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!

Test Your Knowledge of Banned Books!

If you’re a big reader, you might know that Sunday marks the start of Banned Books Week—a week where the entire book community comes together to celebrate our freedom to read. If you are not familiar with Banned Books Week, we’ll catch you up!


Books for all ages are often banned or challenged, especially in schools and libraries, when people feel that the content is somehow offensive or unsuitable for its audience. Some children’s books that have been banned or challenged in recent years include:

Looking For Alaska by John Green
Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret
 by Judy Blume
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
The Golden Compass
/His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman
Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey

This is just a snapshot; the list goes on and on and on.

However, Banned Books Week is about changing the conversation and focusing on the harms of censorship. After all, one of the best things about reading is the ability of books to broaden our worldview, and introduce ideas or opinions or perspectives that are different from our own. While each person has the right to choose not to read a book if he or she finds it objectionable, we believe everyone should be able to make that choice for themselves.


This year, Banned Books Week runs from September 25th to October 1st. Make sure you check out your local bookstores for events, or to just pick up a banned book that you’ve never read before. If you want to learn more about Banned Books Week, you can visit the BBW website or the American Library Association’s website.

And we have a special activity for Banned Books Week!

Download the crossword puzzle that we’ve created for Banned Books Week, and test your knowledge of some of the most frequently banned and challenged children’s books. And if you’re in the Cincinnati area, bring your completed crossword in to blue manatee children’s bookstore to enter into a special prize drawing!

Let’s spread the word about banned books and exercise our freedom to read!


Banned Books Week 2016 Crossword


Download the crossword puzzle here!

Unlikely Pets in Picture Books

How many picture books involve animals of some kind? Way too many to count! After “things that go” (cars, trucks, planes, trains, etc.), “animals” is probably the most popular picture book category, although that category is admittedly broad. From personified animals to animal sounds to animals who don’t fit in, and much more, it’s hard to pick up a picture book and not find a furry or scaly or toothy creature involved in some way.

Under the umbrella of “books about animals,” we see a new category manifesting itself, and it’s one that we enjoy immensely: picture books about unlikely pets.


Getting a pet is one of those universal life experiences that almost everyone encounters in their childhood. From the tiniest goldfish to the biggest dog, pets can be a great addition to the family, providing loyal companions and lifelong friends as well as opportunities for lessons about responsibility. Every kid has an idea in his or her head about what it’s like to have a pet; so what happens when the pet in question isn’t quite what you expected?

It makes for a great story, that’s for sure! Below are some of our favorite picture books about unlikely or unexpected pets. These animal friends might not look like much at first to their human counterparts, but you never know—they might surprise you (and almost always do!). (Click the cover images for more information.)


Sparky by Jenny Offill & Chris Appelhans

It starts innocently enough. A little girl asks for a pet. Her mom says she can have any pet she wants, “as long as it doesn’t need to be walked or bathed or fed.” After a brief bit of research, the girl finds the answer, and Sparky the sloth arrives in the mail. Winner of the Charlotte Zolotow award, Sparky! is a story about learning to accept people (and pets) just the way they are—and we challenge you not to fall in love with Appelhans’s illustrations of the furry, wide-eyed Sparky.


Not Norman by Kelly Bennett & Noah Z. Jones

This little boy would take ANYTHING for a pet—just not Norman. Norman is a fish, and he doesn’t do much other than swim. Disappointed, the boy decides to trade Norman in for a different pet. But then he realizes: is it possible that Norman can do more than he thought? A perfect book for celebrating a classic “first pet.”


The Princess and the Pony by Kate Beaton

For her birthday this year, little warrior Princess Pinecone wants a horse. A big, fast, strong horse! What she gets instead is a chubby little pony that’s too small to even ride properly. When the day of the big battle arrives, Princess Pinecone is worried—but her pony has a secret weapon that just might help them win the battle. From the hilarious creator of Hark! A Vagrant comes a silly, sweet story for horse lovers (and warriors) everywhere.


A Unicorn Named Sparkle by Amy Young

The ad says, “Unicorn, 25 cents.” How does anyone pass up a deal like that? Lucy sends in her money and patiently awaits the arrival of her unicorn. But when he finally arrives, he’s not quite what she expected: more of a goat with a horn on his head. After her initial disappointment, Lucy names him Sparkle, and discovers that even though he might not be the unicorn she had in mind, he’s still her unicorn—and that’s what matters.


I Won a What? by Audrey Vernick & Robert Neubecker

This whale of a tale is entertaining to the end! At the carnival, one little boy’s parents promise him he can keep whatever he wins at the goldfish booth. Sure enough, he wins the game—but goes home with a whale! A whale named Nuncio! Nevertheless, a promise is a promise, and the family takes the whale home with them. It’s an adjustment, to be sure, but soon it’s hard to imagine life without Nuncio.


