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Between the Covers / Shhhh... we're reading.   Photo of reading after bedtime
Diane Bobo

When not escaping into a good children's book, Diane Bobo spends her time enjoying her family and friends. You'll usually find her at the park or in her backyard puttering around. She's just as likely to be relaxing on her deck as she is to be hiking in the woods. You'll find her working at the Parkville Branch.

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To Infinity and Beyond!

Pluto's SecretPluto’s Secret, an Icy World’s Tale of Discovery by Margaret A. Weitekamp with David DeVorkin lets the cat out of the bag. Dancing around with its moon and other small worlds on the outer edges of the solar system, it watches as the people on Earth try to figure it out. Discovered in 1930 after years of searching, astronomers thought they had found the ninth planet around the sun. Pluto plays in its orbit, laughing at the astronomers. As more powerful telescopes are developed, scientists realize that Pluto is not only different than the other planets; it’s also not alone in its orbit. In 2006, this discovery led astronomers to vote on a definition of a planet, something which had never been done before. Pluto’s secret is revealed. It is not a planet, but the "first example of something new" --and it’s not the only one. Scientists have discovered an entire band of icy worlds around the sun (called the Kuiper Belt), as well as around other stars. As technology evolves, so does our ability to learn more about the Universe. 

 

This children’s book, put out in association with the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, does an extraordinary job of piquing the reader’s interest in the solar system. Children will enjoy learning that an 11-year-old girl suggested the name for Pluto. Coupled with Diane Kidd’s charming illustrations, the story will entertain readers of all ages. Facts and photographs follow the story and gives those interested more resources. In 2006 NASA launched the New Horizons spacecraft to conduct a flyby study of Pluto and its moon, Charon. It’s halfway there, and should reach Pluto in 2015. Follow its progress here!   

Diane

 
 

Critters and Clumsies

Amy and the Missing PuppyAll About EllieIn a BlinkThe Critter Club is a newly published series for the brand new First Chapter book reader.  The first in the series, Amy and the Missing Puppy, by Callie Barkley, introduces four friends (Amy, Ellie, Liz and Marion) at their weekly sleepover party just before spring break. While her three friends have cool plans over the vacation week, Amy is left to hang out in her mother’s animal clinic reading Nancy Drew books. When a neighbor’s puppy goes missing, Amy gets inspiration from the classic girl sleuth she's reading and investigates on her own. Luckily, her three friends’ plans are altered so they can assist Amy with her case. Barkley uses simple yet descriptive language to engage the reader and make the story interesting, but not too complicated. With adorable illustrations by Marsha Riti and big, simple text, (as well as charming stories about friendship and animals), The Critter Club series is a great starter series for the young reader. Ellie’s story is next in All About Ellie.

 

Introducing a new line of fairy books told from the human side!  Disney’s Never Girls series transports four girls to Pixie Hollow. In certain circumstances, when Never Land gets too close to our world and at just the right time, "Clumsies" (as the fairies like to call humans) can visit Never Land. In a Blink, by Kiki Thorpe, is the first title in the series. Kate, Lainey and Mia are playing soccer in the backyard, when a blink-talent fairy pops into the garden. Mia’s little sister Gabby still believes in fairies, so when Prilla blinks in front of her, Gabby catches hold and all four girls are plopped into Pixie Hollow. The girls meet Tinker Bell and the other Disney fairies as they enlist their help to get back home. Fans of the Disney Fairies series will love this extension of the series, and it’s perfect for readers who devoured Daisy Meadows’ Rainbow Magic fairy books.

