Unicorn of Many Hats

BOOK NEWS – November 1, 2016

It’s Monday; tomorrow is release day! November seems to be a month with fewer new releases than others. Here are just a few of the books releasing on November 1, 2016 that you might be interested in:

Books for Kids

animals-by-the-numbers bossier-baby dinosaurs-in-disguise dr-seuss-coloring-book poem-for-peter

Animals by the Numbers: A Book of Infographics– I love infographics! They are charts and visual representations of information. I can’t wait to see what this looks like!
The Bossier Baby – Looking forward to this sequel with such a clever premise.
Dinosaurs in Disguise – Do you have any dinosaur fans at your house? My dinosaur-loving students would have LOVED this one
The Dr. Seuss Coloring Book  – I can’t wait to see this one. I hope there are Sneetches to color. The Sneetch story is my favorite.
A Poem for Peter: The Story of Ezra Jack Keats and the Creation of The Snowy Day – A tribute to this classic picture book.

Books for Older Kids/Teens/Young Adults

chloe-on-the-bright-side dwk-double-down extra-cheesy-zits nothing-but-trouble the-friendship-experiment threadsbad-blood saving-hamlet the-amateurs the-diabolic you-in-five-acts
The Kindness Club: Chloe on the Bright Side – A girl is torn between the cool kids and her group of friends
Double Down (Diary of a Wimpy Kid 11) – The latest in this hugely popular series
Extra Cheesy Zits: A Zits Treasury – The latest collection from this awesome comic about a teenage boy and his family and friends
Nothing but Trouble – a new story from the author of The Lemonade War!!!
The Friendship Experiment – A girl struggling to make friends keeps a secret notebook. What happens when the notebook isn’t a secret anymore?
Threads – An American girl and a Chinese girl are connected by a note in a purse
Bad Blood (The Naturals 4)  – The fourth, and likely final, story in this fantastic series about special teens who help catch serial killers
Saving Hamlet – A girl falls through a stage door and finds herself in the 1600s at the Globe Theater
The Amateurs Book 1 The Amateurs – The new series by the author of Pretty Little Liars.
The Diabolic –  A bodyguard takes her charge’s place to protect her
You in Five Acts – Five friends at a performing arts school

Books for Adults

beignets-brides-and-bodies better-late-than-never chocolate-bunny-brouhaha deck-the-hallways  good-bad-guacamole killer-kebab  twelve-doctors-of-christmas twice-told-tail untimely-death we-wish-you-a-murderous-christmaseleanor-roosevelt-vol-3prepare-your-heart-for-the-midnight-cry
Beignets, Brides and Bodies: A cozy mystery set in smalltown Arizona (A Maggie Miller Mystery) – Book 2 in this culinary mystery series
Better Late Than Never (A Library Lover’s Mystery) – Book 7 in this great library-based mystery series
The Chocolate Bunny Brouhaha (Chocoholic Mystery) – Book 16 in this long-running chocoholic mystery series
Deck the Hallways (A Fixer-Upper Mystery) – Book 4 in this home improvement mystery series
The Good, the Bad and the Guacamole (A Taste of Texas Mystery) – Book 2 in this mystery series starring a former-reporter
A Killer Kebab (A Greek to Me Mystery) – Book 3 in this culinary mystery series
Doctor Who: Twelve Doctors of Christmas – Christmas stories for the Doctor Who fans
Twice Told Tail (A Black Cat Bookshop Mystery) – Book 6  in this bookstore mystery series
Untimely Death: A Shakespeare in the Catskills Mystery – First in a new series
We Wish You a Murderous Christmas (A Year-Round Christmas Mystery) – Book 2 in this Christmas-y mystery series
Eleanor Roosevelt, Volume 3: The War Years and After, 1939-1962 – Third in a series of books on the life of Eleanor Roosevelt
Prepare Your Heart for the Midnight Cry: A Call to be Ready for Christ’s Return – a Christian non-fiction book about being ready for the return of Christ


So, what’s on your November 1st wish list?

Unicorn of Many Hats

SATURDAY SMORGASBORD: Election Books for Kids


As you have no doubt noticed, election season is here. It’s really unavoidable. Everywhere you look there is a yard sign or a political ad or a social media post about this year’s election, especially the contest for president.

All of this hype leaves kids to wonder what all the fuss about. And it leaves parents and teachers wondering how they can talk about the election in a way that is appropriate for their kids. Here are just a few books that you can use to launch conversation with kids about the role of president in our government, or about the importance of voting. There are also a few books that are just fun fiction aimed at kids about the presidency in general. For the most part, these are generic resources that would work for any family/classroom, regardless of politics. (The book titles are links to Amazon. I am an Amazon Affiliate. If you click on one of these links and buy something, I receive a small commission on the sale)

Grace for President

Grace for President– A cute picture book about a girl who realizes we haven’t had a woman president and she wants to see that changed. So she runs in the school’s mock election. This is a popular election season book for kids. I’d be surprised if your local or school library doesn’t have a copy of this one!



