-Islamic” leanings. There is also a member of the local gun-selling ring and small time crook, a prostitute/porn actress, a gay member of the local basij – groups of young men who regulate vice, get rid of protesters and enforce virtue, an elderly retired gangster with his reformed showgirl wife, and a female widowed member of the upper aristocracy. All in all a very interesting group of characters. I think my favorite and the most interesting stories were the teenage girl from a traditional family and the gay member of the  basij. 4 stars.

The Silmarillion: Volume 1 by J.R.R. Tolkein, narrated by Martin West

Review of Volume 1 (4 discs unabridged):

I have tried reading this book 3 times but could never get more than about 50 pages into it before I thought my head would explode. It is one of those really dense books that requires absolute quiet to read in, but I could never get that to properly concentrate on it. The book reads like an Icelandic Creation story with so many names thrown at you that you need a character list to keep them all straight. I could see elements of Christianity, along with Norse mythology and what sounded like maybe some Pre-Columbian names thrown in for good measure. Once it got through the introductory part of the story (the creation of the earth and the Ainur) and the races of elves and men started establishing themselves, the story was starting to get really fascinating. Of course, that was about the time that Volume 1 ended. I know there’s a second volume but of course my library doesn’t have it. Thankfully, I have a paper copy of the book so assuming I can figure out where I left off, I can read the rest. For a more detailed description of this book, check out this website: 3 stars.

Sula by Toni Morrison, narrated by the author

The story starts off in 1919 and finishes up in 1965 in an Ohio town called Medallion, more specifically in the African-American section called the Bottom. We first learn about Shadrack, a shell-shocked Veteran of WWI, who is returning to his hometown. The main part of the book focuses on two families, the Peace family and the Wrights. Helene Sabat marries Wiley Wright and they have a daughter named Nel. Respectability and a high position in the community are of utmost importance to Helene, something she tries to pass on to her daughter. Eva Peace is the one-legged head of the other family. She is abandoned by her husband BoyBoy early in their marriage and must raise her two children Plum and Hannah, along with adopted children The Deweys (three boys) on her own. Hannah is considered a bit of a harlot by the community, and they think even less of her daughter Sula. Sex is very loose at their house, a complete opposite to that of the Wright’s home. Despite all this, Sula and Nel become fast friends. Their relationship makes up the bulk of the story, or rather the consequences of their friendship.

I picked this story out of Toni Morrison’s bibliography because it sounded the most interesting, and it definitely didn’t disappoint in that regard. I would be curious to read some more of her work in the future for comparison. The author won the 1993 Nobel Prize. The book is narrated by the author and she has a very quiet voice, so much so that I had to crank the volume way up to even be able to understand what she was saying (and even had to re-listen to some parts). I will admit that I’ve been putting this review off for awhile because it was such a bizarre story, at least in my opinion, and I wasn’t 100% sure I knew exactly what it was really about. I will also admit that my exposure to African-American writers has been limited to poetry, The Color Purple, and some Children/YA books. Overall, I enjoyed the story but there were points that I was pretty shocked at and not at all sure what the author actually meant by them (especially the episodes concerning Sula’s mother and uncle). 3 stars.

Graduates in Wonderland: The International Misadventures of Two (Almost) Adults by Jessica Pan and Rachel Kapelke-Dale

Jessica and Rachel went to college together at Brown University. After graduation, Jessica decided to move to China without much of a plan and Rachel went to New York City to work in a gallery. The book chronicles journal-like emails between the two as they decide what they want to do with their lives, one ultimately getting married and studying journalism, while the other pursues a Masters and then Ph.D in film history. This book reminded me a lot of me and my best friend because we have been friends for what seems like forever (17 years) and as I was living in different countries and at different points in our life, similar to the main characters. 4 stars.

 Serving Grandfamilies in Libraries: A Handbook and Programming Guide by Sarah Gough, Pat Feehan and Denise R. Lyons

I picked up this book in particular because it was completely written by graduates and a faculty member of my masters’ alma mater, University of South Carolina. Not to mention I did an independent study with Denise, so I was curious to see what they had to say about the subject. I knew Denise had done work with grandparents in Houston, which is well-documented in the book, before she came to the SC State Library. Here are some interesting factoids taken from the book. According to page 5, “One in ten children lives in a household that includes at least one grandparent. Of that number, four in ten, were being raised primarily by their grandparents.” I have of course noticed the increase in children being raised by or assisted-in-raising by grandparents in these so-called “grandfamilies”, especially after moving to Arizona. About fifteen pages later, the book mentions how beneficial it is to have intergenerational programming and I believe that to be true. The book specifically points out grants that can be obtained by the library, resources to locate statistics (in order to gain support for such grandparent-related programming), Community Partners that are available, and how you can build your collection. The book sites specific examples in South Carolina and how individual libraries set aside space or special chairs/couches for grandparents’ uses. 3 stars.