Diane

 
 

It Only Takes a Spark

It Only Takes a Spark

posted by:
March 6, 2013 - 8:35am

The Golden RectangleThe Number DevilLight a fire under your young mathematician! In The Golden Rectangle, author Gillian Neimark tells the tale of a 10-year-old girl from Puddleville, Georgia, who wants to grow up to be a horse rustler (although she’s not sure exactly what that is). Unfortunately, her destiny may lie elsewhere. After finding a mysterious key in her secret hayloft hideout, Lucy Moon is visited by Square Man, a 4-inch, square–shaped wizard intent on removing all curved lines from the world. Square Man tries to convince Lucy that an evil wizard named Dr. Pi is trying to make spirals out of all of the rectangles in the world. Lucy is skeptical and uses what turns out to be her magic key to land in the closet of Flor Bernoulli, herself a magical 10-year-old in New York. The girls embark on a whimsical adventure as they try to prevent Square Man from “squaring” the earth. The story is light and fun while introducing the reader to the concept of the Golden Rectangle (a mathematical term referring to a rectangle with a specific ratio of dimensions which is considered to be the most aesthetically pleasing of all rectangles. It has some other nifty properties as well). This is a sequel to The Secret Spiral, by the same author.

 

The Number Devil: A Mathematical Adventure, by Hans Magnus Enzensberger, takes a more direct approach in teaching mathematical concepts. Robert, the main character, hates math. The Number Devil takes over his dreams to teach him mathematical concepts in his sleep, one concept a night for twelve nights. Using everyday language and very few technical terms, The Number Devil brings clarity to topics such as infinite numbers, prime numbers, and Fibonacci numbers. Using pictures, diagrams and clear examples, the Number Devil helps Robert understand the topics and shows shortcuts to quickly showcase the principles. Even readers with a mild case of arithmophobia will learn to appreciate math after reading these titles.

Diane

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Hard Knock Lives

Hard Knock Lives

posted by:
January 9, 2013 - 9:01am

One for the MurphysThe Great Gilly HopkinsReal life doesn’t always have a happily ever after. Kids may want to try these two well–written books for stories of real life with real endings. After a violent episode of abuse by her mother and stepfather, twelve-year-old Carley Connors is sent to her first foster home where she is welcomed by Mrs. Murphy, herself a first-timer.  In One for the Murphys, by Lynda Mullaly Hunt, Carley tries to survive in a strange new environment while being haunted by broken pieces of memory from that horrible night. New clothes, home-cooked meals and a return to school is a lot of adjustment for this tough, neglected girl from Las Vegas. A less-than-warm welcome from her foster brother and foster father adds to her anxiety. Hunt displays a deft touch with serious issues, showing Carley’s discomfort and distrust of the kindness shown to her without hitting the reader over the head with her angst.  Her characters feel genuine with real emotions and concerns. Carley learns a lot about herself and about love while staying with the Murphys. 

 

First published in 1978, The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson is another foster child story with similar themes of finding family and finding yourself. Gilly Hopkins is an eleven year old girl bouncing from foster home to foster home until her beautiful mother, Courtney, can come claim her. The book tells the tale of her stay with Maime Trotter, her foster son William Ernest and family friend, blind Mr. Randolph.  Gilly is independent, strong-willed and blunt with her opinions, particularly about the “freaks” she has been stuck with.  Gilly’s crude language and bad behavior makes her particularly unlikable at first.  The reader begins to cheer for this unhappy creature as the details of her life emerge and as she grows to care for her foster family.  The winner of numerous awards, including the National Book Award and a Newbery Honor, The Great Gilly Hopkins still resonates with children today.

Diane

 
 

Road Trip

Road Trip

posted by:
December 19, 2012 - 9:01am

Bird & Squirrel on the Run!Bird & Squirrel on the Run! is the funny new graphic novel from James Burks. Squirrel accidentally loses his winter supply of nuts while trying to rescue Bird from the Cat. Limited by an injured wing, Bird talks Squirrel into walking south with him to survive the winter. Thus begins a wonderful buddy adventure for the younger reader. While Bird is fun-loving and adventurous, Squirrel is very cautious and nervous. As Bird learns a little bit about responsibility and Squirrel learns a little bit about fun, the two new friends contend with angry bees, scary snakes, waterfalls, dire predictions (from a fortune-telling mole!) and one determined cat on their way to warmer lands. Displaying loyalty and fortitude, the pair faces down one last fearsome, flying foe. Will the friends survive their journey?

