All in a Days Work: A Review of Stillwater and Koo Save the World

Stillwater and Koo Save the World (A Stillwater and Friends Book)
Jon J. Muth
Scholastic Press
Ages 4 to 8
February 7, 2023

Koo, a young giant panda, wakes up inspired to change the world and enlists his thoughtful Uncle Stillwater to help fix it all—today. As they go about their day, Koo proceeds to have giant expectations of what he would like to do, but Stillwater teaches him that making small changes in the environment, and helping the community, can be their own meaningful way to change the world.

Told using a variety of animals, humans, and anthropomorphic pandas, the diverse characters reflect the diversity of the world and all the characters that might need kindness. Pandas as symbols of peace and friendship in Asian countries, are the main character in this story as they try to bring small improvements to the world around them. The pace of the story changes from rapid excitement as Koo suddenly wakes up one day and instantly ropes his uncle into the expectations of wanting to save the whole world, then slows only when Stillwater speaks to Koo about making small differences in the world around him. As the pace changes, the tone of the story changes to one of acceptance and encouragement of his personal efforts Encouraged by his uncle, Koo begins to bring joy to those around him through small but meaningful actions, such as cleaning his room and making a cake for the neighbors. These realistic everyday chores and acts of thoughtfulness offer young readers clear examples of how their actions impact the world around them. Drawn with pencil and granulated watercolors, the airy but vivid illustrations exemplify the beauty in the world around Stillwater and Koo and why they want to help save it. Stillwater and Koo Save the World is an uplifting story about wanting to make giant differences in the world by doing something small, inspiring readers to make meaningful changes in the world regardless of age.  

 

Best Friends Forever: A Review of When a Friend Needs a Friend

When a Friend Needs a Friend
Roozeboos (Anne Roos Kleiss)
Scholastic
February 7, 2023
Age 4-8

Creativity and imagination rule for best friends Aya and Oskar. But when Oskar is feeling sad, Aya isn’t sure how to help him get back to enjoying their adventures. With guidance from some caring adults, she finds a way to understand his big feelings, give him space, and offer support until he is ready for fun again. In this thoughtful exploration of friendship, Roozeboos illustrates both the experience of sadness in oneself and in a loved one, and how working through our own feelings of confusion and rejection can help support a friend. Mixed media collage art, with a naïve sensibility, complements the chaos of both creativity and emotion found in the story. Rich natural tones play well with vibrant oranges and turquoise and add a sophistication to the guileless art. Despite simple faces, she captures the feelings of both central characters as they move from joy to sadness to understanding. Spreads that depict the passage of time let both Aya and Oskar feel their feelings and come through them to a new perspective on their surroundings and each other.

Empathy and compassion shine in a gentle story about accepting a friend and their feelings without trying to fix them.

Dreamers: A review of Of Walden Pond: Henry David Thoreau, Frederic Tudor, and the Pond Between

Of Walden Pond: Henry David Thoreau, Frederic Tudor, and the Pond Between
Lesa Cline-Ransome
Illustrated by Ashley Benham-Yazdani
Holiday House
November 15, 2022
Age 6-9

Set in the majestic winter wilderness of Concord, Massachusetts, two men with different dreams set them in motion at Walden Pond. Henry David Thoreau, “oddball, tax dodger, nature lover, dreamer,” builds a cabin and lives off the land to experience nature and write of its beauty (pg. 6). Frederic Tudor, “bankrupt, disgrace, good for nothing, dreamer,” comes to Walden as an entrepreneur to harvest the winter ice and make his fortune (pg. 7).

Lisa Cline-Ransome crafts a snapshot of their intersecting time on the pond and how it influenced their unique legacies. Mimicking the seasonal organization of Thoreau’s Walden, she follows them through a year that sees their arrival at the pond and follows their experiences, writing and harvesting and transporting ice to the other side of the world. Her study in contrasts follows the naturalist as he observes the seemingly unnatural process of sending ice to one of the hottest places on the planet. Pencil and watercolor illustrations beautifully capture the tranquility of the rural setting and the simplicity of Thoreau’s existence juxtaposed against the industrious activities of Tudor and his team. A mostly cool color palette in the Walden scenes sits in contrast to the warm, dusty scenes in Calcutta, before circling back to a last frosty winter scene on the pond. Spare text and minimal punctuation sketch a rough timeline that is enhanced by both the detailed illustrations and very specific Author’s Note full of biographical information on the men from before and after their 1846 encounter.

