Book Buzz Blog

Word Nerd by Susin Nielsen

For most of us, peanuts don’t usually conjure up thoughts of sickness and death, but for Ambrose Bukowski that’s all they have to offer. The main character of Susin Neilsen’s Word Nerd has a serious allergy, but his real problem is the fact that he’s so awkward. His classmates tease him nonstop for the way he acts, the way he dresses, and the things he says. When they hide a peanut in his sandwich at lunch, the hospital visit afterwards convinces his overprotective mother to homeschool Ambrose.

One day Ambrose meets his landlord’s son Cosmo, who just got out of prison. You might not think that a nerdy kid and a twenty-something ex-con would have anything in common, but the game of Scrabble works in mysterious ways.
 
Ambrose hates Cosmo’s smoking habit and tattoos, and Cosmo doesn’t want to be seen with Ambrose when he’s wearing his lucky purple pants. Still, these two unlikely friends try to make things better for themselves, the only way they know how. But how can they play together when Ambrose’s mom won’t let him near Cosmo? And why does a scary-looking guy named Silvio keep showing up in front of their house, asking for Cosmo?

A Whole Nother Story by Dr. Cuthbert Soup

There are a lot of stories out there: boy wizards, girl detectives, wimpy kids, and underpantsed captains. Despite the many possibilities and and numerous titles to read, there may be that ever-lurking fear that there is not a story out there for you. In this is the case, you might want to avoid a panic attack by taking a note from Dr. Cuthbert Soup, head of the National Center for Unsolicited Advice. If you are so brave and wise to follow Soup’s advice, you will be handsomely rewarded with A Whole Nother Story.

This particular tale revolves around inventor Ethan Cheeseman and his three children, who are on the run from a madcap menagerie of pursuers: Secret agents known only by different numbers, evil corporations, a Russian spy and his extremely talented chimp (for one thing, he can speak yak). All of these sundry types wish to get their hands on Cheeseman’s latest creation: A time machine.

A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead and illustrated by Erin E. Stead

That time is upon us.  That time when we start sniffling and coughing.  A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead and illustrated by Erin E. Stead is about one of those days when you just want to go back to bed.  Amos McGee is the cheerful zookeeper at the local zoo.  Every morning he "ambles" down to the bus stop after his breakfast of oatmeal and tea to catch the number 5 bus to the zoo.  When he arrives there he always makes sure to spend time with his friends before he starts working.  He plays chess with the elephant, he races with the turtle, and he sits quietly with the penguin.  This particular day, Amos  wakes up with the sniffles and his legs are achy.  He decides to stay home and not to go to work.

Well, after some time has passed the animals begin to worry when Amos has not arrived at his usual time.  The elephant has the chess board ready, the turtle is ready to race, and the penguin waits patiently alone.  "Where is Amos?" they all wonder.  Tired of waiting and concerned for their friend, the animals decide to go and check on Amos.  So, they board the bus and head to Amos' house, where they arrive to find him not well.  They each tend to Amos in their own special way, and then they end the day with a pot of tea.

Emmaline and the Bunny

Emmaline and the Bunny by Katherine Hannigan is a sweet, cautionary tale about the dangers of eliminating the messiness of nature from our everyday lives. Emmaline lives with her parents in the tiny town of Neatasapin which is run by the bad tempered Mayor Oliphant. The mayor's favorite pastime is making declarations about tidy people, tidy houses and tidy yards all in the name of keeping the town of Neatasapin as neat as a pin. Emmaline feels out of sorts because she enjoys playing in the mud, running and jumping and hollering the occasional "hoopalala!" When Emmaline's parents ask her what she would like for her birthday, she asks for a bunny to call her own.   Bunnies are messy. Bunnies are untidy. How can Emmaline make a place for a bunny in a place like Neatasapin?

Cloud Tea Monkeys by Mal Peet and Elsbeth Graham

Cloud Tea Monkeys by Mal Peet and Elsbeth Graham is based on a centuries-old legend about tea-picking monkeys.  As the story begins, the reader meets Tashi, a young girl who lives alone with her mother, a tea picker, in the foothills of the Himalayan mountains.   Each day Tashi accompanies her mother and aunts who travel to the rolling tea plantations to pick tea. While the adults work in the fields, Tashi plays and shares her lunch with a troupe of monkeys under the shade of an ancient tree.  

Tashi’s life is disrupted when her mother falls ill and is unable to pick the tea that not only provides for their day-to-day needs, but also would pay for a doctor to heal her mother.  Tashi sees this as a problem that goes “around and around, like a snake with its tail in its mouth.” Tashi decides to try and take her mother's place and pick the tea herself. How will a young girl fill a basket full of tea when the basket is taller than she is?