The Kid Who Ran For Presidentthe-kid-who-ran-for-president– A fun story from Dan Gutman about a boy who decides to run for President of the United States. (This book got a lot of press earlier this year when comedian Jon Oliver referenced it in a rant about Donald Trump.)



Abe Lincoln at Last!

Abe Lincoln at Last!– This is my all time favorite Magic Tree House Book. I love it because the story is great and because it shakes up the usual formula for the series. There are some fascinating tidbits in here about how the White House operated back in Lincoln’s day.



Liberty Porter, First Daughter The Case of the Rock N Roll Dog
Liberty Porter, First Daughter
The Case of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Dog (First Kids Mystery)
Both of these books are the first in series about being a kid in the White House.



Who Is Hillary Clinton?

Who Is Hillary Clinton? (Who Was…?)– For families supporting Mrs. Clinton or for students interested in knowing more about the candidates in this year’s election, check out this book from the awesome Who Was series. At this time there is no companion book for Donald Trump. I couldn’t find a good book for kids about Mr. Trump that wasn’t satirical.



If You Were There When They Signed the Constitution

. . . If You Were There When They Signed the Constitution– As the Constitution is the document that outlines our three branches of government, this could be a good resource for students wondering about how it came to be and what is included in it.



Grover Cleveland Again!

Grover Cleveland, Again!: A Treasury of American Presidents– A fun look at all of our presidents (including Grover Cleveland who was president, lost the next election, and then was re-elected in the next term). The spreads are lovely and the information is engaging. The only complaint I have heard about the book (and it is accurate from my own read through) is that the author’s personal biases comes through in the storytelling. This would be a tremendous resource both for the content and for the opportunity to talk with students about fact versus opinion.



Don’t Know Much About the Presidents (revised edition)– A more objective presentation of the presidents, but the layout isn’t as engaging as the previous book. Both books together would make for a great contribution to a classroom, school or home library.




Do you have any go-to resources you like to use with kids when talking about government or elections or the presidency?

Unicorn of Many Hats

REVIEW: Penelope Perfect by Shannon Anderson


Penelope is a planner. Penelope is precise. Penelope is a bit of a perfectionist. When things go according to plan, her style seems to work. But when there’s a wrench in her system, Penelope isn’t quite sure what to do next.

Penelope Perfect by Shannon Anderson


Penelope is my kind of girl! She has a plan. She has a chart. She’s a good, careful student. She keeps a to do list! But I have fallen into Penelope’s trap, too — perfectionism. It’s the all-or-nothing thought pattern that says less than perfect is the same as failure. Thankfully, Penelope finds some balance during the story that will help her keep her perfectionism in check.

This could be a great starting point to talk about perfectionism with kids. I’d want to be really clear that Penelope’s planning nature isn’t the issue – lists and plans work for a lot of people. The problem comes up when people are so tied to those plans that they don’t know how to shift gears when things go awry. Or they give up or quit when things don’t go the way they wanted them to. Resources for parents and teachers are included in the back matter.



Unicorn of Many Hats

REVIEW: A Story to Kill by Lynn Cahoon


Cat Latimer, published author, inherits a house from her ex-husband and decides to turn it into a writer’s retreat. With her best friend managing the kitchen and the face-to-face details with her guests, they are read for their first group. Cat is NOT, however, ready for her hunky high school sweetheart to be the town handyman. Or for the dead author in her house.

A Story to Kill By Lynn Cahoon


I feel like I am still getting a sense for the main characters in this one, but the mystery was top notch. But I didn’t feel like I had a good sense of the relationship between Cat and her best friend. I wanted to like them and their relationship, but I am not quite there yet. Hopefully that will come in book two.

There were lots of great options in the story for a culprit. None of them felt plunked in just to be a red-herring. They were all well-developed. I guessed the murderer but the motive took longer to puzzle out. The author did a great job of laying the ground work for future books in the series. I can’t wait to read the next one! I’ve included a picture of book two at the bottom of this post. It is scheduled to publish in February of 2017.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Fatality by Firelight by Lynn Cahoon Book 2, Fatality by Firelight, is scheduled to release on February 28, 2017. (Release dates subject to change)

Unicorn of Many Hats

REVIEW: How to Avoid Extinction by Paul Acampora


Right before the one year anniversary of his grandfather’s death, Leo’s grandmother decides she wants to go on a road trip from Pennsylvania to Utah to see a dinosaur dig site. Leo, his cousin Abbey, and Grandma Francine hit the highway.  Along the way, they see parts of the country Leo never imagined. They learn about dinosaurs. They make a new friend… and lose another. They also grow as a family.

