My Mom Is Like a Loving Drill Sergeant in a Santa Hat

Do you have holiday traditions? We have a few, but the one that first comes to mind is the one that takes place on Christmas morning, wherein my mom becomes a loving drill sergeant in a Santa hat.

After the kids enjoy the toys left by Santa and we’ve all had breakfast, we gather in the living room to open the presents that have been placed under the tree. My mom passes out a gift for each person, which we hold until everyone has a gift in hand and she says we can open them. After we have the ok, and the gift has been opened, we find the person who gave us the present and give them a proper thank you. This usually goes on for three rounds or so. Slowing things down means you can really appreciate the gift and, more importantly, the giver. Thanks, Mom!

Here are a few more traditions from our readers:

Barbara says: When all of us are together for the holidays, it’s about 20 people. We gather on Christmas Eve, and we sing Christmas Carols using songbooks we’ve had in the family since the 80s. Each person selects a song they want to lead. We start with the youngest and end with the oldest. This year, that might be me!

Brianna says: We read “Twas the night before Christmas” and pass envelopes or treat boxes around one direction every time we read the word “and” and the opposite direction every time we read the word “the.” Makes for fun chaos, and everyone gets something in the end: chocolate, a gift card or money. We also always have family pajamas.

Jeanne says: We have a few traditions. We pick a weekend in December to be “cookie weekend.” We bake, decorate, eat snacks, visit with friends and have a great day! Friends leave with a plate of freshly baked treats. After Christmas Eve mass, we head to Sonic for milkshakes and pay with a $100 bill, leaving the change for the staff working on Christmas Eve. We also do matching or coordinating Christmas Eve or Christmas pajamas. It started with my mother when she had her first granddaughters, and this year will include her great-granddaughter.

Angela says: We literally have the “sweetest” holiday tradition. Every year, usually on Christmas Eve, my sisters and I compete in a Holiday Bake Off. Think Family Feud meets The Great American Baking Show, but against each other—my immediate family against theirs, and we surely bring the fire! This fun competition doesn’t just include a dessert; there are also skits, songs or even comedy shows, all holiday-themed. It’s great to get together and compete for family bragging rights for the full year ahead!

Olivia says: We open one present before Christmas Eve dinner, something small, but it gives a special meaning to that gift, as smaller presents get lost in the shuffle of the Big Day.

Katie says: We always make Gingerbread houses during the holidays. And, because my husband is Argentine and the celebration begins on Christmas Eve and lasts until the early hours of Christmas morning, we celebrate “traditional” Christmas morning (presents, etc.) on the morning of Dec. 24. Argentine Christmas Eve is too late for my kids, and I hate trying to have a nice Christmas morning the morning after when the kids are grumpy from having been up with their cousins until 2 a.m. the night before. Santa knows I’m not Argentine, so he bends the rules for us!

Jehan says: We do an Advent calendar every year, but each day is a good deed/way to help someone else. We also open one present on Christmas Eve night, and it’s always a book so the kids can read in bed that night.

Paula says: We love to bake and decorate Christmas cookies! We also watch the Sound of Music with lots of seasonal snacks!

Jade says: On Christmas, we have always taken turns reading the story of Jesus’ birth before we open presents in the morning. We each take turns reading a section and try to take a moment to show gratitude before we rip into the presents.

My thanks to everyone who shared their holiday traditions. And from my family to yours, Happy Holidays!

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Presence Over Presents

The holiday season is here again and many parents find themselves scrambling to shop for all of the important people in their lives. Shopping for the perfect gift for your kids can be stressful. Gift-giving can be full of joy, but oftentimes, what kids want and need is their parents’ time over a pile of gifts. This year, try prioritizing presence over presents. This slight change in perspective can relieve this stress and give your kids the gift of memorable experiences that last longer than the thrill of a new toy.

The gift of experience

Sharing an experience can be a great alternative to giving a physical gift. Find something your family enjoys doing together and make it into a surprise. Some ideas may include taking a trip, attending a concert, visiting a museum or a local attraction or eating at a special restaurant. Most importantly, you will be enjoying the activity as a family. Experience gifts promote family bonding and create memories that will last a lifetime.

The gift of time

Time spent together has great value for kids. When you are shopping for gifts this year, look for items that promote family time, such as games, puzzles, a cookie-baking kit, sports equipment or crafts. Take the time to play and spend time together. You may find that these activities will become family traditions you return to every year.