 

Burks’ bright colorful illustrations are easy to follow. Using such details as an acorn helmet for the cautious Squirrel and aviator goggles for the adventurous Bird, Burks’ artwork complements the story well. His lesson of a happy medium between being overly-cautious and carelessly adventurous is subtly conveyed. While the text is simple and very manageable, the story is delightfully detailed. This book could serve as a wonderful transition to chapter books for the newly independent reader… and it’s a fun read!

Diane

 
 

ABC Animals

ABC Animals

posted by:
November 7, 2012 - 9:11am

A is for Musk OxAll the Awake Animals Are Almost AsleepTwo new picture books use animals to teach the alphabet. In A is for Musk Ox by Erin Cabatingan, readers learn why every letter in the alphabet is for “musk ox.” This hysterical take on the classic ABC book begins with Joseph the Musk Ox ruining Zebra’s alphabet book by eating the apple. Claiming it would have been boring to start ANOTHER book with “A is for Apple”, Joseph takes this opportunity to describe the greatness of musk oxen. Not sure what musk oxen are? Read this book and you will discover numerous tidbits like “Eskimos call musk oxen Omingmak” and “the soft underwool of a musk ox is called Qiviut.” Hilarious illustrations by Matthew Myers will have readers giggling non-stop as they watch what happens to the original subject of each letter after Joseph is done.

 

All the Awake Animals Are Almost Asleep by Crescent Dragonwagon takes a more gentle approach to the topic. The mother in this book uses alliteration to describe sleeping animals while tucking her young child into bed. Inclusion of less common animals, such as an Ibex who “inches his way up the icy incline toward a good day’s nap” adds to the charm of the story. Starting and ending the story in a lyrical rhyme, the soothing text calms the restless child and lulls the animals into a peaceful sleep. The soft watercolor illustrations by David McPhail match the tone of the story perfectly. This is a wonderful bedtime story and will quickly become a favorite.

Diane

 
 

It's Not Personal, It's Business

Mr Big: a Tale of Pond LifeMr. Big: a Tale of Pond Life, the cover reads. But when one delves into it, the reader finds this graphic novel by Carol Dembicki and Matt Dembicki is so much more. It begins innocently in springtime as the pond comes to life. The authors show the inhabitants of the pond in a natural light, reminding the reader that life and death are regular parts of the pond ecology. Nighttime in the pond is illustrated using stunning artwork to describe the nocturnal inhabitants’ hierarchy. This simple lesson about life in a pond suddenly twists into a dark tale of revenge when Mr. Big, the resident snapping turtle, quite naturally eats two curious young fish that swim too close. Just another example of the cycle of life in the pond? Not this time. The mother of the young fish refuses to take this one lying down. She pulls together some other pond dwellers – the frogs, other turtles, even the ladybugs – and puts a hit out on Mr. Big. A murder of crows is up for the job, but do they have an ulterior motive? Soon there are ominous sightings of a monstrous fish that can walk on land and fly through the air!

 

Throughout the story, the authors weave together layers of drama and intrigue. The hypocrisy of the frogs as they blithely swallow insect after insect while condemning Mr. Big for eating other creatures; the danger a little mosquito can pose; and the damage done by the introduction of non-native animals to an ecosystem are all subtly imparted to the reader. The rebelling animals remain nameless, yet their thoughts and fears are imparted to the reader via thought bubbles and dialogue. Mr. Big, the only named character, is silent, yet the reader is left with the impression that for Mr. Big "It’s not personal, it’s business." Adults and older children alike will find something to enjoy in this nuanced graphic novel about the perils of messing with Mother Nature.

Diane

 
 

Friendship Matters

Friendship Matters

posted by:
August 22, 2012 - 8:05am

Flabbersmashed About YouBad AppleHorsefly and HoneybeeIn Flabbersmashed About You, by Rachel Vail, Katie Honors describes her hurt feelings when her “best friend in the whole entire world” plays with someone else at recess. Illustrator Yumi Heo’s bright childlike pictures capture Katie’s loneliness and bruised feelings perfectly. She’s “Flabbersmashed” about her best friend, but learns that playing with other children can be fun, too.

