Holiday Gift Guide 2016

It’s that time of year again! The holiday season is upon us, which means colder weather (in theory), festive music, lots of food… and puzzling over what to buy for gifts this year.

We know that, as much fun as gift giving is, it can be daunting and even stressful. But we’re here to help!

May we present: the blue manatee holiday gift guide of 2016.

Books make great gifts (you can never really have too many), and we’ve put together a list of books that are well suited to different interests. They appeal to a wide range of ages, too; whether you’re buying for your newborn niece or your full-grown second-cousin-in-law, we’ve got you covered!


Holiday Gift Guide

For the world travelers (or those who aspire to be): Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders by Joshua Foer, Dylan Thuras & Ella Morton


Be warned: this hefty book will almost certainly make you want to leave everything behind and go see the world—every weird, wonderful bit of it. Heading to Ireland? You’ll want to see the Vanishing Lake. Traveling to Turkey? Make sure you stop by the hair museum, which is exactly what it sounds like. From the beautiful to the bizarre, this is the ultimate guidebook to the world’s most interesting places.

For the lifelong Harry Potter fan: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling, illustrated by Jim Kay


We’ve been hearing a lot about Harry Potter lately, what with the release of the Cursed Child and the new Fantastic Beasts movie. But you might have missed this: a new edition of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, the second book in the series and gorgeously illustrated in full color by Jim Kay. Rediscover the magic, or introduce it to a new reader, with this beautiful book.

For the little bookworms: The 20th Century Children’s Book Treasury, selected by Janet Schulman


This is the perfect gift for little guys just beginning to build their first libraries. The selected stories range from classic to contemporary, including favorites such as Madeline, Guess How Much I Love You?, The Stinky Cheese Man, Where the Wild Things Are, and Alexander & The Terrible, No Good Very Bad Day, among many, many others. It’s like giving someone an entire bookshelf in one lovely volume!

For the young scientists: The Book of Totally Irresponsible Science by Sean Connolly


This book pulls double duty: it’s great for kids who are interested in science, but also for kids who are perpetually “bored.” Within its pages are 64 experiments, all fairly easy (and safe) to conduct at home, accompanied by simple scientific explanations for why things in our world behave the way they do—things like electricity, and acceleration, and heat. It’s so much fun, kids won’t even realize how much they’re learning!

For fans of Beatrix Potter: A Celebration of Beatrix Potter: Art and Letters by More Than 30 of Today’s Favorite Children’s Book Illustrators


If you loved Beatrix Potter’s stories growing up, you’ll fall head over heels in love with this tribute to her work. Some of the biggest names in children’s books (Tomie dePaola, Peggy Rathmann, Brian Pinkney, Peter Reynolds, etc. etc.) come together to create their own illustrations of Potter’s beloved characters, accompanied by a short letter describing what her stories meant (and continue to mean) to them. It’s a great keepsake, and a wonderful celebration of Potter’s life and work.

For the overly stressed: Coloring bookscoloring-books-4

Yes, we’re serious—coloring isn’t just for kids anymore. The coloring book craze that began over a year ago hasn’t died yet; if anything, it’s growing, with more diverse and intricate coloring books every day. But they are all created with the same idea in mind: coloring is fun. It’s relaxing. And who doesn’t need to relax these days? Believe us when we say there’s a coloring book out there for every taste, whether you’re buying for a child or an adult.

For the adventurers: Atlantis series by T.A. Barron


T.A. Barron, New York Times bestselling author of the beloved Merlin series, astounds us yet again with this retelling of an old legend: that of the lost city of Atlantis. Everyone has heard how the city was lost… but do you know how Atlantis was created? Find out in this magical, action-packed trilogy, great for middle readers.

For the animal lovers: Animalium by Jenny Broom & Katie Scott


Stunning illustrations in a large-book format will thrill any and every animal lover. Covering everything from invertebrates and amphibians to birds and mammals, this scientific look at life on Earth is beautiful to look at and interesting to read. It’s also part of an awesome series called “Welcome to the Museum,” which includes Historium and Botanicum (pub. March 2017).