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia

I just read One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia. I really, really enjoyed this book. I love historical fiction and am usually attracted to any new historical fiction title that comes through our Children’s area. I’m just sort of magnetically attracted to these books. But with this one, my radar was ringing in my head and alarms were going off… Check me out… Check me out! The book cover is beautifully illustrated and so attractive! It would catch any reader’s eye, even those reluctant to read “History” books. 

The setting is back in the late 1960’s, Oakland, California, during the beginning of the “Black Panther” movement. It was a time of civil distress and upheaval across the country and within the Black community. It was the time of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. and the clash of their two philosophies.
 
Three young sisters are sent to spend the summer with their mother who they have not seen since the youngest sister was born seven years ago. Big Ma, their grandmother, doesn’t want them to go and warns Pa what a bad idea this is. But, Pa says, ”It’s time. They need to know Cecile.”   

Ghosts in the House! by Kazuno Kohara

A young girl and her cat enter a dark, old, ramshackle house. Ghosts are waiting for her there. As she opens the door they all fly out. This is where the fun begins in Kazuno Kohara’s Ghosts in the House!

The book dodges a potentially frightening situation by having the little girl don a witch hat and immediately contain the ghosts. She washes them out and uses them as helpful household items like tablecloths and curtains. Our main character is not only brave, but friendly too, and the ghosts enjoy assisting her throughout her daily tasks.
 
The charm of the book comes from the simple text combined with bold illustrations. The limited use of color (orange, black, and white) allows the pictures to jump off the page and create a powerful Halloween world for you to enter. White ghosts have a texture and dimension as if someone had stamped them onto the pages with a wood block. All of these stylistic choices make the book feel like a hidden gem from the 1950’s, when really it was only published a couple of years ago. Kohara followed her debut picture book with one that may be worth checking out in a couple of months, the equally delightful Here Comes Jack Frost.
 
Looking for a children’s book that will evoke the spooky fun of Halloween without scaring the younger ones? Kazuno Kohara’s Ghosts in the House! has it all.

Trick or Treat Smell My Feet! By Lisa Desimini

A pair of particularly nasty twin witches are bad news for the neighborhood in Lisa Desimini’s Trick-or-Treat, Smell My Feet! They chase kids with fire-powered umbrellas, steal their neighbors’ socks, and fool with everyone’s electricity on stormy nights.

This Halloween, the witches have hatched a particularly evil plan to foil the children’s Halloween fun. Brewing a foul concoction made of smelly socks, the greenish smoke rolling out of the chimney spreads across town and affects a key change in the typical Halloween procedure. Instead of saying, “Trick or Treat!” kids have no choice but to say “Smell my feet!” when going door to door. Worse still, instead of candy, the kids get a slammed door in their faces.
 
Luckily, a pair of sweet, pink socks accidentally falls into the witches’ brew, and their plan backfires in a funny way. Halloween is saved for the neighborhood kids, and the twin witches are even given another chance to be a little nicer, although who knows if they will take it. Given their love of black, their mean disposition, and pinched, green faces, I wouldn’t bet on it.
 
Lisa Desimini’s book is great fun to read with preschoolers and early elementary students. The witches are just scary enough, and the cut-paper illustrations are perfect. This story is a great addition to your Halloween read-aloud tradition!
 

Oliver Nocturne: The Vampire's Photograph

Oliver Nocturne, hero of Kevin Emerson's The Vampire's Photograph, is your typical 13-year-old vampire. At least that’s what he always thought. He’s the youngest in his family, which consists of a businessman father, a sophisticated mother, and a bossy older brother.

Early one evening, while having trouble sleeping; Oliver hears a sound upstairs. Sneaking out of his coffin because his parents and brother are still asleep, he creeps upstairs into the decrepit human house that serves as a decoy above his families vampire crypt. There he encounters Emalie, a human girl around his age. She is snooping around the house and taking photographs. Oliver knows he should turn her in, but he's too enthralled by her presence to do more than watch her. When a careless misstep alerts Emalie to Oliver’s presence, she snaps a picture of him and runs off.

Henry in Love by Peter McCarty

In Peter McCarty's Henry in Love, magic can be found in the simplest pleasures of an ordinary school day. The main character gets ready for school and decides that this is the day that he is going to talk to the loveliest girl in the class. Perfect cartwheels, games of tag, and the sharing of afternoon snacks follow. 

The look of McCarty's characters is quite special. The illustrations are reminiscent of two children's classics. Henry and his classmates, all animals, recall the characters from Rosemary Wells' Max and Ruby books, but with smaller eyes and a less cartoony demeanor. They look sweet without treading into cutesy territory. The wide margins and very selective use of color reminds one of Ian Falconer's Olivia books.