Round-Up: National Geographic Summer Books



Going on a road trip soon? Then check out these new titles by National Geographic Kids! There is plenty to keep the whole family entertained.


Real or Fake? Far-Out Fibs, Fishy Facts, and Phony Photos to Test for the TruthReal or Fake

Publisher: National Geographic Kids, 2016

Author: Emily Krieger

Illustrations by Nick Cocotos


  1. Can plants make music?
  2. Does spaghetti grow on trees?
  3. Can a spacecraft land on a comet?


If these questions intrigue you, then pick up this new offering by National Geographic Kids. It contains all sorts of interesting facts (and fictions) as well as quizzes to see if you can spot a lie. How well did you do on the questions above? A and C are real; B is fake.


125 Wacky Roadside Attractions125 wacky roadside attractions

Publisher: National Geographic Kids, 2016


Check out this book to see if you can add a special destination to your next vacation. (There is a road map in the front of the book that will help in your planning.) Perhaps you could visit the Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum.  Others might find the International Cryptozoology Museum (study of strange animals) interesting. Do you like mustard? Well, there is a National Mustard Museum. Find out more about Leila’s Hair Museum or where the world’s deepest underwater mailbox is located. You never know what you will find to visit!



Publisher: National Geographic Kids, 2016

Author: Stephanie Warren Drimmer

Puzzles by: Julie K. Cohen


Looking for puzzles, quizzes and challenges to wile away the hours? This book is the one to buy. It will help you “unleash your inner genius”  – or at least stop you from being bored!




*These titles were sent to us for free in exchange for an honest review. All views expressed are our own.

Review: Mister Seahorse

Hi everyone,


For today’s review, I’ve decided to look back at a book by Eric Carle.


Mister Seahorse



Mister Seahorse by Eric Carle

Publisher: Philomel Books, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group, 2004

Genre: Non-Fiction, Fiction, Animals, Ocean

Format: Hardcover, Picture Book

Source: Personal Collection

*Laura Ingalls Wilder Award Winner


Blending fiction about talking animals with non-fiction about camouflage and ocean parenting, Mr. Seahorse shows that dads are necessary to take care of babies just like moms.


I hadn’t read this book in a while and was surprised all over again to discover the camouflage pages. I thought it was so cool to try to find the hidden animals and then to flip the pages to find out what was actually there. My only complaint was that the rock hiding the stonefish hid too much of the text. Although the other camouflage pages slightly cover the text behind them, the sentences are usually readable without turning the page, and I thought it would be any easy change to make that true for the stonefish. Otherwise, I found the Carle’s characteristic tissue paper collages well-planned and colorful; I especially like that you can see Mr. Seahorse’s belly growing as time passes.


I also really liked the use of non-fiction about male animals that are responsible for caring for their eggs (and sometimes babies) after the female has laid them. I think the father-as-caretaker message can be important for children to see. This might also be a great book for a father’s day activity or shared read-aloud!


For more information:

Eric Carle’s official website

Eric Carle’s blog

Check out the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art here!



**** 4/5 stars

Mr. Seahorse meets camouflaged animals and many different fathers while waiting for his own eggs to hatch.

Colorful artwork, important family/fatherhood message



Review: Serafina and the Black Cloak


Serafina and the Black Cloak

Author: Robert Beatty

Publisher: Scholastic, Inc., 2015

Source: Personal Purchase

Rating: ****

Serafina lives with her father in the underbelly of the vast Vanderbilt estate. Her father works on the machinery that keeps the place running, but no one – not even the other servants – are aware that he has a daughter or that they actually make their home in the basements. They keep hidden, with Serafina inhabiting the dark corners where things like rats lurk. So it is not surprising that when other things, evil things, also begin to emerge, they show up in Serafina’s territory.

There are plenty of mysterious things happening. Some involve Serafina directly. Why does her father want her to remain hidden? What has happened to her mother? How can her exceptional abilities be explained?

Some of the mysterious happenings are not about Serafina. A girl has gone missing, and Serafina knows she has been attacked, though she can’t (initially) explain exactly what has happened to the girl. A malevolent person has killed her and has tried to kill Serafina, too. Serafina is wild and strong, so she manages to escape. Others have not been so lucky. But how can you convince others of this danger when you are not even supposed to exist?

Serafina and the Black Cloak will delight those who enjoy a real spine-tingling thriller. It twists and turns in pleasantly unexpected ways.

Looking to learn more? Watch the book trailer. It’s wonderful!  (If I were rating on the book trailer alone, I’d give it 5 stars. It’s creepy in a Harry Potter way.)


Review: Flotsam

Hi everyone,


Today, I decided to read David Wiesner’s Flotsam for the first time (I know, I know, where have I been?!)





Flotsam by David Wiesner

Publisher: Clarion Books, a Houghton Mifflin Company imprint, 2006

Genre: Ocean

Format: Hardcover, Picture Book

Source: Public Library

*Caldecott Medal Winner


In this wordless picture book, a young boy discovers an old-fashioned camera washed up on the beach. When he develops the film, he finds more about the mysteries of the ocean than he’d ever expected and learns just how connected people all across the world can be.


