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Front Desk

Mia Tang is 10 years old, and the new front desk clerk at the Calivista Motel in California. Mia and her family are immigrants to America from China. Her parents have worked many years at many tough jobs since arriving in America, but believe their dream has come true when they get jobs managing the Calivista. The only trouble with their dream is their new boss Mr. Yao, who is mean and keeps finding ways to take money from Mia's family's paycheck.

Mia finds out at school about a chance for her family to win their own motel, but she must write an essay explaining why she and her family would be the best choice. Mia has to balance her life with school, work, and friends, all while trying to keep Mr. Yao happy. It is a tough job, but Mia thinks she can do it all.

Check out Front Desk (2018) by Kelly Yang, geared toward kids in grades 4-6. It's the first in a series, with the second novel expected to be released in September 2020.

This book is available to read or listen to on Overdrive—check it out today.


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Podcasts for Kids & Families

Tired of screen time? Try listening to a podcast! Here are a few of my family-friendly favorites:

Ear Snacks with Andrew and Polly: Andrew & Polly and their friends consider music, science, art and culture in a fun-filled family-friendly podcast that parents enjoy and younger kids eat right up.


Wow in the WorldHosts Mindy Thomas and Guy Raz guide curious kids and their grown-ups on a journey into the wonders of the world around them. Go inside the brains, out into space, and deep into the coolest new stories in science and technology.

But Why: A Podcast for Curious Kids: But Why is a show led by real kids's questions! It's a big interesting world out there. On But Why, tackle topics large and small, about nature, words, even the end of the world.

Book Club for KidsBook Club for Kids is a podcast where middle school readers discuss the books they love with host Kitty Felde. The author answers questions, and a celebrity reads from the book.

ChompersMake tooth time easy with this morning and night tooth brushing show for kids. When it's time for your family to brush teeth, start Chompers. Kids will hear jokes, riddles, stories, fun facts, silly songs and more, that'll keep them giggling - and brushing - for the full two minutes that dentists recommend.



Series Spotlight: Owl Diaries

The Wingdale owl family (Mom, Dad, Eva, Humphrey and Baby Mo) live in a tree in, of course, Treetopolis. When Eva receives a new diary, she faithfully records all her adventures, concerns, problems, triumphs, and sadness in the diary.

Each of the 13 books (so far) in this series focus on one big event in Eva's world. The plots feature a mystery that Eva solves and most readers of this series will solve. Friendships, working together, and solving problems are what Eva and her friends do.

The digital illustrations are a major part of the storytelling. There are collage-like illustrations are on each page. The connection between image and words is very clear. It would be easy to extend activities by encouraging art projects.

The author uses clever references to owls: "What a hoot," "Anyhoot," "sticking her beak into my business," and Owliverse."Readers will enjoy searching for connections. Speech bubbles are used for dialog between characters.

These books by Rebecca Elliott have gentle plots, interesting characters, and are for readers beginning "easy readers." The first book is Eva's Treetop Festival (2015). Each book has 74 pages (Lexile 530-620). At the end of each book is, "How much do you know about…?" Questions follow and a final suggestion of further activities.

Many of the books in this series are available as e-books on Overdrive.

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Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp

Do you have Animal Crossing: New Horizons FOMO? Fear not! Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp is free from the App Store (Google or Apple). Join all your favorite villagers for the ultimate virtual camping trip. It's the same cute, colorful game you'd expect, without Tom Nook shaking you down for bells all the time. This version of the classic game has seasonal events that make logging in a treat. Go fishing, catch bugs, pick fruit, and decorate your very own campsite. The best part? You get to choose which villagers you host.


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Hair Love

Enjoy this story inspired by the Academy Award winning short film that shows the love a father has for his daughter by learning how to take care of her natural hair. "My hair is mommy, daddy, and me. It's hair love!" Delightful!

Hair Love (2019) was written by Matthew A. Cherry and illustrated by Vashti Harrison. Listen to the audiobook on Hoopla, read the ebook on Overdrive, and watch the Oscar winning film on YouTube.

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So Weird. The Complete Series (1999-2001)

I have been finding that Disney+ is a great way to relive favorite shows of your childhood.  My latest binge was So Weird (TV-Y7), about Fiona, a teenager, on the road with a band for which her mom (Mackenzie Phillips) is the lead singer.  Fiona is drawn to everything strange and unusual, which she constantly stumbles upon, revealing more and more about her father's unexplained car accident when she was a baby.

While revolving around many supernatural occurrences, older kids and their families can enjoy this family adventure/mystery series together.  So Weird originally aired on The Disney Channel in the late 90s, but you can now stream the entire series on Disney+ via the library's Family Roku devices.

Series Spotlight: Eerie Elementary

Strange events are happening at Eerie Elementary School (note the name of the school). Third graders Sam, Lucy, and Antonio find themselves in very scary situations as they work together to keep the school safe from the evil Orson Eerie. Their job as hall monitors is to protect the students of Eerie Elementary School by using their magic sashes. Mr. Nekobi, the janitor, knows what is happening and why, and aids the children with clever ideas. Illustrations of Orson Eerie show that obviously he is a scary, evil man!

Children who can suspend disbelief, believe that the physical Eerie Elementary School is alive, who likes "scary" books, and who are ready for unusual adventures will enjoy this series. Start with The School is Alive! (2014).

Each of the 10 books in the Eerie Elementary series by Jack Chabert is 90 pages with black and white drawings on each page. It is clear from the covers that the books are scary, strange, unusual…for sure. The final page of each book has discussion questions and sometimes craft ideas. Lexile range is 430-600.



