CYBILS 2013 Finalists Are Announced

If you are sad to see the Nerdy Book Awards end, you can get excited about the next round of book announcements.  Yesterday, Anne Levy, Cybils Editor-in-Chief, released the full list of finalists for each category.   Today, I am sharing what books ended up on the Easy Readers and Early Chapter Book lists.  I love discovering new books for students in first to third grades.  Check out this great list of finalists...

2013 Finalists: Easy Readers

A Big Guy Took My Ball! (An Elephant and Piggie Book) by Mo Willems (Disney Hyperion)

Joe and Sparky Go to School by Jamie Michalak (Candlewick Press)

Love Is in the Air (Penguin Young Readers, L2) by Jonathan Fenske (Penguin)

Penny and Her Marble by Kevin Henkes (Greenwillow Books)

The Meanest Birthday Girl by Josh Schneider (Clarion Books)

Urgency Emergency! Big Bad Wolf  by Dosh Archer (Albert Whitman & Company)

2013 Finalists: Early Chapter Books

Dragonbreath #9: The Case of the Toxin Mutants by Ursula Vernon (Dial)

Home Sweet Horror (Scary Tales) by James Preller (Feiwel & Friends)

Kelsey Green, Reading Queen (Franklin School Friends) by Claudia Mills (Farrar, Strauss, & Giroux)

Lulu and the Dog from the Sea by Hilary McKay (Albert Whitman & Company)

The Life of Ty: Penguin Problems by Lauren Myracle (Dutton Juvenile)

Violet Mackerel's Natural Habitat by Anna Branford (Atheneum)

As a Round 2 Judge for the Easy Readers and Early Chapter Books Panel, I am excited with these choices and I am ready to dive into the books above.  Read along and see which ones you would select as winners. 

Book Review: Diary of a Worm: Teacher's Pet

Based on the creation of Doreen Cronin & Harry Bliss
by Lori Haskins Houran, & pictures by John Nez
Publisher: HarperCollins (June 25, 2013)
Source: Purchased Copy
Keywords: Fiction,

Description from Publisher's Page:
Children already know and love Worm from the hilarious bestselling picture book by Doreen Cronin and Harry Bliss. Worm is all about having fun, respecting the earth, and never taking baths. Now he’s the star of a series of I Can Read books with full-color illustrations.

In Diary of a Worm: Teacher's Pet, Worm makes a surprising discovery—teachers have birthdays! That means Worm and his friends have to find the perfect present for their teacher, Mrs. Mulch.

Diary of a Worm: Teacher's Pet is a Level One I Can Read book, which means it is perfect for kids learning to sound out words and sentences.

My thoughts on this book:
Since I am a fan of Doreen Cronin's Diary of a Worm, I was interested in seeing the transition from picture book to early reader.  Similar to the original version, this early reader follows the same diary format. When I went back to look at the picture book in comparison to the early reader, I was surprised by how similar the two (picture book and early reader) were.  Lori Haskins Houran and John Nez have done a nice job in maintaining the same look, and story feel as the picture book series created by Doreen Cronin and Harry Bliss.

Diary of a Worm: Teacher's Pet is part of HarperCollins' I Can Read Early Reader Series.  I was curious to know how the reading levels for the I Can Read books were established.  HarperCollins has set up a website for parents and teachers, which provides information and activities.  On the Educators tab, teachers can find out information about reading levels. According to the site,  Diary of a Worm: Teacher's Pet is labeled a Level 1: Beginning Reading.  See below for what that means...

Now back to Diary of a Worm: Teacher's Pet.  When Mrs. Mulch is out of school to celebrate her birthday, the class decides to hold a birthday party for when she returns.  Worm feels like everyone has ideas for birthday gifts, but what should he give.  His family and friends try to generate a list of gifts.  Of course Spider's suggestion of a slippers won't work for a worm, and maybe the dung ball suggestion from Fly would be better appreciated by another fly.  However, with the help of Fly and Spider, Worm finds the best birthday gift ever for his teacher.

Early readers who became friends with Worm, Fly, and Spider through Cronin's picture books will enjoy a chance to continue the friendship while learning to read.  This one gets a thumbs up from me. I will be looking for more stories with this trio.

Books for Younger Readers for Summer - Early Reader/Early Chapter Books

Often I find it easy to pile on full-length Middle Grade novels onto my "TBR" pile for summer reading.  However, finding books for 1st to 3rd graders can be a bit more challenging.  Here are three new releases to check out this summer with young readers.

Dodsworth in Tokyo
Author/Illustrator: Tim Egan
Publisher:  Houghton Mifflin (April 16, 2013)

Description from GoodReads:
With trips to New York, Paris, London, and Rome under their belts, Dodsworth and the duck head for Japan: “The plane glided over Mount Fuji. Tokyo sparkled in the distance. Dodsworth was a little nervous.” Dodsworth has good reason to be nervous—the duck bumps into a rickshaw, falls into a koi pond (he can’t swim), and knocks over a tray of wagashi! Readers will love the slapstick humor and the odd-couple friendship between Dodsworth and the duck. Four engaging chapters of short sentences, clean design, and gem-like little paintings of the Land of the Rising Sun make it easy for early readers to enjoy the journey.

