The Cybils 2018: Children's and YA Bloggers' Literary Awards (with a Chicken Nugget GIVEAWAY!)

It's the most wonderful time of the year: the kids are back in school, settled and happy; you can get pumpkin spice everything (though admittedly, this goes too far); it is even rumored that in some places the air is crisp and cool.

But even more importantly (tiny drumroll in your head, please):


You might be asking yourself what the Cybils are, and if you are, I'm sorry, we can no longer be friends. Just playing!

The Cybils are the Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards. Here's a little bit directly from the fine organizers:
The Cybils Awards aims to recognize the children’s and young adult authors and illustrators whose books combine the highest literary merit and popular appeal. If some la-di-dah awards can be compared to brussels sprouts, and other, more populist ones to gummy bears, we’re thinking more like organic chicken nuggets. We’re yummy and nutritious.
I mean, who doesn't want to be an organic chicken nugget? You know you do. Or you at least want to nominate a yummy book to be a chicken nugget (this analogy is getting complicated). And you can!

From now until October 15, you can nominate one book per category (unless you are the publisher or author - then you need to wait!). Nominations should be for books published in the US or Canada between October 16, 2017 and October 15, 2018.

For your nominating pleasure, here are the dipping sauces  categories:

If you had a favorite new book this year in any of these categories, why not share the love and nominate it? Nominate a book by going HERE (by 10/15/18), then come back and tell me what book you nominated in the comments and I'll enter you into a thrilling giveaway: one randomly chosen winner will receive their choice of a $15 Chick-fil-a or Wendy's gift card (because according to Business Insider, Eater, Thrillist and UpRoxx, these are the nation's best chicken nuggets) so you can go get your chicken on! 

*This giveaway is in no way affiliated with or sponsored by the Cybils Awards crew, Chick-fil-a or Wendy's. See the rules that govern all PCJ giveaways, here.

Happy reading!

Back to School...Emotions!

Summer is over! Cue the marching band! Break out the champagne! Get ready for...

GIANT back-to-school emotions. Womp, womp, womp.

But wait!

Giant emotions are a good thing. They mean you're raising strong, bright, compassionate kiddos! You're doing great!

But in case you need a little help discussing those ENORMOUS feelings with those little kids, check out these winners:

We Don't Eat Our Classmates
Ryan T. Higgins

An uber-humorous reminder that:
a) you can't eat your classmates.
b) everyone is looking for a friend.
c) sometimes you're in the wrong, but it's fixable.
d) your fear of goldfish isn't irrational (and don't poke the classroom pet).
e) all of the above.

Answer: e) all of the above! So funny. So, so funny.

Grumpy Monkey 
Suzanne Lang and Max Lang

You know what? Sometimes we're grumpy, for no particular reason. And sometimes, it doesn't need to be corrected or fixed. It's alright to sit with grumpy...and sitting with grumpy might just make the grumpy start to go away.

A refreshing take on a timeless problem.

Ishi, Simple Tips From a Solid Friend 
Akiko Yabuki

Teaching mindfulness is a game changer for some kids, and Ishi (a cute rock friend who provides gentle tips for dealing with life's daily situations) is a wonderful mindfulness tool! Originally a self-published, Kickstarter-funded book, Ishi is now winning awards and bringing people together all over the world through a community of Happiness Ambassadors. He even has his own Instagram account!

Good Night Yoga
Mariam Gates and Sarah Jane Hinder

If you're looking for a way to bring more relaxation to your bedtime routine and inspire more restful sleep, you might want to try yoga! Good Night Yoga makes beginning a yoga practice with children easy, through beautifully illustrated pictures, a thread to tie all the poses together, and even a brief guided meditation.

And on that note...did you know you can ask Alexa to help you relax?

The Opposite of Worry (The Playful Parenting Approach to Childhood Anxieties and Fears)
Lawrence J. Cohen, PhD

This one isn't for the kids; it's for the parents!

One of my biggest frustrations with self-help books is when they explain how a problem is a problem, but then don't give you any suggestions for how to address it. The Opposite of Worry is NOT that sort of book. It is chock-full of tips and strategies for overcoming the smallest to the biggest challenges for worriers, even if that worrier is mainly you!

Honestly, even if the children in your life aren't anxious, I would recommend this as a parenting book just for the tips on how to be more playful! It's pretty brilliant.

(And THANKS for the recommendation, Kari!)

As always, feel free to leave me a comment about these books, or any books you'd recommend adding to the list. Happy reading, everyone!