5-Minute Marvel

Play the fast-paced 5-Minute Marvel game that puts you in the role of your favorite Marvel movie and comic book heroes.  The goal of the game is to defeat a horde of villains bent on destroying the universe.  The villains start easy and get harder as you eventually fight your way to Thanos to decide the fate of the world.  Each hero receives cards with special powers and abilities unique to their hero, which will help in the fight.

With each battle allowed only five minutes (a time gem would be helpful), you will have to be as fast as Quicksilver to win these battles.  The 5-minute clock makes this a quick game that is great for parties and short breaks. There is some reading involved, which makes 5-Minute Marvel (2016) perfect for ages 8 and up.

Series Spotlight: The Last Firehawk

Owls are determined to save their home – the island of Perodia – from the evil Thorn, a vulture who is destroying the island with the help of his army of tiger bats and prickle ants. Rivers are dry, trees are being destroyed, and no flowers are blooming. Heroes of this animal fantasy early chapter book are Tag, an owl who uses a magic map; Skyla, a squirrel who uses a slingshot; and Blaze, the last surviving firehawk who uses his wings. When Tag, Skyla, and Blaze are successful in the quest to find all the pieces of the ember stone, their home might be saved.

The first page of each book explains where Tag, Skyla, and Blaze are in their search for the ember stone so the books do not have to be read in order…but in order would be best. Start with The Ember Stone (2017).

A map of Perodia, which is a copy of the magic map used by Tag, is on the next page after the introduction. The reader will want to refer back to the map while reading the adventure. On the last page of each book are questions and activities suggestions, which will add to the enjoyment of the reader and extend their learning. Each of the 10 books (so far) in The Last Firehawk series by Katrina Charman are 90 pages. There are black and white illustrations on each page. Lexile range is 550-640.



We Don’t Eat Our Classmates

Poor Penelope Rex. It's hard enough starting at a new school, but then to be told all of your classmates are children and that it's socially unacceptable to eat them? Well, those slobbered up kids aren't excited about their new dinosaur classmate, either. Ultimately, Penelope learns a very important lesson about making friends from the class goldfish, Walter: it isn't fun to be seen as someone else's snack.

Check out We Don't Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins (2018), a 2020 Monarch Award Nominee, in print or digitally via Hoopla.


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Sleeping Queens

In Sleeping Queens, all of the world's queens have fallen under a spell forcing them to stay asleep. You will have to send your kings out to help the queens awaken, but be careful other players have knights and potions to steal your queens or to put them back to sleep.  You will have to be cunning to keep all your queens awake and safe.

One of my favorite things about Sleeping Queens (2015) is that an 8-year-old created it, and the fun way it plays shows that incredible passion a child has for games and silly happenstance.  This is a favorite game to play with my friends.  We all enjoy how quickly the game plays, and with simple rules, there are still some great play strategies.  The game is played with a single deck of cards and is quick to learn with no reading involved past the directions.  Some shape matching skills are needed to play; suitable for ages 6 and up.


Pocket Full of Colors

Explore the colorful and magical world of Mary Blair in this junior biography told with beautiful pictures. While we can now find Blair listed among top Disney artists, animators, and designers, we get to see how her childhood love of colors and sketching led to that future working with Walt Disney himself. It is not an easy journey, trying to compete with men as well as color cynics (perhaps somewhat surprising for the world of Disney we know today). Ultimately, though, Blair receives an invitation to help create arguably the most recognizable and nostalgic theme park ride of all time—and my personal favorite—It's a Small World, truly epitomizing Blair's talent and vibrant imagination.

Check out Pocket Full of Colors: The Magical World of Mary Blair, Disney Artist Extraordinaire (2017) by Amy Guglielmo and Jacqueline Tourville. For more information, visit Oh My Disney for The World Behind "It's a Small World" and The Life and Work of Mary Blair.

Noelle

Disney+ has finally arrived!  Based on cast alone, my first viewing selection was Noelle (2019, G) which was originally intended for theatrical release, but was later reserved for the launch of Disney+.  It stars Anna Kendrick and Bill Hader as Kris Kringle's kids, Noelle and Nick.  Also in the cast are long-time actors Shirley MacLaine and Julie Hagerty, with comedians, Billy Eichner and Ron Funches.

Nick has trained his whole life to take over for his father as Santa, but as the pressure builds, he takes a vacation on his sister's recommendation.  Unfortunately, Nick took that to mean a one-way trip to the southwest.  Noelle has to venture out from the North Pole to find him, all while learning that Christmas is more meaningful when you focus on giving instead of getting.

Overall, this light-hearted film, albeit slightly predictable, will bring laughter and maybe even some tears to you and your family.  Find other Christmas movies to watch with the family on our website.

View Noelle and everything else Disney you can imagine with a Roku featuring Disney+.


The Bad Guys

I read this book in one sitting with a three year old: I'd call that an accomplishment and give a lot of that credit to author Aaron Blabey. We follow Mr. Wolf and his associates, Mr. Snake, Mr. Piranha, and Mr. Shark, on a mission to turn around their longtime reputations as bad guys. They hit just a couple bumps along the way, but are determined to make amends.

This early chapter book is part of a series, so get caught up in Blabey's sketchy characters' silly escapades. The Bad Guys (2017) is a 2020 Monarch Award nominee, recommended for grades 2-4.


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Loot

Have you ever wanted to plunder all the treasures on the open sea?  If you find that the letter "R" rolls off your tongue as "Arrr," then Loot is the game for you.

In Loot, take on the role of a pirate captain and guide your crew to merchant ships full of treasure, but watch out for your pirate friends who want some loot too and will fight you for every bit of it.

The objective of the card game is simple, collect the most gold by the end of the game.  The gameplay is quick and takes about 20 minutes.  The game is for ages 6 and up, some simple math skills and color matching are needed.  If you want the thrill of the high seas matched with the fun of playing with friends, check out Loot.