As you might expect of a wordless, Caldecott-winning picture book, the illustrations in this book are absolutely stunning. I love the unique takes on what might be happening with different animals in parts of the ocean we have yet to discover. Mechanical fish, aliens, and mermaid cities are all possibilities in this book. I think wordless picture books work really well as a one-to-one activity with children who haven’t yet started reading, as it gives them a chance to tell the story themselves. But I particularly like the level of detail in these illustrations because I think they open such great opportunities for discussion. There is so much in these pictures for a parent, librarian, teacher, or caretaker to share and explore with a child, regardless of their reading level. The use of different framing techniques and the overarching story of the camera that serves as just a small way to bring different children together are both strong elements that make this book worth sharing.


For more information:

Look here for more information about David Wiesner

Here you’ll find more information about the Caldecott Medal, including information about the most recent award-winning titles.



***** 5/5 stars

A mysterious camera reveals the mysteries of the deep ocean.

Wordless, beautiful illustrations

Perfect for one-on-one discussions and sharing



Review: Stella by Starlight

Review:Stella by Starlight

Stella by Starlight

Author: Sharon Draper

Publisher: A Caitlyn Dlouhy Book, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2015

Source: Personal Purchase

It is Stella and her younger brother Jojo who first witness Ku Klux Klan activity. They sneak out of the house one night to see a cross burning and hooded Klan members gathered together. Stella and Jojo know this means trouble for the community – their community. For in 1932 in Bumblebee, North Carolina, segregation is the norm and a black person has no right to vote.

That is about to change. Three brave men of the community – Stella’s father, Pastor Patton, and Mr. Spencer – are determined to register to vote in the upcoming election. It is an action that is not without danger. It is an action that has horrible repercussions, especially for the Spencer family. Is it worth the risk? Stella struggles to understand and tries to make sense of everything by writing out her thoughts in articles for her own “Stella’s Star Sentinel.”

Stella by Starlight is a story about courage in the face of fear. It is a story about community coming together and caring for each other in times of difficulty and trouble. It is a story about standing up for what is right while “balancing courage with wisdom” (pg. 26). And as everybody knows, I love discussion questions, so I was pleased to see a Reading Group Guide at the end of the book.


For more information:

Sharon Draper’s official website



***** 5/5 stars

Stella’s family and community are in danger due to Ku Klux Klan activity, but even in the face of this threat, Stella’s father and other members of the community decide to register to vote. Stella by Starlight is an emotionally powerful story that reminds each and every one of us that we, too, can be a David and meet our personal Goliath with respect and honesty.



Review: Rapunzel’s Revenge

Hi everyone,


Here’s another fairy tale-inspired graphic novel!


Rapunzel's Revenge



Rapunzel’s Revenge by Shannon and Dean Hale

Illustrated by Nathan Hale

Publisher: Bloomsbury U.S.A. Children’s Books, 2008

Genre: Middle grade, Fairy Tales, Wild West

Pages: 144

Format: Hardcover, Graphic Novel

Source: Public Library


Everyone knows the story of Rapunzel, how she was taken from her parents as a baby and eventually brought to live alone in a tower for so long that her hair grew to incredible lengths. What you might not know is what happens to Rapunzel after she escapes the tower. In this Wild West-inspired graphic novel, Rapunzel uses her braid-lassos and her friendship with mysterious outlaw Jack to seek revenge on the witch who tore her family apart. Even honest, open-minded Rapunzel doesn’t expect all the surprises she uncovers!


I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about this book at first. On one hand, I think we all know my love of fairy tales, but on the other hand, “Wild West” and “cowboys” are pretty big disinterest buzzwords for me. I liked the subtle blending of fairy tales but, unfortunately, I found some of the plot to be a little repetitive. There were quite a few cases where Rapunzel and Jack were asked to face a different villain or troublemaker, but each was solved in a similar manner. Rapunzel consistently led the charge and saved the day with her braid-lassos while Jack provided backup. While I thought the first couple incidents really developed Rapunzel’s character and her relationship with Jack, I just didn’t see the need for quite so many examples.


What I liked best about this book was the characterization and the development of relationships between the characters. I particularly liked that Rapunzel and Jack’s relationship developed slowly over time, and it was clear that they liked each other without being too mushy or romantic. I missed the balance of good and bad that I think we’ve seen in other graphic novels this month, but overall, Rapunzel’s Revenge stayed pretty true to typical fairy tale conventions and added a few interesting Wild West twists to a well-known story.


For more information:

Shannon Hale’s official website

There’s quite a bit of information about Rapunzel’s Revenge available here!

Nathan Hale’s official website



*** 3/5 stars

Wild West Rapunzel meets Jack and the Beanstalk

Interesting fairy tale twist, somewhat repetitive



Book vs. Movie: The BFG


Author: Roald Dahl

Publisher: Penguin Books, 1982

Source: Personal collection


With the newly released movie The BFG, I decided to reread this old classic and then go to see the movie with the intention of comparing the two versions. I am glad I did, for it was an excellent refresher of the story and a fun movie to watch.

