Shine! by J.J. and Chris Grabenstein is a juvenile fiction novel for 4-6th graders.

Piper Milly has a talent for blending in. She can’t sing or dance, she doesn’t excel at sports or hangs with the popular crowd. She’s smart, she likes astronomy and she’s happy with her small group of friends. So when her dad get’s a new job at a prestigious prep school, Piper is bummed that she has to transfer.

Chumley Prep is definitely a school for the rich and Piper definitely doesn’t fit in. Shortly after she joins the school, she finds out that a mysterious award will be awarded to the “best” student of winter break. Piper shrugs off the contest because she would never win that sort of thing, or would she?

I love Grabenstein’s books. The children are always so relateable and the books themselves are fun and easy to read. Shine! was no different. This was an inspirational read with the theme of kindness, doing good and being good.

I love when we get a group of misfit friends that band together, each with their own unique character traits. I also thought it was really smart to have Piper’s “who I want to be” diary, throughout the novel. This gave a bit of introspection to Piper’s character.

The only negative thing I can say about this book, was that you knew where it was going from the very beginning. The “tests” were obvious from the readers perspective, even if they weren’t from the characters perspective. That and the book ended so abruptly. I would have liked to have a Piper/Ainsley moment, or at least some type of epilogue.

Other than that, this was a great read and I am going to use it for my 4-6th grade STEM Book Club. While it isn’t overtly STEM, there are a lot of STEM elements and I have two good ideas for activities to go with the story. This one gets 4.5 stars from me.

That’s all for now!



Scouts by Shannon Greenland is a juvenile fiction book for 4-6th graders.

Annie, Beans, Rocky, and Fynn make up the Scouts. A name they gave themselves when they were little. They’ve been best friends for a long time, doing everything together. Hiking, biking and most of all getting in trouble.

But things are different this summer, and Annie isn’t so sure the Scouts will make it to seventh grade in tact. Trying to get back that feeling a rightness, Annie and the Scouts climb Old Man Basinger’s silo to watch a meteor shower. When one of the meteors seem to crash nearby, the Scouts are determined to track it down.

But this will be easier said than done. After their campsite is invaded by a bear, they fall into a river and are kidnapped by the Mason Mountain Clan, the gang is starting to fight more than ever. Will anything be the same after this trip? Will the even survive?

This was a fun read. I always pick up new books that might work for my book club and although I’m not sure this one has enough STEM in it for my purposes, it would definitely be one I’d recommend to that 4-6 grade range.

Scouts is about growing up and how the dynamic changes between, not just boys and girls, but friendships in general. As an adult, I can definitely look back and pick out a few super close friends that I lost touch with as the years went by. This book addresses that in a positive light, showing that change is good but that not everything has to change.

All of the Scouts were relateable in some way, which is one thing the story has in its favor. I liked that you could put yourself in each of their shoes and learn something different.

Overall, this is a title I would recommend to my young patrons. This one gets 4 stars from me.

That’s all for now!


The Whispers

The Whispers by Greg Howard is a juvenile fiction book best for 4-6th graders.

Eleven-year-old Riley believes in fairy creatures called whispers and that they can grant your hearts desire, if only you can find them and convince them to do so. More than anything Riley wants to find the whispers. If he could only find the whispers his crush might like him, he would stop being bullied at school, he would stop wetting the bed and most of all, he might find his mother.

Riley’s mom disappeared a few months ago and he is frustrated that no one has found her yet. Determined to do something. Riley and his best friend go on a camping trip to find the whispers and ask them to bring his mother home.

I really wanted to like this book. It’s actually one of those books that you feel bad if you didn’t like it. But, there was just something off about it and I can’t quite place my finger on the culprit. I liked the idea of a boy who believes in the stories his mother told him and I liked his journey to the truth. The ending almost hooked me and I found myself somewhat surprised, even if I suspected where we were going.

Actually, I think I sort of felt like I was being talked down to. For a book that the publisher recommends for 5-6th grade, the writing didn’t feel that way. Riley felt too young, even with the trauma he’s suffered. Serious content, but written younger, if that makes sense. I guess I could just say that I couldn’t get into the author’s writing style.

This is a coming of age novel, one that deals with a lot of serious topics, death, grief, and sexuality being a few. I think I will be the minority for this one but it just wasn’t for me. Ultimately, I liked where we ended up, but I didn’t necessarily like the journey. This one gets a mediocre 3 stars from me.

That’s all for now!



Family Storytime – 11/16/19 – Rabbits

Family Storytime – 11/16/19 – Rabbits

Why rabbits? I have no idea. I was just in a rabbit mood.

  • Song – Top of the Morning
    • This is a fun tune and great for waking up and doing a little stretching. It’s called Top of the Morning.
  • Hello Rhyme – Say Hello
    • This is a great rhyme for saying hello because we get to do it in so many fun ways!6131mmsgq4l
  • Song/Stretch – Can’t Sit Still! by Greg & Steve
    • Greg and Steve is my jam now. Ha!
  • Book – Big Bunny by Rowboat Watkins
    • I thought this one was awesome and I cannot wait to try it out!
  • Rhyme – Bunny Ears
    • This maybe a little young for the group but it is a nice easy movement rhyme.

Bunny ears up (arms up)
Bunny ears down (arms down)
Bunny ears wiggling (wiggle arms)
All around! (tickle baby)

  • Activity/Song – Party Freeze Dance Song
    • My little one loves this song, so I figured I’d give it a try for this crew.
  • Rhyme – Little Bunny in a Hat
    • This can be a finger play or a prop. It’s really fun if you can actually make the bunny come out of a hat.

Little bunny in a hat
Sitting so still
Will it come out?
Yes it will!
It looks to the left
It looks to the right
It looks straight ahead
And pops out of sight.