The gift of helping others

Taking time to serve those in need brings joy not only to those who receive help but also to those who offer it. Kids who volunteer regularly have a better appreciation for the blessings they have in their own lives and are more likely to be generous and serve others as they become adults. Ask your kids what needs they see in the community and decide how your family would like to serve. Some ideas may include a coat or food drive, serving meals at a shelter, adopting a family for Christmas, raking leaves for an elderly neighbor, sending holiday cards to veterans, baking and delivering cookies to neighbors or picking up litter in your community. Choose what fits your family’s time and budget and make it a priority.

The gift of trying something new

Has your child always wanted to try a particular activity or sport, but the cost of lessons was not in the budget? Consider purchasing this gift for your kids. This will give them the opportunity to try something new and will also let them know you are considering their interests. Families may also want to purchase a membership to a local zoo, amusement park, community center or museum. This will be something the family can enjoy together over the year ahead.

You don’t have to get rid of gift-giving altogether, but being intentional about buying things that you can enjoy as a family and taking the time to purchase a few gifts that are really special to your child will help them see the importance of presence over presents. Your child will likely agree that the best gift is time spent with you.

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Make Your Month Merry: Family-friendly Holiday Happenings Near You

Volusia County

A December to Remember is a multi-day seasonal extravaganza at the Riverfront Esplanade. Enjoy the lights daily from 6 until 9 p.m., Santa sightings on Fridays and a Holiday Bazaar on Saturdays. Plus: The Howl-iday Pet parade is on Wednesday, Dec. 20, at 6 p.m. (Pre-registration is required.) and a Movie on the Lawn showing of The Polar Express is on Friday, Dec. 22, at 6 p.m. For the full December to Remember calendar of events, visit the Riverfront Esplanade site.

Listen to the sounds of the season at the Athens Theatre. “White Christmas” features songs from Irving Berlin in holiday fashion. Performances run through Dec. 17. For more holiday magic, including the Athens Theatre Youth Academy showcases, visit the Athens Theatre website to purchase tickets.

Don’t let Scrooge take over this season. Get rid of any “bah humbug” attitudes with the holiday classic “A Christmas Carol” at The Little Theatre of New Smyrna Beach. This beloved staging opens Thursday, Nov. 30 and closes on Dec. 10. Visit their site for dates, times and ticket prices.

DeLand Christmas Lights show is a spectacular display of nearly 10,000 glowing bulbs. Available daily to experience starting Dec. 1 until Dec. 31. Pack a snack and pull up your car or blanket to the Stetson Baptist Church. Beginning at 5:30 each evening until 8:30 p.m., the spectacle is about 30 minutes and repeats throughout the evening.

Flagler County:

Palm Coast Holiday Market happens on Dec. 2 from until 9 p.m. with 35 local vendors and artisans. Enjoy food trucks, kid activities and merriment.

Palm Coast Holiday Market

The Fitzgerald Performing Arts Center presents Motown & Mo Bringing in the Holidays, an all-ages crowd pleaser with favorite tunes from decades past. Tickets are $30. Show time is Dec. 2 at 5 p.m.

Santa visits Veterans Park! Every Friday beginning Dec. 1, St. Nick comes to the park from 6-8 p.m. Bring your kids to chat with the Big Guy. (This is free!)


2023 Palm Coast Holiday Boat Parade

Boat Parade sails through on Dec. 9 at 6 pm. The trail of sails begins at Cochise Waterway, heading south on the Intracoastal under Hammond Dunes Toll Bridge and by Waterfront Park. This event is a free spectacle for all ages!

Starlight Parade makes a grand return on Dec. 16 at 9 a.m. Come early for pre-march activities and games. The parade starts at 11 a.m. in front of Belle Terre Elementary.

St. Johns County

When the weather outside is delightful, celebrate the festive time at Christmas on the Farm! Sykes Family Farms offers hayrides, cocoa, shining lights and so much more!

Christmas on the Farm

The St. Augustine Ballet presents The Nutcracker at the Lewis Auditorium at Flagler College. Performances are on Dec. 15, at 7 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 26, at 1:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 17, at 2 p.m. Visit their site to purchase tickets.

St. Augustine Winter Spectacular takes centerstage at the Lewis Auditorium at Flagler College on Saturday, Dec. 9, at 7 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 2, at 2 p.m. Tickets start at $20. Visit their website to reserve your seats!

What happens when traditions are about to end? Find out in the play The Trouble with Traditions, a Christmas musical at Limelight Theatre. Tickets are $30 plus fees and open Dec. 7 at 7:30 p.m. Visit Limelight Theatre for a complete list of days and times.


Please note: event details are subject to change. We recommend confirming all information, including date, time, venue and any additional details, closer to the event date.