Bella: The Slave Daughter and the Lord Chief Justice by Paula Byrne

I had seen the trailer for the movie and thought it would be an interesting. So when the book came out, I was intrigued. There was next to no material about Dido Elizabeth Belle, the person about whom the book and movie is based (which was rather sad as her story is so unique), so I was curious to see how they would talk about the book. They put her in the context of the slave trade, in particular the manufacturing of sugar in the Caribbean. I knew how precious sugar was in the 18th century but not the extent to which slavers and slaves were involved with the trade. The book also discusses the Lord Chief Justice, uncle and adopted father of Dido, and his role in legislation that helped outlaw slavery in Great Britain and its Caribbean colonies. I was especially fascinated and a little bit horrified with the ideas of the 18th century in regards to African women and their sexuality, and how white men should act towards them. I had picked up bits and pieces in the past, but it was discussed with much greater detail since the main character was a black female. 4 stars

Inglorious Royal Marriages: A Demi-Millenium of Unholy Mismatrimony by Leslie Carroll

This book was so dense with such tiny writing that even though the subject matter was fascinating – arranged marriages for political reasons: I was especially intrigued by the marriage of Queen Mary Tudor and Philip II of Spain, I could only get through about 40% of it before I gave up. 3 stars.

Waistcoats & Weaponry

Waistcoats and Weaponry

Waistcoats & Weaponry: Finishing School – Book the Third by Gail Carriger

To be published: Nov 4, 2014


Sophronia and her friends are using all their spy skills in the real world in the third book of the Finishing School series. In this volume, Sidheag gets some distressing news at the end of the 2nd term of Finishing School and immediately must leave for home. Sophronia (with Bumbersnoot in tow of course) and Dimity have been invited to the engagement ball of Sophronia’s brother, and Dimity’s brother Pillover and Lord Felix Mersey have been invited as well. Sophronia is still trying to sort out her feelings for both the sootie Soap and Felix, and events in this book definitely make it harder for her to choose between them. She is also trying to decide if she would like the patronage of Lord Akeldama, who has already sent her several gifts, or another patron such as the Queen. Between plots with vampires and the Pickleman to stolen trains and surprise endings, this third book really packs a punch!

As soon as I saw this book was about to come out in November, I jumped on Netgalley to see if it was available. Thankfully it was and I was allowed to preview a copy. The author left the ending pretty open, but I was glad to know that she had planned one more book in the series before ending it. I loved the idea of a steel fan turned weapon and its use on the book cover. I also loved that this book is like a direct precursor to The Parasol Protectorate series of books. Recommended for ages 12+, 4-1/2 stars.

Disclaimer: I received this advanced reader’s copy from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

Book Reviews Sept 2014

I haven’t done one of these posts since July and I’m still not caught up in my book reviews, though I am trying. I have pretty much given up on the Caldecott and Newberry Challenges. Not exclusively because I am bored with them, but also because I just want to do something different. I’ve also been keeping fairly busy with advanced reader’s copies. I am currently reading a book from a local author called The Risk of Sorrow: Conversations with Holocaust Survivor, Helen Handler. I’m also listening to Sula by Toni Morrison, which is a very odd read and I’m still not 100% sure I know what is going on all the time. I think I will have to pick up some kind of guide to double check, definitely before I’m going to write the review. I’ve decided to try to read all the Nobel Prize winners for Literature, because it is always good for me to read more adult and international book. The only thing is that from what I’ve observed from my list and starting to search for some of the books in my library, most of the books seem rather depressing. I’m not sure if this is a case of  all great writers create hard-to-read masterpieces or what. For this Nobel Prize Challenge, there are 110 winners and I’ve only read a book from 5 of them (and 1 poem from another). So this will probably take me forever, but should provide some interesting material.  As usual I rate books on a scale of 1 – 5 stars, with one being the lowest and five the highest. I will add pictures from books I like. I promise I have been reading more adult books, and will add them to next month’s reviews.


Herman the Helper written by Robert Kraus, illustrated by Jose Aruego and Ariane Dewey


This is a great book to show toddlers how to be a good helper. Although the story is a bit simple, I love it because of Aruego and Dewey’s illustrations; they make such a great team with Robert Kraus. Herman the octopus loves to help everyone: his parents, his friends, even his enemies. Once he is home for the day, he helps himself to some dinner. Recommended for ages 2-5, 4 stars.