For the tech whiz: Coding Games in Scratch: A Step-By-Step Visual Guide to Building Your Own Computer Games, from DK Books


Do you know a kid who loves video games? Well, what could be better than teaching him (or her) how to create their own? This guide will teach kids everything they need to know to get started, from what makes a good computer game to the basics of scratch (essentially just using ready-made blocks instead of complicated code). There are lots of examples to get you started, with step-by-tree16step instructions and lots of visuals for reference. You’ll be the hit of the holiday season with this gift!

If you need even more ideas for gifts, click through last year’s Holiday Gift Guide, or stop in blue manatee and browse in person!

Our Favorite New Picture Books, Vol. IV

It’s that time of year again—the time to spotlight some of our favorite new releases in picture books!

We’ve said it before, but we’ll say it again, because it’s true: we see SO MANY great picture books come through the store, and it breaks our hearts that they don’t always get the recognition they deserve. There are some not-so-great ones, too, of course. But most of the time we see new books that make us laugh and capture our hearts just as much as the old classics did.

So without further ado, we present: our favorite new picture books for fall 2016! We hope you love them as much as we do!


They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel

This book has quickly become a staff favorite. The way a child sees a cat is different from the way a mouse sees a cat, which is different from the way a bee sees a cat… even though they’re all looking at the same cat! If the remarkable illustrations alone aren’t enough of a reason to pick up this book, it can also be used to teach an excellent lesson about perspective.


Dear Dragon by Josh Funk & Rodolfo Montalvo

George and Blaise are pen pals, and they write to each other about everything. But there’s one thing they don’t know about each other: George is a human, and Blaise is a dragon. Each boy thinks he is writing to a pen pal that is just like him. What will happen when they finally meet in person?


We Sang You Home by Richard Van Camp & Julie Flett

This beautiful board book is the perfect way to welcome a new baby into the world. With lyrical text and colorful illustrations, We Sang You Home celebrates the special bond between parent and child.


Plants Can’t Sit Still by Rebecca E. Hirsch & Mia Posada

A great book for the child who is always in motion! You may not realize it at first, but plants (like many children) cannot sit still. “Plants can wiggle. As seedlings start to grow, they squirm out of spring soil, unfold their leaves, and reach for the warmth and the light.” Offering endless opportunities for movement and learning, this book is great for energetic kids who like to know more about the world.


This Is My Book by Mark Pett

Meet Mark Pett. He’s the author and illustrator of this book. But after drawing a panda to showcase his skills, things start to unravel. The panda (who Mark names Percy, but who prefers to be called Spike) starts making all kinds of decisions and ruining the story! Will Mark ever get his book under control? The interactive nature and laugh-out-loud humor of this book makes it a hit with readers of all ages.


A Hat for Mrs. Goldman by Michelle Edwards & G. Brian Karas

Mrs. Goldman is an expert knitter. Sophia is okay at knitting, but her favorite thing to do is make pom-poms for Mrs. Goldman’s hats. One day she realizes that Mrs. Goldman has been so busy making hats for everybody else, she has no hat of her own to keep her warm! Sophia decides something must be done, but she’s going to have to work extra hard to make a hat special enough for Mrs. Goldman.


Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty & David Roberts

Ada Twist is finally here! Like her predecessors, Rosie Revere and Iggy Peck, Ada is a resourceful, curious kid. She has a lot of questions about how the world works, and she wants to answer them with science. But then Ada runs up against a question that has her stumped. What do scientists do when they can’t figure out an answer?


Real Cowboys by Kate Hoefler & Jonathan Bean

You may think you know what makes a cowboy, but there’s a lot more to cowboys than meets the eye. Real cowboys are gentle, safe, patient. They’re good listeners, and quiet in the morning. Sometimes they cry. And they aren’t just cowboys—they are cowgirls too! Hoefler’s lovely text pairs well with Bean’s unique illustrations, creating a book that turns the “Wild West” theme on its head to teach kids about all kinds of virtues.


