Posts from the ‘picture book’ Category

#Wednesday’s Winners

Two more finalists in the Cybils Bloggers’ Literary Awards:

Easy Reader


There’s a Pest in the Garden

Written by Jan Thomas


Another easy reader in the farmyard friends’ series. Duck, Sheep, Dog, and Donkey are upset that there is a pest invading their garden. He is eating their favorite and not so favorite foods like beans, corn, peas, and turnips. Duck thinks he has a plan, but it turns out that all the animals must work together to find a permanent solution to keep pests out.

The familiar characters and speech balloons allow readers to follow the simple dialogue and story plot. Children are led to understand that cooperation and working together is the way to solve a common problem. Recommended as an early stage independent picture reader or read aloud.





Early Chapter Book


Survivor Diaries: Overboard!

Written by Terry Lynn Johnson

This book is part of a series that focuses on real-life survival stories to teach important life-saving skills. In this book, Travis and his family are vacationing in Washington. At the beginning of the tale, the family is sailing on a fifty-foot whale-watching boat with other tourists. While the group is preoccupied sighting whales, a huge wave capsizes the boat. Travis frantically yells for his family; he finds himself under water. Marina, the captain’s seaworthy daughter is nearby.

Travis is wearing a wetsuit and Marina has a life jacket, but her wrist is broken. As they drift farther away from the wreckage, Marina keeps Travis calm. After many hours and no rescue, they are finally thrown ashore on a beach. Hypothermia is setting in and Marina is becoming sick and disoriented. Travis must learn to overcome his fears, follow Marina’s instructions, build a fire, set up a shelter, and find water. The next morning with no rescue in sight, Marina sees eagles flying overhead and remembers an island that has a camera studying the nest. But can Travis overcome his fear of heights and somehow scale the tree to let humans know of their plight?

This is a story of adventure and courage. Marina and Travis undergo personality transformations and role reversals. Perhaps even more importantly, readers are taught how to survive if thrown overboard, avoid hypothermia, and learn basic survival skills. Hopefully, these will never need to be employed. There are a few powerful black and white illustrations that assist readers to visualize the adventure. The author includes a US Coast Guard approved section on illustrated, step by step survival techniques. While this book has been classified an early chapter book, I believe that the eight to twelve age range is a good target audience for this book.

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#Cybils #Finalists #KidReads

Finalist in Easy Reader Category


Tooth Fairy’s Night

Written by Candice Ransom

Illustrated by Monique Dong




This is a Level 1 Step into Reading book for preschoolers and kindergarten children learning to read. The storyline is perfect for this age group as most children are beginning to lose baby teeth. The Tooth Fairy is illustrated as an adorable character who assiduously performs her duties. The author uses lots of familiar objects like stuffed toys, pets, moon and stars. This book is written in simple rhyme with nice large print font and vivid colors. I would have given it five stars, but the rhyme structure seemed difficult in a few spots.







Finalist in Early Chapter Book Category


The Princess in Black Takes a Vacation

Written by Shannon and Dean Hale

Illustrated by LeUyen Pham

Princess Magnolia has been busy battling monsters all week. As she prepares for sleep, the monster alarm sounds once again. She hurriedly dresses in her black costume and slides down the chute to the goat pasture, where a monster is threatening to eat the goats. The Princess is surprised to find someone dressed as The Goat Avenger; he looks suspiciously like her friend Duff. The Avenger suggests that Magnolia needs to take a vacation. He vows to stand guard while she is gone,

Princess Magnolia agrees and the next day she is off on her bicycle to the beach. Here she meets Princess Sneezewort. Suddenly, the tranquility of the day is broken by a giant sea serpent who is threatening to eat people. Of course, the princess immediately dons her costume and rises to the threat. Will The Princess in Black meet the challenge?

At the same time, readers are following The Goat Avenger in a parallel story as he strives to protect his goats. He sets traps for unsuspecting thieves. A squirrel is caught in one of his traps, but the tables are soon turned on The Goat Avenger. Is he successful in guarding the goat herd while the princess is away?