A poetic look at a lovely setting that inspired the legacies of two extraordinary 19th century dreamers.

Spooky Season Titles For All: Halloween 2022 Recommendations

Whether sweet and silly or downright terrifying, ghosts and ghouls of all ages enjoy a good spooky story. And publishers did not disappoint this Halloween season, covering the gambit from gentle introductions to Halloween traditions to dark and twisty tales of the occult. So pick your favorite candy, pour yourself a mug of cider, and settle in for a read at your preferred level of spooky.

BOARD BOOKS: For the youngest ghosties!

The Monsters on the Broom
By Annemarie Riley Guertin
Illustrated by Shauna Lynn Panczyszyn
Simon & Schuster/Little Simon
July 2022
0-3

A group of young monsters delight in a midnight flight in this bouncy Halloween celebration to the tune of “The Wheels on the Bus.” A rich and moody color scheme perfectly captures the feel of a crisp fall evening. Cheerful little monsters tour their town by broom, on die cut pages that build as they explore, leading up to a group ride and wishes for a “Happy Halloween!”

Halloween is a Treat!
By Sabrina Moyle
Illustrator Eunice Moyle
Abrams/Appleseed
July 2022
0-3

More sweet than spooky, this detail packed little book includes all the most fun Halloween traditions—costumes, candy, jack-o’-lanterns, and more! A gentle rhyme weaves together the various holiday amusements for little cats (and kids) to enjoy. Busy pages full of neon orange highlights may even include some Halloween costume inspiration.


PICTURE BOOKS: Choose your favorite—sweet or spooky?

Happy Owl-Oween!
By Laura Gehl
Illustrated by Lydia Nichols
Abrams/Appleseed
July 2022
3-5

Owlet friends partake in all the Halloween traditions their neighborhood has to offer. Simple text, a sweet rhyme, and vibrant geometric illustrations combine to gently introduce the less-than-scary side of the holiday, helping owls of all ages to get into the spirit. Gehl includes an author’s note explaining the origins of many Halloween traditions, but it’s a bit sophisticated for all but the most precocious kindergarteners.

If Your Babysitter is a Bruja
By Ana Siqueira
Illustrated by Irena Freitas
Simon & Schuster
August 2022
3-6

A new babysitter might spell big trouble for a mischievous girl with an oversized imagination. Imagining her parents left her with a witch turns an ordinary evening into a magical Halloween adventure of broomsticks, bubbling caldrons, and ghostly castles. Spanish words and phrases are incorporated throughout, yet easily interpreted in context. Vibrant and exaggerated illustrations and inventive text combine for a unique and whimsical addition to Halloween book collections.

The Most Haunted House in America
By Jarrett Dapier
Illustrated by Lee Gatlin
Abrams
August 2022
4-8

Invited by the First Lady to play at the White House Halloween celebration, the Skeleton Drummers answer the call, entertaining both the living and the long-dead with their spooky tunes. Even when they are scared silly themselves, the show must go on, and the band plays ‘til dawn. Sepia tones mute the illustrations, adding age and mood to the images, and enhancing the drama of the event. Smiling skeletons and rhyming text tempers what could be a scarier picture book tale. An author’s note includes some of the most popular ghost stories told about the White House as well as the author’s experience playing the drums for White House Halloween party dressed as a skeleton.


Middle Grade: Just the right amount of scare factor!

Crimson Twill: Witch in the City
By Kallie George
Illustrated by Birgitta Sif
Candlewick
July 2022
7-9

Who says witches need to be spooky? Perhaps all they have to be is themselves. A trip to the big city department store—Broomingdale’s—is Crimson’s change to find just what she needs. Maybe a cat or a new hat, if she can find one that suits her. What she finds instead are friends that like her just the way she is—unique. Reminiscent of The Worst Witch in tone and language, with lovely black and white illustrations, this sweet chapter book is full of charm and charms.