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A Recipe for Connection: Crafting Generational Conversations at Your Holiday Table

Ah, the holiday season – that magical time when family bonds are as strong as the aroma of roasting turkey and laughter echoes through the dining room. This year, transform your holiday gathering into more than just a culinary extravaganza; make it a celebration of shared experiences and stories. Here are three conversation starters to add to your family feast, bridging generations and making memories to savor.

Dive into the Family Chronicles:

Imagine a table where grandparents, parents and kids swap tales of daring escapades, love stories and even a few embarrassing moments. Kickstart your holiday banter with a journey through family history. Share anecdotes that encapsulate the essence of your family’s resilience, victories and humor. It’s not just about reliving the past; it’s about weaving a narrative that connects generations and imparts wisdom.

The Year in Rearview:

As you pass the mashed potatoes, pass around reflections on the past year. What were the highs, the lows and the unexpected twists? What did they love, like or simply tolerate? Invite each family member to share their personal triumphs as well as their challenges. It’s not just about the food on the table; it’s about nourishing each other’s spirits.

Dream Big, Dream Together:

With dessert on the horizon, shift the conversation to the dreams and aspirations of each family member. What goals are set for the upcoming year? From the youngest dreamers to the seasoned visionaries, encourage everyone to contribute their hopes. It’s not just about the goals; it’s about the collective strength and encouragement that family provides.

So, as you gather around the holiday table, let the conversations flow as freely as the gravy. Turn your meals into moments and your stories into shared treasures. Stir the pot of conversation, sprinkle it with laughter and serve up a feast that nourishes not just the body but the soul. Cheers to a season filled with stories, laughter and the warmth of family!

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A Simple Christmas: 5 Ways to Avoid Toy Overload

The Christmas season means decorations, tasty treats, family celebrations, gift giving….and giving and giving. It seems that every year, we lose some of the true meaning of Christmas because of the excess of toys that enter my home. Two years ago, when the season came to a close, I found myself yearning for a simpler Christmas, one without so much toy overload. I wanted my children to still receive the gifts they wanted and for us to find joy in giving those wishlist items without overdoing it. Here are some strategies I have found to keep the Christmas cheer without fear of toy overload.

The four gift philosophy

This gift-giving philosophy goes like this: “Something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read.” This idea gives kids a variety of gifts without going overboard. It’s practical, affordable and fun. Best of all, it’s easy to shop for without the risk of impulse buying.

Give an experience

Instead of spending a lot of money on toys that may or may not get played with, consider giving the gift of an experience. Ideas may include a membership to a local attraction like a zoo or children’s museum, classes that the child would enjoy (dance, art, music, etc.), tickets to a show, movie passes, gift cards, a special night on the town or even a vacation. This gift idea is great because it can be given to the entire family and is sure to create memories that last longer than an easily forgotten toy.

A family gift

Try giving a gift the entire family can enjoy. Some ideas could include movies, books, board games, electronics or a swing set. Individual gifts that go along with the family gift could make it more personal. For example, if the family gift is a new video game system, each child might receive a game of interest to them to go along with it. The benefit of this type of gift is it encourages quality family time.

A heartfelt gift

These types of gifts are special because they are so personal. One Christmas, my grandma made all of her children and grandchildren a special recipe book that included family recipes that had been passed down for generations. It was a gift that cost little but was priceless to the recipient. These gifts require more time than money but will keep giving for many years.

One big gift

For some kids, there is one large, costly gift that they have on their list. Perhaps they want it more than anything else. Consider getting each child the one larger gift they really want and forgo all the smaller extra gifts. This will be a good lesson in the cost of items and help them appreciate the gifts they do receive more.

During the holidays, it is so easy to shower those we love with gifts, but when January comes around, you often find yourself surrounded by toy overload. These strategies will not only reduce the excess toys but will also help your children appreciate the gifts they do receive while enjoying the true reason for Christmas.

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The Lost Art of the Thank You Note

Are thank you notes a thing of the past, gone the way of rotary phones? I hope not. I love to get a handwritten note that tells me how much someone has enjoyed the gift I have sent them. A text is nice, and sufficient to let someone know you received something, but the handwritten note has a grace that a text cannot emulate.

My daughters make me very proud with their dedication to thanking people. I like to think I instilled this in them through my actions and a few simple rules.