How to Avoid Extinction by Paul Acampora


This is such a great road trip book! I loved Leo, who goes from reluctant passenger to navigator and equal partner. Each character has a clear “voice” in the story. There are only a handful of key characters, so each one gets a good amount of development. While the road trip is supposed to be about dinosaurs, it’s really about so much more. Grief. Family. Secrets. Stories. This is a book that is more about the journey than it is about the destination.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥

This is the second book I have read from Paul Acampora. The other one, I Kill the Mockingbird, is one of my all-time-favorite books for middle grade readers.

I Kill the Mockingbird by Paul Acampora

Unicorn of Many Hats

BOOK NEWS – October 25, 2016

It’s Monday; tomorrow is release day!  Here are just a few of the books releasing on October 25, 2016 that you might be interested in:

Books for Kids

my-name-is-james-madison-hemings warm-hearts-day

My Name Is James Madison Hemings – I am curious to read this book about Thomas Jefferson’s son
Warm Hearts Day: A Branches Book (Owl Diaries 5) – This is the cutest series! I love it.


Books for Older Kids/Teens/Young Adults

what-was-the-san-francisco-earthquake what-was-the-great-chicago-fire middle-school-dogs-best-friend-24 if-the-magic-fits-100-dressesthe-secret-life-of-lincoln-jones dear-poppythe-secrets-of-hexbridge-castle iron-man-the-gauntlet

What Was the San Francisco Earthquake? – Great line of non-fiction books for kids
What Was the Great Chicago Fire?
Middle School: Dog’s Best Friend (Middle School: Book 8) – This popular James Patterson series continues
If the Magic Fits (100 Dresses) – An enchanted castle and a closet of magic dresses. Awesome!
The Secret Life of Lincoln Jones – this story of a boy who protects himself from the world in the stories he writes sounds fantastic!
Dear Poppy (mix) – A girl finds letters from her late mother. Looks lovely.
The Secrets of Hexbridge Castle – A boy expecting a boring summer inherits a mysterious old castle
Iron Man: The Gauntlet –  From a line of new YA books from Marvel

Books for Adults

saddle-up-for-murder pocketbooks-and-pistols dying-for-strawberries dangling-by-a-thread the-whistler shaken the-broken-way

Saddle Up For Murder (A Carson Stables Mystery) – book 2 in this mystery series
Pocketbooks and Pistols (A Haley Randolph Mystery) – book 12 in this mystery series
Dying for Strawberries (A Berry Basket Mystery) – first book in a new mystery series
Dangling by a Thread (A Mainely Needlepoint Mystery) – book 4 in this mystery series
The Whistler – a new story from John Grisham about judicial misconduct
Shaken: Discovering Your True Identity in the Midst of Life’s Storms – Tim Tebow shares some of his story along with Biblical wisdom
The Broken Way: A Daring Path into the Abundant Life – a new book from Ann Voskamp, the author of the wildly popular One Thousand Gifts

Unicorn of Many Hats

SATURDAY SMORGASBORD: Six Authors to Follow on Twitter

Twitter is a fantastic resource for anyone. Love the musical Hamilton? (Me, too!) You can follow the creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda and other cast members on Twitter. Do you have a favorite soda or candy bar? The company that makes them is probably on Twitter. Having trouble with your cable service? You can probably find the company on Twitter and get a faster result than if you called the 800 number.

On Twitter, I have found teachers and authors and publishers to be a tremendous resource for me. It’s so nice to find a cyber-tribe who loves the things I love. I can tweet out to an author when I finish their amazing book. I can ask for recommendations. I can encourage other readers.

I follow a tremendous number of authors on Twitter. Some post a lot. Some post a little. If you have never used Twitter, or you’ve never thought about following an author, I have six recommendations for you to start with!

  1. Kate Messner – @katemessner. I have blogged about Kate several times. I think she is an outstanding author. She tweets about her books, about other authors, resources for teachers, etc. She also hosts a summer program for teachers called Teachers Write which is an excellent program encouraging teachers of writing to dig into the process on their own.
  2. Phil Bilder – @philbildner. Phil is a relatively new author to me. He does a great job of tweeting about book news. As a former teacher, he is a great advocate for reading and for other authors, too.
  3. Brad Meltzer – @bradmeltzer. If you don’t know who Brad is, you should check him out. I love his Ordinary People Change the World picture book series for kids. He also writes thrillers for adults and hosts Lost History on television. He’s a funny guy and his social media is always great.
  4. Jess Keating – @jess_keating. I haven’t read any of Jess’ books yet, although I had some of her middle grade books in the library when I was teaching. I met her at a conference a few years ago and she was very cool. She tweets about science, writing and reading. She also has a YouTube show called Animals for Smart People that is fun.
  5. Josh Funk – @joshfunkbooks. Josh writes picture books and I love them! They are so clever. Josh is a major reading/book advocate. I often see him promoting books of other authors/illustrators. He’s a great resource for book fanatics.
  6. Candace Fleming – @candacemfleming. Candace is a fiction and non-fiction author for kids. I’ve met her at two different conferences and she is fabulous. Check out her Twitter for information about her various projects.