Lots of lively dialogue and large print size make this book appealing to young readers. Many of the colorful illustrations are full page. Onomatopoeia and action scenes move the story along quickly with just enough challenging vocabulary. Especially recommended for children for children ages six through eight.

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Emilia’s Treasure: How a Mermaid Makes Friends

Written by Anca Niculae

Illustrated by Maria Falie

Emilia, the mermaid, is upset because none of her mermaid friends want to search for pearls with her. She goes off in search of other mermaids, a snail and a school of fish, but none of them seem interested in her project. When a little mermaid loses her seahorse, Emma decides to search with her. As the two new friends continue on their exploration they meet other creatures of the sea. This time the two mermaids stop and listen to what these creatures have to say. They learn the valuable lesson that in seeking friendship listening is more important than seeking to impress others.

At the end of the book, the author supplies a questionnaire to assist children in assessing their own relationships. Children are presented with a list of questions to answer and activities to use that are placed in appropriate age categories. I would particularly recommend this book for beginning readers and shy children who have difficulty with peer relationships. This book has value for children of all ages.

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#Cybils2017 #Finalists

Proudly presenting two more books that were finalists in the contest this year:



My Kite Is Stuck! And Other Stories

Written by Salina Yoon


All three stories feature the same three main characters, Little Duck, Big Duck and Porcupine. In the first story, Big Duck gets his kite stuck in the tree. His two friends try to help, but only make the problem worse. Children will laugh at the silly solutions the characters invent.

The second tale revolves around Porcupine making friends with a bug. Big Duck and Little Duck discuss the qualities needed in a friend and try to persuade Porcupine why he can’t be friends with a bug. There is a surprise ending.

In the third story, the three friends decide to build a lemonade stand. They model cooperation, patience and hard work. Of course, there are a few hiccups and lots of humor when the friends forget about the main ingredient needed for their success.

These stories employ speech balloons with dark text and brilliant digital illustrations that fill the page. I would recommend it to preschoolers and kindergarten beginning readers. Each story can be enjoyed separately for beginning readers with shorter attention spans.



Zoey And Sassafras: Dragons and Marshmallows

Written by Asia Citro

Illustrated by Marion Lindsay


What a charming way to combine science, a bit of magic and a strong female role model in an interesting story! Zoey is an inquisitive, intelligent, sweet girl. One day she discovers her mother holding a photograph that appears to be glowing. Her mother attempts to hide it, but when Zoey reveals that she can see the glowing creature, her scientist-mother reveals her secret.

As a child, her mother discovered a purple glowing frog that was severely injured. To her amazement, the frog named Pip began talking to her. Ever since that day, Zoey’s mom had been helping other magical creatures who needed assistance. She installed a hidden doorbell in the barn. Zoey’s mom thought she was the only one who had this ability, but now she understands that Zoey also has the gift.

When Zoey’s mom must travel to a scientific conference, Zoey hopes that she will receive a call for help from one of these magical creatures. Zoey studies her mom’s journals, notes, and photos. Sure enough, a few days later, she hears the bell and finds a small reptile near death in the barn. Zoey gets to work, but there is so much to learn. She sets forth a hypothesis and sets out her materials. Like a true scientist, she uses trial and error and controls in her experiments. Together with her cat, Sassafras, they work to save the creature. Who is this creature? Will Zoey be successful?

I found lots to like in this chapter book. Large print, beautiful black and white drawings, and a table of contents that lists the subject of each short chapter. Citro carefully crafts a multicultural, curious and hard-working female protagonist who is empathetic and appealing to young readers. Children quickly become engrossed with the plot, while hardly realizing they are learning about the scientific method and the reptile species. The glossary reinforces understanding of unfamiliar vocabulary. Highly recommended for beginning readers, but certainly challenging enough for middle-grade readers.

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The Runaway Mommy

Written by Jane Paris

Illustrated by Scott Rim


This book contains a similar story to The Runaway Bunny except that in this edition the parent is running away from the child. The text layout and illustrations are simple, suggesting that the book is appropriate for younger children. On the other hand, the vocabulary which includes things like a tech startup, trauma surgeon, and flamenco dancer, probably won’t resonate with a younger child. The plot revolves around a mother bunny who threatens to run away and pursue new careers around the globe. Her young child is willing to accompany her no matter what role mom decides to pursue.