 

Bullying and loyalty are the two issues tackled in Bad Apple: A Tale of Friendship. Mac was a good apple. One day, he fell asleep in the rain and Will the Worm got into his head (literally!) Will and Mac become fast friends. They have fun together flying kites, swimming and reading; but when Mac and Will return to the orchard, the other apples tease them and call Mac “rotten.” Even the crab apples won’t play with them. Will leaves the orchard in hopes that it will stop the teasing, but Mac is sad without his new friend. As an added conversation starter, the author tucks a bystander into the story in the form of a Yellow Apple. Yellow Apple doesn’t bully the friends, but doesn’t stick up for them either. The illustrations were done in oils on canvas.  It is written and illustrated by Edward Hemingway (Ernest’s grandson), whose beautiful artwork enhances Bad Apple’s message of ignoring bullies and staying true to your friends.

 

Horsefly and Honeybee by Randy Cecil tells a tale of enemies who must work together to defeat a common foe. Honeybee tries to take a nap in the same flower as Horsefly and a terrible fight ensues, leaving each with just one wing. Left vulnerable, they are both caught by a hungry bullfrog and must work together to escape. The new friends soon realize that there is room enough for both of them in the flower. Cecil also illustrates the book. Using oil on paper, he cleverly manages to show a myriad of expressions on the simply illustrated, bug-eyed characters, which is sure to delight the reader.

Diane

 
 

Just Yuck!

Just Yuck!

posted by:
July 25, 2012 - 8:03am

Yuck's Amazing Underpants and Yuck's Scary SpiderYuck's Slime Monster and Yuck's Gross PartyIn Yuck’s Amazing Underpants and Yuck’s Scary Spider, by Matt and Dave, Yuck is a boy determined to harass his sister, Polly Princess. In the first story of the two-title collection, he has cleverly cultivated the mold and germs that are growing in his underpants by wearing them every day for 6 weeks without washing them. When his amazing underpants come to life, he trains them to mess up the house after Polly Princess cleans. The entire story is filled with gross details of his madcap adventure to aggravate his sister.

 

The second story has Yuck adopting a friendly, hairy arachnid who is promptly caught by the school principal. Yuck hatches a plan that involves training spiders to crawl into his sister’s mouth while she is sleeping. He does this in order to sneak them into school to help rescue his new pet, while incriminating his sister in the process. With characters named Tom Butts and Fartin’ Martin, this is not a read-aloud but rather one to give to young readers who enjoy lowbrow humor. Resist the temptation to ask why they are giggling uncontrollably.

 

Yuck has been popular in the UK for a few years, and is just now being published in the United States. Perfect for fans of the Captain Underpants series, it will leave your young reader in stitches. Be sure to also check out Yuck’s Slime Monster and Yuck’s Gross Party.

Diane

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Cool and Comfortable

Cool and Comfortable

posted by:
July 18, 2012 - 7:05am

Zeke Meeks vs the Horrifying TV-Turnoff WeekGet inside the head of the coolest third grade boy you’ll ever meet as he learns life lessons at school and home. Zeke Meeks, self-described cool kid, likes TV and video games, but could do without girls. When he’s not playing video games, he’s emulating the Enemy Warriors from his favorite television show. In Zeke Meeks vs. the Horrifying TV-Turnoff Week by D. L. Green, his teacher announces that everyone in school will keep the TV off for one full week. Zeke is horrified. What will he do all day? 

 

Zeke narrates his own story with humor and honesty, describing how he, his sisters and classmates survive the week. Zeke accidentally studies out of boredom and aces his quiz. Crossword puzzles lead to him reading books he forgot he had. A trip to the museum is unexpectedly fun.  Green does a wonderful job of keeping Zeke real while teaching an entertaining lesson about the perils of too much television. The book is amusingly illustrated by Josh Alves with commentary added to enhance the story.  One of a series of books dealing with issues elementary school children face, Zeke Meeks will surely please fans of the My Weird School series by Dan Gutman and younger fans of Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney.

Diane

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