Tea with Grandpa written and illustrated by Barney Saltzberg

This book would make a great companion to Tea Rex by Molly Idle, as part of a teatime storytime. This was a cute book about a little girl having tea long-distance with her grandfather. I love the interactions between them, you never would guess it was between two computer screens. Recommended for ages 2-6, 3 stars.

Something to Do written and illustrated by David Lucas

This was an overly simplistic book, but with cute illustrations. Baby Bear is bored and there is nothing to do, that is until his Papa Bear finds a stick and then they start using their imagination to create their own fun all day. Then Baby Bear is hungry so they go home to Mama Bear. Recommended for ages 2-6, 2 stars.

Lola Love Stories written by Anna McQuinn, illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw

One of the books I looked at for a Toddler Storytime on Imagination, I rather enjoyed this one. It could also be used in a Reading/The Library theme as well. Little Lola loves getting books from the library and hearing the stories read to her by her parents. Everytime she is read to, she uses that story to influence her play afterword, like her mother reads to her about tigers and she spends the next afternoon chasing her friend through the jungle. Recommended for ages 2-6, 4 stars.

Hugs From Pearl written and illustrated by Paul Schmid

Hugs from Pearl

I would love to use this book as part of a porcupine storytime. It is so adorable! Pearl loves giving hugs to the other animals in her class, and they love receiving them, even if they get ouchies from them. Pearl feels bad about this, so sets about to creatively solve the problem. Recommended for ages 2-6, 4 stars.

Petunia Goes Wild written and illustrated by Paul Schmid

After reading the first Petunia book, I couldn’t wait to read this one. Super cute illustrations, though I liked the first book better. Petunia is convinced that she is a wild animal and doesn’t want to be human because it means you are “too clean, have to have good manners and too many haftas”. She is determined to ship herself to Africa until she hears her mother singing in the kitchen. She realizes how much she would miss that and determines that being human isn’t so bad, as long as you get to wild every now and then. Recommended for ages 2-6, 3 stars.

Me Want Pet! written by Tammi Sauer, illustrated by Bob Shea

Me Want Pet

I picked this book for my first Toddler Storytime. It was the cute story of a young caveman who wants a pet but his family is not enthused with his choices of Wooly Mammoth, Saber Tooth Tiger, and a Dodo. These animals come in handy though when the family is attacked. So Cave Boy gets three instead of one pet. Loved the illustrations, they were very cute. Recommended for ages 2-6, 3 stars.

You Will Be My Friend! written and illustrated by Peter Brown

You will be my friend

I know this is supposed to be a children’s book, but you definitely need to be a bit older to get the sarcasm in the book. I loved the illustrations in this book. Lucy, a young bear, is determined to make some friends in the forest. Her forceful personality is preventing her from doing so in the way she wants, and nothing seems to be going her way. She tries to befriend frogs, rabbits, a giraffe, and a beaver, though she shies away from befriending little kids. She has almost completely given up when a lonely flamingo boy finds her and asks to be her friend. They do somersaults, enjoy a picnic, and have a dance party. They are the best of friends. Recommended for ages 3-7, 4 stars.

Children Make Terrible Pets written and illustrated by Peter Brown

Written in the same vein as You Will Be My Friend, this book has underlying sarcasm that makes it more palatable for parents reading the books to their kids. Lucy, a young bear, desperately wants a pet though her mother warns that she must take of it herself. She finds a young human boy and decides to take it home as her pet, even though her mother warns that “children make terrible pets”. They do everything together until one day he runs off back home to be with his own family and Lucy doesn’t have it in her to take him back. Recommended for ages 3-7, 3 stars.

Risky Rails! (Thomas and Friends) written by Wilbert Awdry, illustrated by Tommy Stubbs

Normally I hate Thomas books for being too wordy. This one was the exception. Based off the Thomas movie The Blue Mountain Mystery, we learn the true story of a young Narrow Gauge engine named Luke (which my son has at home, but I’d never heard of him before) and how he believes he is responsible for the yellow engine’s fate. As Thomas investigates, he learns the truth and goes to help his new friend Luke from Diesel’s treachery. Recommended for ages 3-7, 4 stars.

Machines Go to Work in the City written and illustrated by William Low

Machines Go to Work in the City

This was obviously a well-loved book (from the number of taped pages) that we picked up after DiscoveryTime at one of the branch libraries. My son is fascinated by this book, might have to pick it up for him. It talks about all the cities that work in the city and even gives little info bits on each vehicle in the back end pages. The kids learn about trash trucks, bucket trucks (which my son automatically names telehandlers – thank you “Dinosaurs Dig!”), tower cranes, commuter trains, airplanes, and baggage carriers through nice fold-out spreads. This would be a great book to use for a Transportation DiscoveryTime. Recommended for ages 3-7, 5 stars.