Bunnicula: The Graphic Novel
By James Howe and Andrew Donkin
Illustrated by Stephen Gilpin
Based on the 1979 novel by Deborah and James Howe
Simon and Shuster/Atheneum
August 2022
8-12

Harold the dog and Chester the cat must contend with a new pet in the Monroe family home, a peculiar bunny who just might be a vampire. Chester, with Harold as trusty sidekick, investigates just what’s making all the vegetables in the house white and juiceless. And just how their new roommate might be responsible. A graphic adaptation of the original story, the varied layout and muted color scheme uphold the melodramatic nature of the novel, while keeping just the right amount of humor to keep things light.

August of the Zombie (Zombie Problems Book 3)
By K.G. Campbell
Knopf
January 2022
8-12

August DuPont has an unusual, and undead, problem—he attracts zombies. And what started as one sidekick has turned into a horde. In the final installment of this trilogy, he must finally find the Zombie Stone to lay his followers and some family secrets to rest. Moody, yet humorous, illustrations provide levity and show the zombies to be more ridiculous than ravenous. Quirky and clever, a delightful middle grade introduction to supernatural stories.

Wildseed Witch
By Marti Dumas
Abrams/Amulet
May 2022
10-14

One fit of temper and Hasani goes from a summer of fun and family (drama) to a premier finishing school for witches to hone her newfound abilities. But being the newcomer isn’t easy, especially when everyone else grew up in a magical family, and you’re starting from scratch. Dumas has created an alternative New Orleans, with all the charm and spirit of the original, and an additional spark of magic. Perfect for Harry Potter fans who will cheer for this determined and charismatic heroine of color. A tribute to learning your own balance between fitting in and standing out, and how to most gracefully be yourself.


Young Adult: From a hint of magic to downright scary!

Fraternity
By Andy Mientus
Abrams/Amulet
September 2022
13+

Scandal sends Zooey Orson from his New York high school to an all-boys boarding school full of secrets, secret societies, and not-so-secret biases. He is taken in by the Vicious Circle, a group of gay students that become his found family in their fight against very human and supernatural secrets, and an occult text that could destroy them all. Set against the backdrop of the AIDS crisis, this story of brotherhood and belonging combines episodes of LGBTQ history with paranormal thrills.

The Monarchs
By Kass Morgan and Danielle Paige
Harper Collins/Clarion
January 2022
14+

The most popular sorority on campus hides many secrets—the rules of sisterhood, details of the death of their past president, and that they are actually a powerful coven of witches. New president Scarlett and new student Vivi balance schoolwork, love interests, and battling the ancient forces of evil in this sequel to The Ravens. An atmospheric college setting and emotionally charged relationships between the sisters add substance to this fast-paced and action-packed duology closer.

Spells for Lost Things
By Jenna Evans Welch
Simon and Schuster
September 2022
12+

Willow’s mom dragged her to Salem to sort out a family inheritance. Mason is in Salem with a foster care placement. And they both want to be nearly anywhere else. Drawn together by the mystery of Willow’s family history, they are kept together by a growing connection. YA romance with a dash of witchcraft combine for a charming story of finding family and finding yourself. Welch weaves in the thread of wanderlust that ties all her novels together, with Willow and Mason exploring all the lore and kitsch Salem, Massachusetts have to offer as they learn about life, family ties, and each other.

Butler Bookshelf

In The Woman Who Turned Children Into Birds by David Almond and Illustrated by Laura Carlin, Nanty Solo is new in town and claims she can turn children into birds. Terrified parents forbid the idea, but the children want to fly.

Check it out, along with the other picture book titles we are featuring below!

Ballet Kids
Written and Illustrated by Holly Sterling
Published by Candlewick Press
Available October 18th!

Bella & Blue
Written and Illustrated by Berrie Torgan-Randall
Published by Blue Bronco Books Jr.
Available Now!

Embassy of the Dead: Destiny Calling
Written by Will Mabbitt and Illustrated by Taryn Knight
Published by Walker Books
Available October 18th!