Quick thoughts:
 Dodsworth and Duck are on the go again and this time to Tokyo.  This four chapter story takes readers on a journey to the Land of the Rising Sun.  How will the adventurous Duck deal with a culture that respects order?  Will Dodsworth survive Duck's exuberance in returning a little girl's kendama (toy)? Will Tokyo ever be the same?  Another fun travel adventure with the odd couple of Dodsworth and Duck.

The Meanest Birthday Girl
Author/Illustrator: Josh Schneider
Publisher: Clarion (May 7, 2013)

Description from GoodReads:
It’s Dana’s birthday, so she can do what she likes. And what Dana likes to do is pinch. And call people names. And steal her classmates’ desserts. You probably know a kid like Dana. What can stop her from being so mean? In this story, it’s not what you might expect. Because sometimes, it takes a little creativity (and possibly a very large pet) to change a mean kid’s ways. Five short chapters with comical full-color illustrations offer a fresh, fun take on bullying and birthdays (and pet elephants).

Quick thoughts:
Schneider won the Geisel in 2012 for Tales for Very Picky Eaters.  His newest book is told in 5 chapters and helps young readers think about the consequences for mean behaviors.  Dana's behavior is less than nice, but a friend gives her a birthday present that soon has her re-thinking all of those actions.  Large elephants with brightly colored toe nails take on new significance in this story about learning appropriate behaviors. Loved the twist at the end. 

Pete the Cat: Pete at the Beach
Creator: James Dean
Publisher: HarperCollins (May 21, 2013)

Description from GoodReads:
Pete and his mom and brother go to the beach! Pete has lots of fun collecting shells and building a sand castle. But he's very, very hot . . . and he isn't sure he wants to go in the water. The water looks scary! When his brother Bob offers to give him a surfing lesson, will Pete give it a try?

Rock and roll with Pete in this brand-new story about everyone's favorite groovy cat, perfect for beginning readers!

Quick thoughts:
Pete the Cat fans will love this early reader with simple sentences.  Pete, his mother, and his brother head out to the beach for a day of fun.  Pete must learn to work through his fear of the water if he is going to have some excitement with his brother while at the beach.  Emergent readers will share in Pete the Cat's enthusiasm for conquering his fears and learning a new skill.

Look for each of these books at your local library or independent bookstore.  Happy reading!

Book Review - ODD DUCK

Author: Cecil Castellucci
Illustrator: Sara Varon
Publisher: :01 First Second
Source: e-galley from NetGalley; Purchased Personal Copy
Audience: For all ages
Keywords: Graphic Novel Hybrid, Friendship,  

Description from publisher page:
Theodora is a perfectly normal duck. She may swim with a teacup balanced on her head and stay north when the rest of the ducks fly south for the winter, but there's nothing so odd about that.  

Chad, on the other hand, is one strange bird. Theodora quite likes him, but she can't overlook his odd habits. It's a good thing Chad has a normal friend like Theodora to set a good example for him.  

But who exactly is the odd duck here? Theodora may not like the answer. 

Sara Varon (Robot Dreams) teams up with Cecil Castellucci (Grandma's Gloves) for a gorgeous, funny, and heartwarming examination of the perils and pleasures of friendship.

My thoughts on the book:
Sometimes I want to just take the easy way out and say to everyone, "You'll love this book.  Go out and buy it." However, that is technically not a review but an endorsement of a book.  And yes, I endorse ODD DUCK as a book worth buying, but I will say more.

ODD DUCK can be slightly hard to describe.  It isn't exactly a picture book, nor is it a graphic novel.  It's really sort of a hybrid graphic novel/early reader/chapter book.  It is also not just for young children.  ODD DUCK can certainly entertain listeners and readers of all ages. There is a lot between the pages that young children will find funny or silly and simply an enjoyable story about two friends who happen to be ducks and a bit odd at that.  Adults who pick this up because they have enjoyed Castellucci's other books or Varon's graphic novels will also find meaning on the pages of this story and will identify with the story of friendship and being unique.  

The story is about a duck named Theodora who lives her life a little differently than the other ducks.

Soon, another duck moves into the neighborhood.  His name is Chad.  Theodora bakes him a cake as a welcoming gift and soon they have developed a special friendship.  But as it happens, sometimes things can come between friends.  Of course, for real friends, there is always a way back to that friendship. 

This past Saturday, I had an opportunity to attend the book event for ODD DUCK at Skylight Books in Los Feliz.  There were special ODD DUCK cupcakes on hand for the event.

Cecil Castellucci was there to share about how ODD DUCK came to be.  She shared that illustrator, Sara Varon felt a special connection with Theodora; whereas, Cecil sees herself a little more like Chad.

