Light in the Darkness

Light in the Darkness: A Story about How Slaves Learned in Secret, written by Lesa Cline-Ransome and illustrated by James E. Ransome, is a nominee for the 2015-16 South Carolina Picture Book Award.

Light in the Darkness is a moving account of how slaves risked their lives to do something that most of us take for granted. They stole away in the dead of night, always looking over their shoulders for patrollers, to meet in pit schools. These schools, often nothing more than holes in the ground covered by branches, were led by older, literate slaves who taught others to read.

This book is an excellent addition to studies of slavery and how people knew that knowledge and reading were essential to being truly free. I think Light in the Darkness would be an ideal selection for Black History Month and American Education Week celebrations.

Light in the Darkness is a wonderful read-aloud for children of all ages, but some younger readers may need a bit more background information on slavery to really appreciate the story.

Z is for Moose

Z is for Moose, written by Kelly Bingham and illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky, is a nominee for the 14-15 South Carolina Picture Book Award.

Z is for Moose is a funny book that is ideal for any young reader who is learning the alphabet or likes picture books with lots of silliness.

Zebra is trying to put on a production of the alphabet. Moose, though, is impatient for his turn. He interupts other letters wondering if it’s his turn yet, and when he finally gets ready for his big moment with the letter M, he discovers that Zebra has given his spot to a mouse.

Moose is not happy about being replaced, so he goes on a bit of a rampage. He takes over the alphabet and throws everything into a tizzy. Eventually, Zebra gets things back in order. He realizes, however, that he’s hurt Moose’s feelings, and there’s only one way to make things right.

While I’m not sure this book is ideal for read-aloud, I do think it will be a hit with kids, primarily preschool-kindergarten students, who are exploring the alphabet. They’ll enjoy seeing where Moose messes things up, but they’ll still be able to see the alphabet in order. I predict that this book could lead some young readers to create their own crazy ABC books.

Dangerous Waters: An Adventure on Titanic

Patrick Waters wants to work. He wants to be seen as valuable to his family, particularly his big brother James, who has a job in the engine room of the new ship, Titanic. One night, Patrick gets the chance of a lifetime. He finds a way to sneak aboard and work on the Titanic himself, but he’s not exactly cut out for the engine room. (He’s only twelve, after all.) Instead, Patrick finds a place as a steward on the mammoth ocean liner, and this position will change his life forever…

Patrick catches the eye of a wealthy passenger, Harry Elkins Widener, and eventually becomes the man’s private steward, not realizing that this new job will lead him down an intriguing and dangerous path. Harry is in possession of a rare and valuable book, and there are a couple of nefarious types on board who will do anything to steal such a prize.

Patrick isn’t sure what’s so special about this old book, so he does whatever he can to learn more. It seems this book may have the key to unlocking the most powerful force in the world, and some people will do anything–even kill–to learn its secrets. Patrick does his best to help Harry protect the book, but the Titanic is on a path that could put Patrick’s quest–and his very life–in jeopardy…

As the Titanic makes its way to its eventual demise, Patrick is trying to keep himself, his brother, Harry, and his precious book safe. In the process, Patrick discovers his own strengths and what really matters to him.

Will Patrick be able to save Harry’s book from those bent on stealing it? And will he be able to save himself from the tragedy that is to come? Join Patrick on his adventure aboard the Titanic when you read Dangerous Waters by Gregory Mone!

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library

Kyle Keeley loves games of all kinds, and his favorites are the creations of the amazing Luigi Lemoncello, an eccentric genius who just happened to grow up in Kyle’s hometown.

Kyle’s town has been without a public library for years, but everyone is excited that a new library is about to open–and that excitement only grows when it’s revealed that Mr. Lemoncello himself designed the new building. Kyle is sure that the library is awesome–even though he doesn’t like to read all that much–and he is determined to be one of the first people to see just how cool it is.