Too Small Tola and the Three Fine Girls
Written by Atinuke and Illustrated by Onyinye Iwu
Published by Candlewick Press
Available October 18th!

The Woman Who Turned Children Into Birds
Written by David Almond and Illustrated by Laura Carlin
Published by Candlewick Studio
Available October 18th!

The Circle of Life: A Review of This Is the Sun

This Is the Sun

This Is the Sun
Elizabeth Everett
Illustrated by Evelline Andrya
Science Naturally
October 2022
Ages 4-7

A vibrant geometric sun shines its rays on the undulating earth below. Thus begins this brilliant and bouncy circle of life story told as a cumulative tale to the rhythm of “The House That Jack Built.” Moving from the sun, to the tree, to the flower, and so on Everett walks readers though the tale with simple text, easily digestible by preschool story times or early independent readers. Lush, full-color, digital collage illustrations complement the spare text. With text to the left of the spread and full-page illustrations to the right, Andrya layers in each new element of the story and introduces a seek-and-find component. Can you find the bug, on the leaf, on the tree? The text and art are both reminiscent of Eric Carle’s Very Hungry Caterpillar. This familiar format, combined with the cadence of a well-known nursery rhyme, lends the nonfiction text to story time in a way most NF does not. Adding to its utility, the book will be available in both English and Spanish, with teacher resources available on the publisher’s website after publication.

This deceptively simple story elegantly introduces the complex topic of our interdependent ecosystem and helps young readers see their place in it.

Butler Bookshelf

Leopold the goat has the gift of being able to match readers with their perfect book at his bookstore. But when a goat comes in and begins to eat the books, Leopold must find the book this hungry goat would rather read before the whole collection is gone!

Check it out, along with the other picture book titles we are featuring below!

Books Aren’t for Eating
Written by Carlie Sorosiak and Illustrated by Manu Montoya
Published by Walker Books
Available today!

The Circles in the Sky
Written and Illustrated by Karl James Mountford
Published by Candlewick Studio
Available September 27th!

Granny and Bean
Written by Karen Hesse and Illustrated by Charlotte Voake
Published by Candlewick Press
Available September 27th!

I’m a Unicorn
Written and Illustrated by Helen Yoon
Published by Candlewick Press
Available today!

The Lodge that Beaver Built
Written by Randi Sonenshine and Illustrated by Anne Hunter
Published by Candlewick Press
Available September 27th!

What are Words Really? 
Written by Alexi Lubomirski and Illustrated by Carlos Aponte
Published by Candlewick Press
Available September 27th!

Paving the Way For Future Generations: A Review of Bessie the Motorcycle Queen

Bessie the Motorcycle Queen
Charles R. Smith, Jr.
Illustrated by Charlot Kristensen
Scholastic Inc. / Orchard Books
September 20, 2022
Ages 6 to 8

Through rhyming verse, Bessie the Motorcycle Queen tells the story of little-known adventurer, Bessie Stringfield. A Black motorcyclist, she was known for her spontaneous, cross-country motorcycle rides, flair for the dramatic, and ability to cruise easily past her white, male competitors. Fighting against conditions in the Jim Crow-era South, Bessie was often forced to sleep under the stars when motels rejected her, was chased by Klan members, and cheated out of her race winnings. The impulsive, determined, and highly skilled Bessie gives author Charles Smith, Jr. plenty of tales for an action-packed ride. His verse maintains a quick pace and fun tone, despite some heavy content, even if some lines are a bit clunky. The sherbet-flavored color palette, laid over the modern digital paintings, immediately places the story in the 1920s. Elements like her wheat penny, which she flipped to decide her next location, add to the period details and her legend. The rough, lineless illustrations feel cartoon-like and energetic, with Bessie and her motorcycle significantly more detailed than everything else, keeping the reader’s eyes always on her. The backmatter includes an author’s note explaining his discovery of Bessie’s story, and the inspiration he found in her bravery, as well as a bibliography with books and online articles for additional reading on Bessie.