Before You Were Mine written by Maribeth Boelts, illustrated by David Walker

I was searching for a book to use with my Pet ToddlerTime, when I came across this book. I absolutely love it, though it is too long for toddlers. It is about a young boy talking about his dog, who he absolutely loves. He wonders about what life was like for his dog before they picked him. I nearly cried when they talked about the child’s previous dog dying and getting to pick up a new dog from the shelter. Such a great story and it is great for introducing a child to the concept of adopting shelter animals. Recommended for ages 4-8, 5 stars.

The Octonauts and the Sea of Shade written and illustrated by Meomi

I liked this book but it just didn’t have the flow of the other books and my son quickly got bored with it, as did I. The Octonauts realize that there are no shadows anywhere in the ocean, and go beseech the King of the mythical Sea of Shade to release the shadows back into the world, as they have been missed. Recommended for ages 5-8, 2-1/2 stars.

The Octonauts and the Frown Fish written and illustrated by Meomi

The Octonauts and the Frown Fish

I love the Octonauts, but this book dragged a little bit. The Octonauts are having a gloomy rainy day at the bottom of the ocean when they happen upon a new species of frowning fish. They try everything that makes them happy, including baking, playing on the playground, reading, singing/making music, all in an attempt to make him smile. My favorite parts was probably a couple of the Octonauts trying to deciper “Frownese” and reading in Professor Inkling’s library. The ending was surprising. Recommended for ages 5-8, 3 stars.

The Octonauts and the Great Ghost Reef written and illustrated by Meomi

The Octonauts and the Great Ghost Reef

This is probably my favorite book in the Octonaut series. The Octonauts go on holiday to Great Reef City, only to discover it abandoned and colorless. They find one lonely inhabitant, Mr. Slowtache the turtle, for whom they try to help find different accommodations for. As a result,we get to see many different kinds of ocean and freshwater habitats for turtles. In the end, he decides to stay in his home and the Octonauts decide to help find out why the reef has no color. They soon realize that the entire reef has organisms living in it, which have been completely covered by the buildings, which block out the sun and drains the color. They remove some of the buildings and soon the reef explodes in color again. As usual, I loved the illustrations and the way they presented the facts. Recommended for ages 5-8, 4 stars.

Fractions in Disguise: A Math Adventure written by Edward A. Einhorn, illustrated by David Clark

Young Adult

The Door in the Mountain by Caitlin Sweet

Lockwood & Co., Book 2: The Whispering Skull by Jonathan Stroud


The Legend of Sheba: Rise of a Queen by Tosca Lee

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

The Mad Sculptor: The Maniac, the Model, and the Murder That Shook the Nation by Harold Schechter

I have been feeling like some narrative nonfiction and so when I saw this, I snapped it up. I always enjoy a good true crime story as they examine how someone came to be the way they are and why they did it. I’ve never heard of this case, but found it fascinating. The title refers to Robert “Bob” Irwin, a brilliant but mentally disturbed sculptor, who in 1937 brutally murdered his former landlady Mary Gedeon, her model daughter Veronica, and an English boarder named Frank Byrnes.

The author set up the story by explaining that Beekman Place, the location of the triple murder, was the site of two previous murders in the past year and we are introduced to the man who would become Irwin’s lawyer, the undefeated Samuel Leibowitz. We get a very thorough look at Irwin’s parents and how their religious fanaticism impacted his childhood, in particular Pentacostalism. His two brothers both ended up in prison. He showed artistic tendencies early on and went to work for some famous American sculptors, though he never stayed long at any job due to his violent temper and crazy ideas. The most prominent idea was “visualization” in which he tried to remember minute details of particular piece of art, though this eventually led to him believing he could harness energy and become a god. In any case, it was a major reason why people avoided him and part of the reason, along with Congenital Syphilis, why he was institutionalized several times before committing the murders. Once he moved to Manhattan, he became obsessed with Edith Gedeon, the daughter of his landlords. This obsession lasted for the rest of his life, and was the reason he killed Edith’s mother, sister and Frank Byrnes.

The majority of the book is about Irwin’s capture by the police, which took several months, and his subsequent trial and sentencing. The book goes into great detail about the sensationalism of the press, particularly newspapers, in exploiting everyone involved (including the murder victims). I thought the section on how to determine if a defendant could plead insanity or not was particularly fascinating, as well as the fact that both Irwin’s attorney and the prosecutor both agreed that Irwin should be imprisoned for life. 4 stars.

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