Shy by Deborah Freedman

A book for all the quiet boys and girls out there who have trouble talking to others. We don’t see Shy, the main character, for the first part of the book—he prefers to hide between the pages. When Shy finally musters the courage to step out in search of a bird, he discovers what a wonderful world is waiting for him. The surprise reveal of Shy’s identity adds a fun twist!


The Princess and the Warrior by Duncan Tonatiuh

A retelling of a legend surrounding two of Mexico’s volcanoes, this is the story of a princess named Izta and a warrior named Popoca. They fell in love, but before they could be together, Popoca was sent to fight the evil Jaguar Claw. We won’t spoil the entire story, but as with most legends, it does not have quite the traditional happy ending. Nevertheless, it is a beautiful (and brilliantly illustrated) version of the lengend of the volcanoes Iztaccíhuatl and Popocatépetl that readers of all ages will enjoy.


Leave Me Alone! by Vera Brosgol

Anyone who comes from a busy household can relate to this humorous story of an old woman who lived in a very small house… with a VERY big family. Unable to get any work done as winter approaches, she leaves her house with a yell: “LEAVE ME ALONE!”But the forest proves no less distracting, and neither do the mountains, so the old woman continues to travel farther and farther away. But when she finally finds some peace and quiet, she also finds that being alone isn’t all she thought it would be.


Du Iz Tak? by Carson Ellis

We’re pretty sure you’ve never read a book like this before. Told entirely in dialogue between insects who speak a made-up language, the story is surprisingly understandable, as they marvel at the progress of a little sprout growing into a large tree. The illustrations are filled with humor and life, and imaginative kids will enjoy “translating” the insects’ language.

Halloween Reads (for Middle Grade)

In last week’s blog post, we featured some of our favorite monster books to read before Halloween. But we didn’t want to forget about our older, more independent readers—so this week’s post is about great Halloween books for middle readers!


You remember the classic “scary stories” you read growing up? Goosebumps, Coraline, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. Those books were scaryand perfect for this time of year.

The following chapter books aren’t quite as scary, but they’re chock full of the mysterious, the supernatural, and the strange. Snuggle up under a full moon and read a few this Halloween!


Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier

Brand-new from graphic novel royalty, this is the story of two sisters who move to a town that is supposedly inhabited by… ghosts?! As the town prepares to celebrate el día de los muertos (the Day of the Dead), Catrina begins to confront some uncomfortable ghosts of her own, especially in regard to her little sister Maya’s cystic fibrosis. Full of Telgemeier’s trademark humor and heart, this book is a must-read!


Haunted Castle on Hallows Eve (Magic Tree House #30) by Mary Pope Osborne

There is a Magic Tree House book for every occasion. In this installment, Jack and Annie travel to an abandoned, haunted castle, instructed to find out what happened to its previous inhabitants. Will they be brave enough to venture inside? It’s not only a perfectly spooky book, it’s also at a lower reading level—great for readers who may need a boost!


The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Newbery Medal alert! Gaiman won in 2009 for this novel about Bod, an unusual boy who inhabits an unusual place—a graveyard. Raised from infancy by ghosts, werewolves, and other undead inhabitants of the cemetery, Bod has learned the antiquated customs of his guardians’ time as well as their ghostly teachings—such as the ability to Fade so mere mortals cannot see him. Can a boy raised by ghosts face the wonders and terrors of the worlds of both the living and the dead?


Bunnicula: A Rabbit-Tale of Mystery by Deborah Howe & James Howe

A blast from the past that still holds strong to this day. There’s something “off” about the new bunny in the Monroe house; he’s got fangs, and he acts strangely. Harold the dog and Chester the cat want to find out the truth: is it possible this bunny is a vampire? Don’t let Bunnicula’s fierce appearance scare you; this book is actually quite silly.


The Most Frightening Story Ever Told by Philip Kerr

You know those super-bookworms who would love to be trapped inside a library all night? That’s basically what happens to Billy Shivers—except in his case, the library is haunted. The Haunted House of Books is a cross between a bookstore and a booby trap, and Billy’s entered a competition daring readers to survive an entire night inside. But the frights of the store itself are nothing compared to the stories it holds. These stories are so ghastly, so terrifying, so shocking that once you’ve read them, you’ll never be the same. Do you dare go on?


