Monday, September 28, 2015

Book Recommendations by Charlie Joe Jackson

If you MUST read, here are a few favorites, recommended by Charlie Joe Jackson...
But first, some tips for reading...
1. If you have to read a book, make sure it has short chapters.
2. Make sure you've read at least one book to completion, so that if someone asks you what's your favorite book, you can answer the question.
3. If you absolutely, positively have to read a book, make sure it is on a topic you like.
4. It's possible to dislike reading and still be good at writing (or drawing!).
5. Not all books are bad.

And remember, if the book isn't available at your favorite library, place a hold or have a librarian request it for you!

Delivery of Doom by Dan Taccarino

Zorgoochi Intergalactic Pizza: Delivery of Doom
When Luno's dad FINALLY gives him the responsibility of delivering pizza orders all over the galaxy, Luno is excited, mostly. He knows that delivering pizza is no walk on the moon. There are hostile customers, and there's always the threat of his deliveries being intercepted by Quantum Pizza, the fast-growing chain restaurant that will do anything to put indies like Zorgoochi Intergalactic out of business.

Otis Dooda by Ellen Potter
Otis Dooda by Ellen Potter
Meet Otis Dooda. Yes, that's his name. Go on and have a good laugh. He's heard it all before. He's been called things like Otis Poopy Stink and Otis Toilet Twinkie. That's right, yuck it up and get it out of your system. We'll wait.
All right then. This is the story of Otis and the Dooda family (including their rat named Smoochie) moving to New York City, and the incredibly strange, but true, things that happened to them. It all started with Otis getting cursed by a guy in a potted plant in their apartment building lobby, and then meeting a bunch of their neighbors, including a farting pony named Peaches who was disguised as a dog. And that was just the first day.

My Life as a Joke by Jake Tashjian

Derek Fallon discovers all the angst that comes with being twelve--he just wants to feel grown up, but life gets in the way with a series of mishaps that make him look like a baby. He passes out during a worm dissection in science class, falls flat on his face in gym class and gets a fat lip that causes him to lisp all day, and his plans for a monster-truck party turn into a bouncy house disaster. Why isn't being in middle school as great as Derek imagined? Thankfully, with a little help from his friends--and, ironically, a Toys for Tots fundraiser--things seem like they could start shaping up at last.

Justin Case: Rules, Tools, and Maybe a Bully by Rachel

Justin Case made it through third grade and summer camp in the previous two books. Now he's in fourth grade, and there's even more to worry about: friends, bullies, grades, tests--and did we say bullies?
Once again, Rachel Vail and Matthew Cordell bring to life all the worries and triumphs of elementary school life, in diary form. Fans will relate to Justin and his adventures.

Stuck in the Middle (of Middle School): A Novel in Doodles by Karen Romano YoungStuck in the Middle (of Middle School): A Novel in Doodles
In Stuck in the Middle (of Middle School) by Karen Romano Young, Doreen and her family had to move because of her once she got kicked out of school. She's vowed to make her new middle school work for her, but it's still a challenge, given her ADHD, her younger sister's growing popularity, and tensions between her parents, as they all adjust to a new city and new jobs. Add to that a lot of homework, a talent show, and her first [gulp!] school dance, and you'll agree that Doreen needs to work extra hard to stay focused. Good thing she has her doodle-journal!

Katfish by Obert Skye

Rob Burnside's life is in ruins. After his escapades with Pinocula and his resulting outrageous lies, everyone is fed up with him. In this Creature from My Closet book by Obert Skye, Rob needs help. And his science laboratory closet is there to give him a hand. Meet Katfish, a mashup of Katniss from the Hunger Games and the Little Mermaid. This girl is strong as nails and sports a tail.
Everyone at Rob's school is excited about an upcoming riff on the Hunger Games created by Principal Smelt: the Fun-ger Games. Rob is less excited because the principal and his mom have roped him into participating. But Katfish is sticking around to help Rob out with girl advice, Fun-ger Games tips, and how to get people to stop hating him. What could go wrong?

Blurbs from

Monday, September 21, 2015

Four Picture Books to Share with your Children this Fall.