This short book could be an amusing bedtime story if the parent is careful to explain he or she does not intend to run away. The humor will be appreciated more by adults than children.

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This year I had the honor of participating on a panel of judges to determine the winners in the Easy Reader and Early Chapter Book categories of the 2017 Cybils Blogging Awards for Children’s Literature.

Today I would like to share my reviews of the winning books in the Easy Reader and Early Chapter Books. I will share reviews of the finalists in each category in the next few weeks.


King and Kayla and the Case of the Secret Code

Written by Dori Hillstead Butler

Illustrated by Nancy Meyers

This is the first book in the mystery series featuring Kayla and her golden retriever, King. I enjoyed the author’s approach of first introducing the dog and later his human, Kayla. King is frustrated that he cannot communicate to his owner in words, so he uses actions to express himself. By the end of the tale, readers learn more about King’s intelligence.

Kayla and King answer the doorbell. No one is there but a letter has been left on the doorstep. When Kayla’s friend Mason comes to visit, he reveals that he has received a letter as well. Neither of the friends can read the letter because it is written in secret code. Kayla and Nathan set out to decode the letters. They find that only the second word is different. King is sure he knows the author, but the humans don’t understand what he is saying. A chance meeting with Jillian, who lives a few houses away may hold the key to the mystery.

I would consider this book more of a chapter book than an easy reader. Children in second and third grade will better understand the nuances and messages of the plot. This book presents multicultural characters and interactive learning opportunities. Recommended for boys and girls in the seven to nine age range.


Wedgie & Gizmo

Written by Suzanne Selfors

Illustrated by Barbara Fisinger

Book 1 of a new series featuring a cavy named Gizmo and a corgi named Wedgie. Gizmo introduces himself as a Genius with an Evil Plan. Gizmo has recently been uprooted once again. He began his life in a pet store where a parrot taught him to read. His human, Elliot, chose him and brought him home. But Elliot’s dad has remarried and now Gizmo must learn to live in a new human house. Elliot now has a stepsister named Jasmine and a stepbrother named Jackson. Worst of all, Wedgie, their corgi pet, wears a cap and thinks he is the protector of the family.

The book hilariously describes how Gizmo and Wedgie compete for control and human attention. Gizmo gets seriously ill when he attacks a cereal box in the pantry, and Gizmo hatches a scheme to get Wedgie in trouble with Jasmine. Selfors artfully weaves the animal conversations into the story. Children who feel displaced by moving or becoming a part of a blended family will empathize with their situation. Gizmo undergoes serious trauma when he learns the grandmother comes from Peru where caves are eaten. There are a lot of twists and turns, laughter, and tears, as the new family learns to live and love each other.

The illustrations are fun and humorous. My favorite illustration depicts grandmother (abuela) sleeping in bed with curlers in her hair while Gizmo places a delivery label addressed to Peru on her head. The story is almost two hundred pages and that might be a challenge for beginning readers. While the plot moves along quickly and is really entertaining, I believe it better suited to a third to a fifth-grade audience. Can’t wait to see what happens in the next book.

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Happy Valentine’s Day – give the gift of reading to someone you know or love!

The Rainbow Dragons and Little Sleepy

Written by Anton Sunberry

Illustrated by Konstantin Federov and Svetlana Moroz

 This is a delightful tale about a little boy called Little Sleepy because he had difficulty waking up each day. Little Sleepy enjoyed his dreams so much that he often slept through most of his daily routines. One night the boy slid down a rainbow right into his dream. There he met several dragons who were different colors of the rainbow. Each of the dragons thought himself to be the best because each possessed a unique talent. These talents included things like being strongest, funniest, most observant, best cook, best musician, and most creative. Sleepy cannot decide who is the best and suggests that the dragons will be better served by combining their talents. Only then will the dragons be able to create the rainbow bridge. If they agree to work together, Sleepy will succeed in returning home to his parents with a valuable lesson.

Illustrations are done with heart and in brilliant colors. Preschoolers and primary grade children will enjoy this tale. Sleepy-heads might even be encouraged to wake up and see their world.

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