Children Make Terrible Pets by Peter Brown

Lucy the bear is out playing in the woods one day when she comes across a most adorable creature. The creature in question is a child, and Lucy begs her parents to let her keep him. Her mother finally gives in, but with a warning: “Children make terrible pets.” Lucy scoffs; how much trouble could one child possibly be? The answer: more than she bargained for! Young readers will get a kick out of seeing a relatable situation turned on its head (an animal having a pet human?!), but will also recognize the difficulties Lucy faces in caring for her “pet.”

What are some of your favorite books about pets? Tell us in the comments below!

If you liked THOSE books, try THESE books!

When kids find books they really like, it’s a big deal, especially if the kids in question aren’t super enthusiastic readers. Parents, relatives, and friends of middle readers often come to us and ask, “My child just read _____ and loved it. Do you know of anything else like it?”

On the other side of the coin, sometimes people come in asking for good books for middle readers, and one of the first questions we always ask is, “What has he/she read recently that he/she liked?” Making recommendations is a large part of our job as booksellers, and the easiest way to help customers pick out books for kids we have never met is to try to hone in on that child’s interests, reading and otherwise.

We love helping people find just the right book, or (even better) discover new books previously unknown to them. So this week, we thought we’d play matchmaker. We’ve taken some of the most popular books for 3rd and 4th graders and matched them with similar books at the 5th and 6th grade reading level. If your kids are outgrowing their old favorites, hopefully these recommendations will help launch them into new and exciting reading adventures!

If you liked, then try

Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid series has taken over the world—literally. The books have been translated into 50 languages, and almost every kid who comes into blue manatee has read or is reading them. How do you follow up such a wildly popular series? We think we have the answer. Although not written in “diary” form, Wonder is likewise a story of a kid just trying to fit in and navigate his school days successfully. Unlike Kinney’s Greg, however, R.J. Palacio’s protagonist Auggie must do so with a facial deformity, which presents its own set of challenges.

If you liked, then try (1)

Matt Christopher, the king of sports writing, has entertained young athletes for years with his books about basketball, baseball, soccer—you name it. For fans of his books, we recommend Kwame Alexander’s The Crossover. Winner of the 2015 Newbery Medal and written in (amazing) verse, this story of a young basketball player will hook readers from the start and not let them go until the last page.


School’s back in session—at Wayside School, that is. Hilariously funny, sometimes confusing, and always entertaining, Louis Sachar’s stories make us all wish we could be in Mrs. Jewls’s class. Although not quite as irreverent, Ms. Bixby’s Last Day strikes a similarly chaotic (but also heartwarming) tone, as three friends set out to give a beloved teacher the best last day ever after she is unable to finish out the school year due to an illness. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll remember all of your favorite teachers, Mrs. Jewls included!


Roald Dahl’s books are consistent favorites, and Matilda is no exception. It’s a book for book lovers, really, with a little magic and a couple of outrageous situations thrown in (Bruce’s chocolate cake, anyone?). Enter Inkheart, by Cornelia Funke, starring bookish girl Meggie and her bookish father Mo, who has the power to read characters straight out of their books! A dream come true for any bookworm… until the day that the villain of the story is suddenly transported to the real world.


Know any readers who enjoy a good scare? They’re probably fans of the Goosebumps series, in which R.L. Stine manages to create genuinely creepy stories with a little bit of silliness thrown in for fun. But Goosebumps is only the beginning; take scary storytelling to the next level with Terrifying Tales, a collection of scary stories written by some of the most notable contemporary children’s authors, including Stine himself. You might want to sleep with the lights on after this one!


The concept of “twisted fairy tales” has been around for years, but there seems to be a resurgence in middle grade books. The popular Whatever After series puts a modern spin on well-known fairy tales, from Snow White to Cinderella to the Little Mermaid. Similarly, the Sisters Grimm series follows two girls who are descendants of the famous Grimm brothers, as they solve mysteries related to the people in their town—who may or may not be fairy tale characters. Perfect for fans of long-beloved fairy tales!


Harriet the Spy is a classic; readers young and old adore bold, independent Harriet, who loves to spy on people and keeps tabs on all she observes in her notebook. If you have fans of Harriet in the house, try The Westing Game next. Readers will see a lot of Harriet’s spirit in Turtle, the fearless, ambitious heroine who is determined to solve the mystery of Sam Westing’s death and win the ten million dollar prize in his posthumous game. A brilliant puzzle-mystery with an entertaining cast of characters, this Newbery Honor book will soon become a favorite.