With the weather finally cooling down and pumpkins making their appearance at grocery stores around town, it’s finally starting to feel like fall. Young children will be curious about the busy activities of the squirrels in their yard and the sudden appearance of Halloween decorations and candy at every store.  Reading books about the seasons helps kids make sense of the changing world around them. Whether you are still looking for inspiration to get excited about this beautiful season or you are already a fan, here are four picture books that perfectly evoke the wonders to come and are sure to please the youngest readers in your house.
Leaves by David Ezra Stein
An adorable bear notices the leaves falling from the trees and grows increasingly distressed. Where will they go now, he wonders. He gets to work gathering as many as he can and deposits them into a big hollow tree trunk. Realizing he has the perfect place to take a rest, the bear cuddles up and falls asleep on the leaf pile, ready for the cold weather! Simple, with only a few words per page, Leaves works great for young toddlers up to preschool age.
Fletcher and the Falling Leaves by Julia Rawlinson
This sweet, classic tale shares many traits with David Ezra Stein’s Leaves, except the story features more words and works better for a slightly older child. Fletcher is a young fox saddened by the sight of leaves turning brown and falling to the ground.  When he wakes one morning to see the tree covered with white frost and snow, Fletcher realizes that the brown leaves don’t necessarily signify the tree’s demise but its transformation.
Penguin and Pumpkin by Salina Yoon
Salina Yoon’s penguin stories are full of heart and simple, positive messages that will resonate with preschoolers. When the penguins realize that autumn will not be coming to their icy home, they decide to take a trip in search of leaves and pumpkins.  Whimsical details abound in Yoon’s bright illustrations and children and parents alike will enjoy seeking them out on every page.
The Busy Little Squirrel by Nancy Tafuri
A story time classic this time of year, Nancy Tafuri can always be counted on to deliver the perfect mix of story, repetition and wonderfully expressive animal characters. As the weather turns colder, all of the animals in the forest invite Squirrel to do various activities with them, but he is too busy to join them. Why is the squirrel so busy? By the end of the story, all is revealed when we see the squirrel cuddled up to sleep surrounded by the nuts he has gathered. A perfect read aloud for teachers, librarians and parents. Tafuri’s books offer many opportunities for discussing the pictures and asking simple questions about plot.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

In Brief - Wellesley is #5 Best Suburb to Raise a Family in MA!

Trumped only by Sudbury, Lexington, Weston and Wayland, we are not surprised Wellesley is in the top 5 places to raise a family

Fast Facts -

Population: 28,504

Colleges in town: Wellesley College, Babson College, Mass Bay Community College (Wellesley campus)


  • Wellesley Farms
  • Wellesley Fells
  • Wellesley Hills (02481)
  • Wellesley Lower Falls
  • Wellesley Square (02482)
  • Babson Park (02457)
  • Overbrook
  • Sheridan Hills

  • Median household income is approximately 3X the national average.

    49% of residents have a Master's Degree or higher.

    Yay Wellesley!

    Friday, August 28, 2015

    TBR - To Be Read. How Long Will That Stack of Books Take You?

    If you're like us, you've got a never-ending list of books you want to read.  Will you ever get through all of them?  Just when you knock three off the list, five more show up.  Read It Forward has a fun calculator that estimates how old you will be when (or if!) you finish your to-read-wish-list.

    Give it a try here!

    Friday, August 21, 2015

    Fairy Tales: Where to Begin?

    Fairy tales have been making quite an impressive comeback in recent years. With the success of the television show Once (featuring an enchanted Maine town filled with fairy tale characters), and Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods (which incorporates many fairy tale characters), fairy tales are all around us. Since many grown ups have fond memories attached to the iconic fairy tales, we naturally look forward to sharing these stories with our children. But where to begin? Which stories work well for toddlers and preschoolers?  What versions of the stories should you choose from the dozens available?
    A brief walk through the 398s, as we librarians refer to the fairy tale section of the Dewey Decimal organized non-fiction shelves, reveals a wealth of gorgeously illustrated editions by dozens of beloved authors from Tomie DePaola to James Marshall to Steven Kellogg.  Many children's authors and illustrators produce an interpretation of a fairy tale at some point.  Trust me when I tell you that some are better than others. Authors interpret these tales in a variety of ways, picking and choosing how terrifying or how silly to make a particular villain. With theThree Little Pigs, for instance, you will read versions where the first two pigs merely run to their brother pig's home and are never actually eaten by the wolf. In various versions of Cinderella, the stepsisters either shove their foot unsuccessfully into the glass slipper and make a fool of themselves, or they actually cut off their toe or their heel to fit inside, as the original story tells. Knowing which version to start with can be a daunting task!  Let the following titles serve as an introduction to the variety of fairy tale interpretaions available! As with any book or movie you may be nervous about introducing to your kids, consider previewing it before sharing it with your child!
    Lucy Cousins's Yummy: Eight Favorite Fairy Tales
    Best known for her Maisy series, author Lucy Cousins illustrates eight favorite tales in this collection including The Three Little Pigs, The Little Red Hen, Henny Penny, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, The Three Billy Goats Gruff, The Musicians of Bremen, The Enormous Turnip and Little Red Riding Hood. This collection is the perfect introduction to fairy tales for your youngest readers. But be forewarned: these versions do not shy away from violence! Foxy Woxy gobbles up all of Henny Penny’s friends and the hunter chops off the wolf’s head with gusto in Little Red Riding Hood. Lucy Cousins’ big bold illustrations draw the attention of toddlers as well as preschoolers and her simple, clear, no frills telling of the familiar tales make them easy to understand and relate to. My two year old responded very strongly to the stories in this collection and we read them over and over and over again. I watched her study the illustrations on her own, flipping through the pages one by one. To a grown up’s eyes, Lucy Cousins’ art seems simplified, like it could have been drawn by a child. This is the key to her success with little ones, I think. Big bold lines and bright primary colors invite them right into a world they can understand.