From an Alabama Spitfire to A Boy, a Mouse, and a Spider...and Also an Octopus

You might have noticed that non-fiction picture books, especially picture book biographies, are making a mark in the book world lately. And for good reason. These aren't your grandparent's non-fiction books (although some of them may be about your grandparents...). They are well-researched and innovative. They're less "book report" and more book. They often focus on just a short period of a person's life, are concisely and cleverly told, and/or mix a fictional story with juicy bits of non-fiction information (a category often referred to as "fictinformational").

The best ones capture the good and the bad in relatable, child-friendly ways, and remind us that we're all human. They whet the appetite for further learning. They inspire us. And this stack of some of our non-fiction favorites is chock-full of the best of the best.

Alabama Spitfire: The Story of Harper Lee and To Kill a Mockingbird
Bethany Hegedus and Erin McGuire

Published just last month (Jan 2018), Alabama Spitfire tells the tale of (Nelle) Harper Lee's life - from her childhood (readers can easily see the inspiration for future characters), to her friendship with Truman Capote, to her success as the author of "the book of the twentieth century." While younger readers won't relate to her adult years as much, or understand the ties to the actual novel, there is plenty of inspiration for young readers; from a "tomboy," standing up to bullies/being bullied to persistence and success after feeling like her work wasn't good enough to share with others for seven long years.

Deborah Hopkinson and Qin Leng

Barbara Herkert and Lauren Castillo

Maggie Tokuda-Hall and Benji Davies

Mister and Lady Day: Billie Holiday and the Dog Who Loved Her
Amy Novesky and Vanessa Brantley Newton

I really love when I can tie the arts together with a picture book that makes everything a little more concrete. This is a great story to read to any music lovers; the tie-in between Billie Holiday and the love she had for her dogs also makes it perfect for animal lovers. I also adore this one as a writer. The words beautifully capture the fact that everyone makes mistakes (while leaving the door open for parents to decide how much to share about the mistakes she made - which if your kids are anything like mine, they'll ask) and that mistakes have consequences. But no matter the mistake, we can bounce back: "Then, just when her career was at the top, Lady got into trouble. She had to leave home for a year and a day. And Mister couldn't come. Lady knew what it was like to be left, and it made her heartsick."

Antsy Ansel: Ansel Adams, A Life in Nature
Cindy Jenson-Elliot and Christy Hale

This one is for any child who can't sit still, and would rather be outside (in other words, every child). A beautiful book for introducing or encouraging an interest in photography, as well as a reminder to stop and notice nature - a wonderful lesson not just for kids!

This one would pair quite well with a copy of The Pocket Scavenger, a journal for scavengers and world explorers, by Keri Smith.

Patricia MacLachlan and Hadley Hooper

Javaka Steptoe

Nadia: The Girl Who Couldn't Sit Still
Karlin Gray and Christine Davenier

A perfect tie-in to any Olympic watching, this is the story of Nadia Comaneci, and her rise to Olympic gold (over and over).

I love this one for it's depiction of the amount of time and practice that goes into doing anything well, as well as how it doesn't gloss over Nadia's early failures and defeat.

Perfectly paced and a great length for the attention-span of littles, Nadia's story is a tale that both boys and girls will enjoy, whether into gymnastics or not.

Step Right Up: How Doc and Jim Key Taught the World About Kindness
Donna Janell Bowman and Daniel Minter

Did you grow up with Mister Ed on Nick at Night? If you did, you are going to love this one. A horse that could read, write and do math? Even if you didn't grow up with Mister Ed, I'm pretty sure you'll find that this is an irresistible story.

It is a story of love and kindness toward animals. Of perseverance. Of breaking though historical racial barriers. Of entrepreneurialism (because OH MY GOODNESS, Doc had an entrepreneurial spirit - a formerly enslaved man who became a self-taught veterinarian, with his own line of medications!).

I honestly can't say enough good things about this book. Just read it. :)

Lynne Cox and Brian Floca

Danna Smith and Bagram Ibatoulline

Jason Chin

I'd love to hear your thoughts, or if you have a favorite that isn't featured on the list. Happy reading!


The latest storytime combo idea, featuring: Lions and Tigers and Bears...OH MY!

A Beginner's Guide to Bear Spotting 
by Michelle Robinson and David Roberts

There's a Tiger in the Garden 
by Lizzy Stewart

Lion vs. Rabbit 
by Alex Latimer

Looking for more storytime combo ideas? Click HERE!  
Each of these pairings of books are related by topic and/or theme, 
and are generally perfect for 3-8 year olds!

Happy Reading!