Cecil projected the story onto a screen and read it for everyone.  All of the children (and even big "kids") really enjoyed hearing about Theodora and Chad.

I was sitting over by Alethea (@frootjoos), Kristen Kittscher, and Elizabeth Ross.  Kristen was sharing her copy of ODD DUCK so that we had a close up look at Varon's quirky and just right artwork.

There is even an tree in the center of Skylight Books and if you look closely, author, Leslie Margolis was in the audience. 

If you haven't picked up a copy of ODD DUCK, I would encourage you to head over to your local bookstore and pick one up.  Remember to shop Indie whenever possible.

For more information:
Cecil Castellucci - website | facebook | twitter

Sara Varon - website | facebook 

Complete the Rafflecopter below to enter to win a signed copy of ODD DUCK. a Rafflecopter giveaway

Favorite Miscellaneous Books of 2012

Since I am still reading a few last Middle Grade and YA novels, I decided to do a miscellaneous favorites post before my Middle Grade and YA posts.  I limited all of the titles to ones that were released in 2012. 

Early Readers and Chapter Books

Sadie and Ratz by Sonya Hartnett; Illustrated by Ann James (Candlewick Press) - This early chapter book is filled with humor and sibling challenges that are oh so real.  Not always easy to find in a bookstore, this was a favorite title of mine that needs more attention. 

Bink & Gollie: Two For One by Kate DiCamillo & Alison McGhee; Illustrated by Tony Fucile (Candlewick Press) - See my write up over on the Nerdy Book Club post here.

Rabbit and Robot: The Sleepover by Cece Bell (Candlewick Press) - An early reader that seemed to get over looked.  A story of friendship and humor.  This one had me laughing out loud. 

Lulu Walks the Dogs by Judith Viorst; Illustrated by Lane Smith (Simon & Schuster) - Rarely does a sequel or companion novel live up to the first book, but this sequel is as enjoyable if not more than the first one.  Definitely one of my choices for a read aloud in 1st or 2nd grade classes.

Marty McGuire Digs Worms! by Kate Messner; Illustrated by Brian Floca (Scholastic) - Hop on over to my Nerdy Book Club post for my comments on this one.


October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard by Lesléa Newman (Candlewick Press) - This novel in verse is a touching tribute to Matthew Shepard.  A powerful book comprised of 68 poems with additional endnotes and resources. (For YA audiences)

The Wild Book by Margarita Engle - Written in free verse, this book takes a look at a young girl living in Cuba at the beginning of the 1900's.  Readers experience Fefa's life through lyrical prose and visual storytelling. 

A Poem as Big as New York City: Little Kids Write About the Big Apple by Teachers Writers Collaborative; Illustrated by Masha D'yans (Universe) - This book inspired me to take on a poetry art project this year with two groups of students.  Children's poems combine to bring New York City to life.

UnBeeLievables: Honeybee Poems and Paintings by Douglas Florian (Beach Lane Books) - Bee poems, bee facts and bee paintings combine together to bring new understanding to the life of Honeybees. 

Graphic Novels

Cardboard by Doug TenNapel (Graphix) - Magical cardboard takes on a "Twilight Zone" feel in this graphic novel.  Creepy and fascinating with a message.

Drama by Raina Telgemeir (Graphix) - Telgemeir's humor and ability to celebrate the day to day stuff in the lives of tweens to young teens is remarkable. DRAMA focuses more on the behind the scenes folks of the Drama club rather than the characters with starring roles.

Hades: Lord of the Dead (Olympians #4) by George O'Connor (First Second) - The fourth book in the Olympians focuses not only on Hades but also Persephone and Demeter.  O'Connor's Greek/Geek notes at the end add additional insight to the various volumes in this series.

Book Trailer for Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword

Hereville: How Mirka Met a Meteorite by Barry Deutsch (Amulet) - A strong female character who is also an Orthodox Jewish heroine? I had my doubts when I picked up the first book, but Deutsch won me over.  He continues to impress me with this follow-up as Mirka has some lessons to learn and some problems to solve that won't happen quickly and will require thought. 

Prince of the Elves (Amulet Vol. 5) by Kazu Kibuishi (Graphix) - I love this series and this may be the best one yet. The ending was certainly a cliff-hanger and left me wanting more. The series continues to build and the characters continue to face hard choices and the consequences that follow.

Legends of Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke (First Second) - In the second book in the series, Zita must learn to come to terms with public attention and her role in everything and what happens when you let someone else step in. 

Bird and Squirrel On the Run by James Burks (Graphix) - The odd couple is resurrected in this graphic novel about an industrious squirrel and an irresponsible Bird. Students love Burks books.  Hope to see more of this odd couple.

Squish #4: Captain Disaster by Jennifer L. Holm and Matt Holm (Random House) - I love Babymouse, but adore Squish.  In each book, I think I come to appreciate this loveable amoeba even more.  Also, there are some great messages that can be used as discussion starters in classes.

So what were some of your favorite books this year?