    James Marshall's Three Little Pigs and others stories
    James Marshall is a classic children’s author and creator of the distinct and hilarious George and Martha books. Marshall’s greatest strengths as an author and illustrator are his sense of humor and his irreverent approach to storytelling. He inserts little winks and asides into all of his texts, including his version of classic fairy tales such as  The Three Little Pigs, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood and Goldilocks and the Three Bears. In his versions of these tales, you will find a sly humor and substantial, engaging prose. I love the slightly cross-eyed gaze of his big bad wolf who swaggers around like a conman in his stories. These texts work well for preschool through 1st grade.
    Sarah Gibb’s  Rapunzel
    Don’t be fooled by the abundance of pink, illustrator Sarah Gibb’s version of Rapunzel is stunning and unique with intricate silhouettes and graceful interpretations of the action in this well-known story. It is cleaned up a bit from the original, making it a wonderful, non-Disney companion or alternative to Disney’s Tangled. Perfect for the princess-obsessed preschoolers in your life.
    Trina Schart Hyman's Little Red Riding Hood and Snow White
    Hyman’s illustrations of classic fairy tales are the truest most perfect evocations of these stories. Dark, eerie, forlorn and gorgeous, Hyman’s characters often stare right out of the page, inviting you into the story.  Her Snow White is so stunning, you can spend hours simply gazing at the details and the beautiful faces of her characters. Her heroines always have perfectly disheveled hair and gorgeous period clothing. I  mean, really, her tableau could have inspired Anthropologie’s whole aesthetic. Hyman illustrated over 150 books and won the Caldecott medal for St. George and the Dragon. I haven’t yet had the pleasure of exploring all of these books, but her Little Red Riding Hood and Snow White stick out as my favorite versions of those stories. Due to the length and depth of these tellings, her books work best with older kids, kindergarten through third grade, ideally. And yes, there is no holding back in these versions. There will be blood.
    The Flying Witch by Jane Yolen. Illustrated by Vladimir Vagan.
    The titular flying witch in this Baba Yaga story is truly terrifying! She flies around the countryside in her mortar and pestle, looking for plump children to eat. But when she captures a young girl who has fallen off her father’s turnip truck, she is outwitted !  The girl convinces the witch to keep her alive for a while and fatten her up with turnips. By the time the girl’s father catches on and comes to her rescue, she has appeased the witch by cooking such a delicious soup made of turnips, the witch no longer wants to eat her. Intricate illustrations filled with details of life in the Russian countryside bring this story to life. While The Flying Witch has a deliciously frightening character in the witch, it has a happy ending, making it a great choice for parents who wish to avoid going all the way into the dark, twisted world of fairy tales and prefer to merely hint at the big bad instead. Author Yolen drew inspiration from hundreds of Baba Yaga stories to craft her tale.
    Jan Brett
    It’s hard to choose one title by Jan Brett, since she has authored so many memorable tales, many of which are retellings of fairy and folk tales. Brett has a distinct illustration style, in which each page is framed with panels showing what other characters in the story are up to and hint at what might be coming next. Her wonderfully expressive animal faces delight young children, making them a hit with the preschool crowd. Googling her name reveals dozens of photos with Brett holding or interacting with live examples of many of the animals she illustrates so well. She seems to live an amazing dream life that involves travelling the world to research first hand the places, the people and the animals she then returns home and writes great books about!  Brett’s narratives of well known stories such as the The Mitten and The Hat are simple and uncomplicated, while her reimaginings of other stories like The Three Snow Bears and Cinders : A Chicken Cinderella add a fun and imaginative twist on the familiar stories that young children will have no problem recognizing.