This time of year, Twitter is full of political posts. I tried to steer you toward authors who post mostly about book things. Use this as a jumping off point. If you have some favorite authors, look them up on Twitter and see if they are active there or not. If you don’t care for an author’s politics, but you love their books, wait until after the election to follow them so you can get all the best tweets from them to meet your reading needs!

You can also follow The Neverending TBR blog on twitter – @Neverending_TBR. I hope you’ll come check it out.

Unicorn of Many Hats

REVIEW: Howard Wallace, PI by Casey Lyall


Howard Wallace is a middle school detective, ready to solve your mystery! Sure, his “office” is a hodgepodge of discarded school equipment. And he looks really weird in that bathrobe he thinks works as a trench coat. But he’s a good detective. Then a black-mailing case comes to his desk. Even with his “junior partner,” Ivy, helping, Howard might be in over his head on this one.

Howard Wallace PI by Casey Lyall


I love mysteries. They’ve been my favorite genre since I was a kid. So I thought this would be a perfect middle grade mystery for me, even before I started reading.

And then I read the first paragraph.

Immediately, I pictured a black and white scene, and the voice over of a seasoned old detective who had seen everything. I expected him to use the word “dame.” The image fell apart when Howard’s mother called him by his full name, as all moms do when their kids are in trouble. By then, though, I was sold!!

Howard’s “voice” is exceptional. I loved his commentary on things and his perspective on his middle school world. The pacing of his partnership with Ivy was terrific, too. There’s a pretty big cast of characters in this book, but they were all easy to track. Howard’s parents are a great part of the story, too.

The mystery was fantastic! Howard was even better. This would be a great story to read out loud to a class or as a family. I hope there will be many more books staring Howard Wallace, PI!


Unicorn of Many Hats

REVIEW: A Deadly Row by Casey Mayes


Savannah Stone and her husband are living out “retirement” in relative peace and quiet. Zach Stone is retired from the Charlotte Police Department after a significant injury. Savannah is a puzzle maker, building math and logic puzzles for newspaper syndication. But Zach’s consulting work draws them back to Charlotte to investigate two murders. Savannah tags along to spend time with Zach and visit their old home. She goes expecting to work on puzzles and maybe visit family and old friends. But she finds herself directly involved in helping find a murderer!

A Deadly Row by Casey Mayes


Lots of mysteries to enjoy with this one! I liked the change to the usual cozy formula of single amateur sleuth and date-able law enforcement character. The married couple working the case was a nice change of pace. Savannah’s fear that something else will happen to Zach makes her abrasive at times, but I was enjoying everything else so much, I was able to ignore that. I loved that there were more things going on in the story than just the murder. Those other pieces were logical and added to the story and the character development rather than being a distraction. The “puzzles” in the story are vaguely described and not provided in the story. That surprised me; I expected a puzzle maker mystery to include puzzles for the reader to solve.

I was able to solve the mysteries before the end of the book, which always makes be feel triumphant. I’ll happily read more in this series.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥

You can see the covers for the other books in the series below:

Other Books by Casey Mayes

Unicorn of Many Hats

REVIEW: The Seventh Wish by Kate Messner


Charlie thinks it’s a routine day of ice fishing – until the fish she reels in can talk! And the fish offers her a wish if she lets it go. Unfortunately for Charlie, magic wishes rarely go as planned. But fish and wishes take a back seat to more serious problems in Charlie’s family. If only magic wishes could fix everything.

The Seventh Wish by Kate Messner


I love Kate Messner! This story reminded me a lot of her book All the Answers. In both books, magical items  aren’t always the treasures they seem to be at first. The complications coming for Charlie’s family in The Seventh Wish put talking fish and dance dresses into perspective.

The author took some flak earlier this year when a school cancelled her visit because they felt the issue of addiction addressed in the book was too mature for middle grade readers. You can read about that kerfuffle here. I worked with addicts many years ago. I felt like The Seventh Wish handled the topic beautifully and in a very appropriate way for an upper elementary/middle school (and older) audience. Charlie’s reaction is logical and realistic for her age. The author doesn’t offer pat answers or miracle solutions – just honest, age-appropriate questions. (In this way, it reminds me of Still a Work in Progress). If you are looking for books about addictions for kids, I’d start here. Reading this out loud in a classroom, or reading it with students in a book group, or as a family could lead to amazing discussion.

As with any book for this age, students who aren’t ready for this topic will usually choose not to finish it, or they’ll keep reading and talk with a trusted adult about their questions. I would share this readily with students in the middle grade age group.