An essay contest will determine which twelve seventh-graders are invited to a lock-in at the new library. Even though Kyle’s essay efforts are a bit rough, he is selected to spend the night in the greatest library the world has ever known! Filled with holograms, a Wonder Dome with changing scenes overhead, hover ladders that reach the highest shelves, state-of-the-art technology, and books galore, the library is more than any of the kids ever dreamed…and so is the contest that led them here.

When the lock-in is over, these twelve kids are presented with the opportunity of a lifetime. They may extend their stay and play the most exciting game of their lives, Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library! Whoever finds the escape route from the library within the next twenty-four hours becomes Mr. Lemoncello’s spokesperson for all of his gaming products! Kyle doesn’t even need to think about whether or not he’ll stay. (Not everyone feels the same.) This is more than he ever dreamed of, and he’s in it to win it. (He’s not the only one.)

During this exciting day, Kyle teams up with some friends–old and new–and uses knowledge of books, the library, games, and Mr. Lemoncello himself to find a way out of this most unusual library. Will they be able to escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library before time runs out? Before someone else beats them to it? And what will they learn along the way?

Play the game along with Kyle and company and see if you can figure out how to Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library!

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein is a nominee for the 14-15 South Carolina Children’s Book Award.

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce is a book-lover’s dream, an Academy Award-winning short film, and a nominee for the 14-15 South Carolina Picture Book Award.

If you’re trying to find the perfect gift for the book lover in your life, look no further than The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore. This enchanting book shines a spotlight on the power of words, books, and stories in our lives.

When Morris Lessmore’s own story is scattered in the winds, he is led to a building full of books seeking his attention. He gives them care and shares them with others. He also finds time to work on his own story once again.

Eventually, Mr. Lessmore finishes his story, leaving it with the books he so loved, and a new reader comes along to care for all of the stories left behind.

This vibrant, captivating book is sure to find a home in any library. When combined with the short film and the interactive app, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore is a reading experience that is not to be missed.

The Day Dirk Yeller Came to Town

The Day Dirk Yeller Came to Town, written by Mary Casanova and illustrated by Ard Hoyt, was nominated for the 13-14 South Carolina Picture Book Award.

Normally, I’m not a fan of westerns. (Yes, that tends to include picture books.) I made an exception, however, for The Day Dirk Yeller Came to Town. As a matter of fact, I challenge any book lover–particularly my fellow librarians–NOT to love this book. It’s wonderful on so many levels!

The whole town is scared when news spreads that the infamous outlaw Dirk Yeller is coming to town. Everyone but Sam, that is. Sam sort of understands Dirk Yeller. He knows what it’s like to search for something to ease his restlessness, so he decides to step in and show Dirk what he really needs to do to fix his twitchin’ and jumpin’ and scaring everybody with his orneriness. It seems the cure for a restless, curious mind can be found at the local library! (Who knew!)

Dirk vows to return to town soon, but this time it’s not to stir up trouble. No, sirree! He needs to check out more library books…not to mention the pretty librarian! (Check out the end papers to see how that part of the story turns out!)

How Rocket Learned to Read

How Rocket Learned to Read by Tad Hills was nominated for the 2012-13 South Carolina Picture Book Award.

This book is a charming tale of a busy dog and a little yellow bird. The bird is looking for a student, and Rocket just happens to be in the area. (The bird’s school is located in Rocket’s favorite nap area.) At first, Rocket just wants to take his nap and keep to himself, but, as the bird begins to read a story about a dog looking for his bone, Rocket gets interested in learning more. Eventually, the bird teaches Rocket about the wonderful, glorious alphabet and how to spell and read. When the bird flies south for the winter, Rocket continues to practice his spelling and reading, getting ready for school to start when the weather warms up again.

How Rocket Learned to Read is a great read-aloud for students, particularly those who are just learning to read themselves, to teach them how wonderful reading can be. 

Students who enjoy this book will also love the sequel, Rocket Writes a Story. More Rocket stories are sure to come, so be on the lookout for these wonderful books!