The Key to Extraordinary by Natalie Lloyd

Everyone in Emma’s family is special. And all of her relatives learned of their extraordinary destiny through a dream. But when Emma’s own dream finally arrives, it points her toward an impossible task: finding a legendary treasure hidden in her town’s cemetery. Emma doesn’t want to let her ancestors down… but how can she find something that’s been missing for centuries and might be protected by a mysterious singing ghost?


The Peculiar Night of the Blue Heart by Lauren DeStefano

Lionel and Marybeth are best friends, although they could not be more different. Lionel is a wild boy, who doesn’t much like to be around other people. Marybeth is a nice girl, who’s kind to everyone at the orphanage (especially Lionel). But when a mysterious blue spirit possesses Marybeth and starts to take control, they both know they must stop it before the real Marybeth fades away forever.


A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

If you haven’t already read this Newbery Medal winner, believe us—it’s perfect for Halloween. It opens on a dark and stormy night. There’s a missing father, an odd little brother, mysterious benevolent creatures… and a terrifying monster. Now Meg Murry, her brother Charles Wallace, and neighbor Calvin must travel through multiple dimensions on a mission that’s much bigger than any of them could have imagined.

halloween_castleWhat are your favorite books to read on Halloween? Tell us in the comments below!

Picture Books Full of MONSTROUS Fun!

Halloween is only a few short weeks away! Have you chosen your costumes? Carved your pumpkins? Bought your candy? Good. Now you can concentrate on getting into the mood with some delightfully fun MONSTER BOOKS.

Monster books might be off-putting to kids at first. After all, monsters are scary. Why would you want to read about them? Well, the monsters in these books aren’t scary. They’re furry, funny, and sometimes don’t even realize that they are monsters. Who knows; they might even inspire an epic monster-themed Halloween costume!

If you’re looking for new Halloween reads, check out some of these picture books all about monsters.


The Monster at the End of this Book by Jon Stone & Michael Smollin

A classic that, truly, never gets old. There’s a monster at the end of this book, a fact that thoroughly terrifies furry little Grover. Grover’s hilariously dramatic attempts to stop readers from turning the pages and the book’s surprise ending combine to create a wonderfully lighthearted “monster book” to read this Halloween.


The Little Shop of Monsters by R.L. Stine & Marc Brown

Take the writer who brought us Goosebumps, add the artist behind Arthur, and what do you get? A picture book that manages to be cute, funny, and just a little bit scary. An unnamed narrator guides two children (plus the reader) through the Little Shop of Monsters, which resembles a pet shop full of large, furry, toothy creatures. Most of the monsters are pretty friendly-looking, and only the narrator’s casual asides offer any cause for concern—”This monster’s name is Snacker… Do you know his favorite snack food? (That’s right. Hands.)” It’ll get you into a nice spooky mood, but also might have readers begging for a pet monster.


Quit Calling Me a Monster! by Jory John & Bob Shea

Another power team! Jory John and Bob Shea have combined their talents to bring us Floyd Peterson, a purple, fuzzy guy who really resents being called a monster. Never mind that he matches every characteristic that you would ever find in a monster; that doesn’t mean he is one! Or does it? With characteristic humor, John and Shea have created a new monster hit.


Go to Sleep, Monster! by Kevin Cornell

For a monster book, this one is actually pretty adorable. George can’t sleep because of the monster under his bed, but the monster can’t sleep either; he’s too afraid of the monster underneath him! George, his spunky sister Anna, and an ever-increasing crew of monsters journey down, down, deep under the house, tracking down creatures of all shapes and sizes so that the other monsters will be able to sleep. But when they reach the last one, “in the center-most center of the center of the earth,” he offers a surprising reason for his sleeplessness.


Go Away, Big Green Monster! by Ed Emberley

Watch the Big Green Monster grow—two yellow eyes, a long nose, a mouth with sharp teeth—and then, when you’re ready, turn the page and watch him disappear! This book is great for any kids who feel like they need to banish their fear of monsters, or who just like to watch the Big Green Monster vanish for good.