It was the witching hour, that time of night when “every child and every grown-up was in a deep deep sleep, and all the dark things came out from hiding and had the world to themselves” (pg. 10). And except for Sophie, who is lying awake in the orphanage dormitory, everyone is asleep. She peers out through a gap in the curtains. Who does she see? The BFG, of course. Since she has seen him, he must take her because otherwise she will be telling all the other “human beans” about the real, live giant she saw.

This is not a safe course of action for the BFG or Sophie. The BFG might be a vegetarian (he only eats snozzcumbers), but the other giants who live in giant country certainly are not. And the BFG is the runt among the giants. He usually is more interested in catching dreams than in catching humans. He catches the dreams because he can hear them with his marvelous, truly sensitive, overly large ears. When describing the sounds he can hear – the ladybird walking across a leaf or ants chittering  down in the soil – “his face is a beautiful blaze of emotions” (pg. 46). Really, the BFG is just an old softie.

However, the nine other giants – pleasantly named things like Bloodbottler and Fleshlumpeater – are going on a rampage soon and will be eating up all kinds of innocent school children. Sophie knows they must be stopped. She comes up with a plan, and she needs the BFG’s assistance in order to make it work.

Though The BFG is a rollicking good story, I always found it to be a difficult read-aloud. There are so many made-up words that it can be a real tongue-twister, which is the reason I preferred other Dahl stories over this one. That’s not to say it isn’t a pleasant read; just be prepared to work at it a bit.

I did enjoy the movie version pretty well – maybe even a little better than the book. It sticks relatively close to the book though there are some variations in the plot. The giants in the movie are definitely more menacing. The whizzpopper scene with the Queen and her dogs (those who have seen the movie will know what I mean) is a bit more built up in the movie version, and I have no doubt it is one of the favorite parts among the younger audience. The movie doesn’t overdo the tongue-twisting language, so it is not nearly so cumbersome as reading the story can be. It seemed fresh and modern, and they made the BFG into a truly lovable giant.


Movie Trailer:



Review: Please Open This Book!

Review:Open This Book


Please Open This Book!

Author: Adam Lehrhaupt

Illustrator: Matthew Forsythe

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2015

Source: Personal purchase

Are you a book closer? Don’t be! Do you know how disturbing this is to all the characters inside? And they have to fix so many things after every closing!

This humorous story, with all its zany characters, is sure to be a real pleaser with the in-the-lap reading crowd. The main character is a monkey, telling us of all the perils that occur when a book is closed. We can see the obvious results: squishy bananas, injuries, book page destruction.

You might be a book closer, but this is one of those books that you will open again and again. Read with expression and have fun with this one!


For more information:

To learn more about Adam Lehrhaupt and his work, visit


And for some reading aloud tips, I really like this link



***** 5/5 stars



Review: Magic Beach

Hi everyone,


Today’s book is a recently re-discovered childhood favorite.

Magic Beach




Magic Beach by Alison Lester

Publisher: Allen & Unwin, 2010*

Genre: Realism, Fantasy, Beach

Format: Hardcover, Picture Book

Source: Personal Collection

*I have the 20th anniversary edition of Magic Beach. It was first published in 1990, with its first paperback edition in 1992.


In rhyming poetry, several children use their imaginations to bring a little extra magic to their trip to the beach.


The comforting, rhythmic poetry of this picture book makes it a great book to read aloud. The illustrations are also pretty detailed, so child readers will have plenty to look at on each page. I particularly like the pattern the story follows. At first, the narrators tell what they’re doing, but each following spread has a more magical take on the same events. While the book might start off with the children playing in the ocean, the next pages compare those waves to wild horses. The “real world” illustrations might be larger, but the imaginative illustrations are framed in circle, making them seem particularly special.


For more information:

Alison Lester’s official website




**** 4/5 stars

Children’s imaginations at play on a beach trip

Fun illustrations, rhythmic poetry


Have you read Magic Beach? Which adventure is your favorite?



Review: All the World

Hi everyone,

Today, I have one of my favorite books to read aloud to share with you!


Review:All the World

 All the World by Liz Garton Scanlon

Illustrated by Marla Frazee

Publisher: Beach Lane Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, 2009

Genre: Poetry, Realism

Format: Hardcover, Picture Book

Source: Personal Collection

*Caldecott Honor Book


It’s a little hard to give a succinct summary of this book, except to say that it encompasses a lot of the smallest and the largest elements that make this world so special.


The sparse text leaves a lot of space for the illustrations to tell a story. There are all different families throughout, but the main family starts off the story by heading to the beach and brings everything together for a comforting, sleepy close. The softness of the illustrations fits perfectly with the gentle rhythm of the text. This book is perfect for reading aloud because the poetry somehow lulls listeners into a comfortable silence. This poem feels important and powerful, and I think it carries a lot of meaning regardless of the age of the listener.


For more information:

Liz Garton Scanlon’s official website

Marla Frazee’s official website



***** 5/5 stars

Beautiful, meaningful poetry

Soft art filling in spaces in the text