With races, car chases, and daring motorcycle stunts, this tall tale of an overlooked historical figure shines a spotlight on her bravery and spirit in a story of empowerment.

Favorites: 2022 Back to School Picture Books

New shoes, new school supplies, and maybe new anxieties—back to school season is here! Whether you’re sending off the kids from your home, home library, or welcoming them into your classrooms, these 2022 picture books are full of reassurance (and sometimes silliness) to help with a smooth transition into the norms and routines of the school year.

KINDergarten cover art

KINDergarten: where kindness matters every day
Written by Vera Ahiyya
Illustrated by Joey Chou
Penguin/Random House Studio
June 2022
Age 4-8Leo is nervous about kindergarten, especially his new teacher’s request that the class contribute ideas to kindness pledge. Leo prefers quiet. What if he can’t figure out what to say? As Leo meets his classmates, and hears their ideas about kindness, he realizes his actions can speak just as loudly as their words. Vibrant colors and geometric illustrations lend a joyful tone to this reminder about all the ways we can show kindness to others.

Purple School cover art

The World Needs More Purple Schools
Written by Kristen Bell and Benjamin Hart
Illustrated by Daniel Wiseman
Penguin/Random House Children’s Books
June 2022
Age 3-7

Penny Purple and her friends are back and bringing their plans for a more curious, respectful, and cooperative world to their classroom—and yours. Bright and joyful illustrations combine with silliness galore to explore Penny’s school community and everything the students and teachers do as good citizens and friends. 

Everything in Its Place cover art

Everything in Its Place: A Story of Books and Belonging
Witten by Pauline David-Sax
Illustrated by Charnelle Pinkney Barlow
Penguin/Doubleday
July 2022
Age 3-7

An introverted young book-lover finds solace (and an escape from recess) by volunteering in the school library. Forced to face a week of recess on her own, an all-female motorcycle group inspires her to take a risk on opening up in order to find a like-minded friend. A mix of blue pencil drawings, watercolor, and collage are brilliantly combined to bring the girl’s interests, experiences, and imagination together in one cohesive and lovely ode to books and belonging.

Hurry, Little Tortoise cover art

Hurry, Little Tortoise, Time for School!
Written by Carrie Finison
Illustrated by Erin Kraan
Penguin/Random House Studio
July 2022
Age 3-7

Little Tortoise is determined to be on time for her first day of school. Passed by classmate after classmate, her dedication turns to despair when she’s knocked on her shell. A rescue by her teacher, Mr. Sloth, gives just the pick me up she needs to build confidence and get to class right on time. A sweet tale of perseverance to illustrate that moving at your own pace doesn’t diminish your place in the crowd.

This is a School cover art

This is a School
Written by John Schu
Illustrated by Veronica Miller Jamison
Candlewick
March 2022
Age 3-7

Through simple text and lively art, this diverse and vibrant school community comes to life and introduces young students to the rhythms and learning within. Identifying locations, experiences, and emotions tied to the school day and beyond, Schu gently welcomes readers to the world of school. Differences in culture, ability, skill, and social-emotional experience are celebrated in vignettes exploring all the school building and school community might offer and what community members have to offer in return.

Butler Bookshelf


In the urban fantasy novel The Whispering Dark, Delaney Meyers-Petrov is a Deaf college student with a peculiar connection to the afterlife. When she’s offered a spot at an elite university program that trains students to slip between parallel worlds, she’s excited for an opportunity to prove herself and show others that she isn’t as fragile as they think.

Check it out, along with the other titles we are featuring below!

Haven: A Small Cat’s Big Adventure
Written by Megan Wagner Lloyd
Published by Candlewick Press
Available August 16th!

I Was Born for This
Written by Alice Oseman
Published by Scholastic Press
Available October 18th!

Something About Grandma
Written and Illustrated by Tania de Regil
Published by Candlewick Press
Available August 9th!

A Synagogue Just Like Home
Written by Alice Blumenthal McGinty and Illustrated by Laurel Molk
Published by Candlewick Press
Available August 9th!

The Whispering Dark
Written by Kelly Andrew
Published by Scholastic Press
Available October 18th!