A Day With Monster & Cheer Up, Monster! by Kelli Gleiner

Meet Monster, the friendliest guy on the block! These two board books, dealing with themes of feelings and daily routines (respectively), are perfect for younger audiences. The hand-felted illustrations add a cuddly dimension to Monster and a surprising amount of detail to his surroundings. Little ones will love it!

What are your favorite Halloween picture books? Tell us in the comments below!

Books about Brothers and Sisters

Your siblings are your best friends and your greatest rivals; they’re the first to defend you and the first to annoy you. It’s a complicated relationship, for sure, but we think it’s safe to say that the bond between siblings is like no other.

There are a lot of great picture books out there celebrating this bond, and we’ve highlighted a few of our favorites below. If your family is preparing a child for the addition of a new sibling, or if you simply want to help your children celebrate the sibling(s) they already have, try some of these picture books that deal with sibling relationships. (Click the cover images for more information.)

Note: This is by no means an exhaustive list. Stop by blue manatee and browse our full selection of sibling books!


Gemma & Gus by Olivier Dunrea
Gemma is the big sister. Gus is the little brother. And Gus does everything Gemma does. When Gemma tires of her little brother always following her around, Gus sets out to explore on his own. But both goslings soon find that exploring together is always better!


The New Small Person by Lauren Child
Elmore Green has spent his whole life as an only child, and that’s the way he likes it. But when a new small person comes along, all of a sudden Elmore has to share everything—his room, his toys, even his parents’ attention. Elmore decides he does not like this new small person, until one night when everything changes.


Brothers by David McPhail
There’s nothing quite like having a brother, is there? Brothers are wonderful and maddening in ways that no one else is. Some days brothers get along; other days they don’t. But on this they agree: brothers stick together. Always. (Also available: Sisters.)


Wolfie the Bunny by Ame Dyckman & Zachariah OHora
When the Bunny family adopts a wolf son, Dot feels like she’s the only one who is worried—and rightfully so! Wolves don’t belong in bunny families, and Dot is convinced that one day Wolfie is going to eat them all up! Then Dot surprises herself one day by staunchly defending Wolfie in a sticky situation, and realizes she likes him more than she thought. This humorous story proves you don’t have to share genes to call someone “family.”


A Guide to Sisters by Paula Metcalf & Suzanne Barton
If you have a sister, or you’re going to have a sister, then this guide is a must-have. Covering everything from cuteness to sharing to making stuff, this book will help you be prepared for (almost) anything that comes with having a sister. The lesson? Little sisters are GREAT. And big sisters are AWESOME.


Peter’s Chair by Ezra Jack Keats
Peter has a new little sister, which means all of his old baby furniture is being painted pink! In hopes of saving his old blue chair, Peter grabs it and runs away with his dog Willie. But when Peter discovers he is too big for the chair, he thinks perhaps it’s better for his sister after all.


Ninja Baby by David Zeltser & Diane Goode
Ever since she was born, Nina has been a ninja baby. Her ninja skills have allowed her to do everything on her own—until the day her parents bring home a new baby. A kung-fu master who commands all of his parents’ attention. Now Nina really is on her own, unless she can find a way to team up with her new brother.


Hoot and Peep by Lita Judge
Hoot and Peep are brother and sister, and Hoot can’t wait to teach Peep all about what it means to be an owl. For starters, he says, owls always say “hooooo.” And they ONLY say “hooooo.” But why say “hooooo,” Peep thinks, when you could say “schweeepty peep” or “dingity dong”? At first Hoot is annoyed and frustrated with his little sister, until he realizes that perhaps she has something to teach him.


The Twins’ Blanket by Hyewon Yum
The bond between twins is a unique kind of sibling bond. And these twins have always shared everything: their room, their toys, a crib… and, since the day they were born, a blanket. But as they grow into new beds, they need new blankets, too. Now they face a new dilemma: they don’t know how not to share!


Twin to Twin by Margaret O’Hair & Thierry Courtin
We just had to include one more book about twins. Having twins means double everything—including double the love! A simple, rhyming story perfect for celebrating the twins in your life, big or small.


What are your favorite books about siblings? Tell us in the comments below!