  • Flannel/Prop –  Have you ever seen a bunny 61xnjhydv4l._sx450_bo1204203200_
    • I created colored bunnies for a magnet board.

Have you ever seen a RED bunny,
A RED bunny, a RED bunny,
Have you every seen a RED bunny,
Go hop, hop, hop, hop.

(Blue, Yellow, Orange, Green) 

  • Book – Bunny Fun by Sarah Weeks
    • Sarah Weeks is one of my favorite picture book authors for reading aloud. Great rhyme and interactive stories. For this one I am going to have the kids yell out “Bunny Fun!”
  • Rhyme –  Hop with me
    • This one can be a lap bounce or an action rhyme.

Hop, hop, hop along
Or bounce on someone’s knee
Higher and higher and higher and higher
Bunny-hop with me!
Hop Like a Bunny

  • Song/Shakers – Dance, Dance, Dance by Joanie Bartels
    • We always have to break out our shakers at some point!
  • Rhyme – If You’re Happy and You Know It
    • I’ll include this one if we have time but with my speaker, I want to wrap up a little quicker than normal.
  • Rhyme – Say Goodbye
    • This is the same rhyme we started with, so the new guys are familiar with it by the end of storytime.
  • Song – Clean It Up! by The Laurie Berkner Band
    • Everyone helps put our shakers away.
  • Song – Goodbye, So Long, Farewell my Friends by Music Together
    • I always put this one on as I go to open the door. Its a nice, slow, peaceful song to wind down on.

How’d it go:

Haha! I don’t think everyone found Big Bunny as funny as I did, but I got a kick out of it and I used a puppet to practice my, no where near talented, ventriloquist skills. I had fun, so hopefully everyone else did too!

That’s all for now!




Dream Within a Dream

Dream Within a Dream by Patricia MacLachlan is a juvenile fiction book for 3-4 graders.

Every summer, Louisa (short for Louisiana) and her brother go to stay with their grandparents on a small island, while their parents track down and study rare birds. Louisa doesn’t like change but this summer something feels different.

Her brother is determined to stay on the island past the summer and Louisa makes a new friend, who makes her see the island in a new way. Something is about to happen. But what?

This book is short, sweet and calming.This is the first book I’ve read by this author in a long time.  MacLachlan writes about a girl and her family, specifically the relationship Louisa has with her aging grandparents. The story is written from Louisa’s point of view, which explains the short sentences and introspective nature of the book.

The story has a sense of calm, even when a bad storm hits the island. This may turn off some readers, who I could see becoming bored by the lack of action. But the book has a small town feel and it is probably the definition of an “easy read.”

There is a hint of romance between George and Louisa; more a sense of what’s to come as they grow up than anything actually romantic. I wouldn’t say it is quite a coming of age novel, maybe a pre-coming of age.

This was a quick, easy read that I enjoyed. I don’t think it’ll wow anyone but it was pleasant in its calming nature. This one gets a 3.5-4 stars from me.

That’s all for now!


Tunnel of Bones

Tunnel of Bones by Victoria Schwab is the second book in a juvenile fiction series for 4-6th graders.

Trouble just seems to find Cassidy Blake no matter where she goes. So when she and her best–ghost–friend, Jacob, end up in Paris, it’s no wonder they attract a poltergeist in one of the most haunted cities in the world.

It may seem like fun, following her ghost-hunting, reality TV show parents from city to city but Cassidy is no ordinary girl. She can see ghosts and it is her job to help them cross the veil. But this poltergeist seems to be different and it will take all of Cassidy’s new found skills to stop it before it is too late.

Will Cassidy and Jacob get the job done or will they lose themselves to the veil?

I really like this Cassidy Blake series.  It’s a fun story about family and friendship, with a little bit of spookiness thrown in. I really like this dynamic and tension building between Cassidy and Jacob. You know where the story will almost have to lead and I like that sense of foreshadowing.

One of the things I like most about this book is that we are getting a glimpse of the history of real places. The Tunnel of Bones is a real place and through this book we get a picture of not only what it is like but the history behind it as well.

For a juvenile fiction book, there is just enough scary thrills to make the story fun but not enough to give one nightmares. This book has a lot of heart and I think it would be great for both boys and girls.

This one gets a high 4.5 stars from me.

That’s all for now!



Inkling by Kenneth Oppel is a juvenile fiction book for about a fourth or fifth grader.

Ethan’s dad is a popular comic book writer, known for his Kren series. When a tragedy strikes his family, he gets stuck and just can’t seem to come up with anything new to draw. It’s been two years now and still he is stuck.

Ethan too is stuck; his group is depending on him to use his hereditary art skills for their own comic book project. But Ethan’s art skills are non-existent and his dad is no help at home, let alone with his homework.

When an ink-blot crawls out of Ethan’s dad’s sketchbook, the whole family will be influenced by not only it’s creativity but it’s honesty and inspiration.

I really enjoyed this book. I listened to the audio book, which was great, but I bet the physical book would be even better. I just loved Inkling. For an ink-blot, he had so much character and I just wished I could see him turning in to King Kong and knocking down biplanes.

As fun as Inkling is, this is really a story about a family that has lost its way. Ethan’s dad hasn’t coped with his wife’s death, which leaves Ethan to take care of himself and his down syndrome sister. Inkling helps to bring the family back together by giving each of them what they need most.

I also liked how Ethan tried to do better once he realized that Inkling’s help was like cheating. I liked how he came to this conclusion himself and that he tried to correct it by having Inkling teach him how to draw. I do, however, wish there was just smidgen more closure between Ethan’s dad and his publisher.

Inkling has been nominated for the 2019-2020 Black Eyed Susan Award and I think it could definitely be a contender. They’ve picked some really great books this year. This one gets 4.5 stars from me.

That’s all for now!