  • No toy is played with, no check is cashed and no cash gifts are used until a thank you note is written, addressed and stamped. This enforces timely thank you notes and keeps the excitement of the gift as motivation.
  • Make the task age appropriate. If your child is not yet school-aged, you can talk about how they should say thank you. Let them tell you the words to write, and then let them add artwork to personalize it.
  • Gradually let your children do more each year. When they can write their name but not much else, you can write what they tell you, and they can sign it. As they learn to write, you should let them write the words, but you can help them with composition. Guide them with a simple thank you note structure when they are young:

Dear (Person who gifted them),

Thank you for the (item). I will enjoy (using, playing with, wearing) it.

Thank you,


(Child’s Name)

  • As they get older, you can encourage them to add more details. They can enquire about the well being of the person they are writing. They can add an anecdote from the last time they saw the gift giver. As they near the end of high school, your children should be able to write a simple 4-6 sentence thank you note. It is also charming to write a thank you note when someone does a kind act or gives you a place to stay while traveling.

I have found that my years of writing thank you notes have increased the depth of the relationship with people whom I have sent to. Being a thank you note sender marks you as a kind and considerate person,

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How to Take the Stress Out of Holiday Gatherings

We know from the songs and movies that holidays are supposed to be an exciting, meaningful time for families to reunite and celebrate the things we cherish. We set aside time to practice both religious rituals and family traditions, we give thanks, and, of course, later on, we give presents. But sometimes holiday gatherings are less magical and more, well, stressful.

The vacation from school and work means a break from routine, something kids and parents alike depend on. Many families travel, facing traffic and long airplane rides, to attend one or more family get-togethers with rarely seen relatives who expect kisses and catching up. And most of these occasions will involve unfamiliar vegetable dishes.

How can anxious or easily frustrated children hope to survive all that? We’ve compiled a list of seasonal tips to help all kids—and parents—enjoy the party.

Minimize conflict over behavior

Your kids know the rules at your house, but in the excitement and novelty of a relative’s home, good behavior can be a casualty. Always have a conversation before leaving your house about how you expect your children to behave, and don’t shy away from specifics.

“Knowing what the rules are at someone else’s house is always helpful for kids,” says Steven Dickstein, MD, a child and adolescent psychiatrist. “They know that you behave differently in church or synagogue than you do on the basketball court; they need to know what the rules are at grandma’s house.” If you have any questions about the house rules, don’t be afraid to ask.

Talk to your hosts early

Besides preparing your children, sometimes it’s necessary to prepare your relatives so they know what to expect. “A child who has behavior difficulties at school is going to have them at grandma’s house,” warns Dr. Dickstein, “so make sure their expectations are realistic. As a parent, you never want to put your children in a situation where they’re set up to fail.”

Dr. Dickstein also recommends putting a moratorium on criticizing. “Warn family members about sensitive topics in the same way you’d warn people in advance that your child has a nut allergy,” advises Dr. Dickstein. If you have a body-conscious teen, no one should chide her for taking seconds on mashed potatoes. If your brother doesn’t believe ADHD is real, now isn’t the time to discuss it.

Plan ahead for some peace and quiet

For kids who are easily overstimulated or sensitive to things like noise and crowds, Rachel Busman, PsyD, a clinical psychologist, recommends arranging for another room they can use when they need a break. “During family gatherings, we want to achieve a balance between being social with relatives while also knowing that, if things get too overwhelming and intense, there’s a place to take a break and just be quiet.”

Keep kids occupied

Kids like structured activities, and they’ll probably be missing them while school is out. Fortunately, the holidays lend themselves to art projects and family-friendly movies that kids enjoy. You can even start new family traditions like cutting out and decorating sugar cookies or throwing a ball around outside.

If you are traveling with a child who will need to sit in a car for any length of time, Dr. Busman advises packing a bag with multiple activities, particularly if the child has a lot of energy. “Don’t just think four or five activities will be enough because you could be through those things before you even get on the highway,” she says.

When traveling, Dr. Busman also recommends planning for breaks, even if it’s not that long of a trip. “Kids who get restless or have difficulty managing their impulsive behavior might really benefit from getting out of the car and running around for a few minutes.”

Discuss social expectations

Parents should have different social expectations for different kids and, if necessary, communicate them to their extended family. “You want to avoid those mandatory hugs and kisses or cheek-pinching for kids that don’t do that or like it,” says Dr. Dickstein.

Kids with selective mutism should not be pressured to talk during family gatherings (and relatives shouldn’t expect them to talk, either). If you have an autistic child who has been working on his social skills, maybe you can agree that he will sit at the table next to you and talk to familiar people—others should be expected to understand.

Getting along with cousins and other kids they don’t see often can be a challenge. Just because kids are approximately the same age doesn’t mean they’ll be natural friends, but they should still try to get along—with adult support if needed. If your daughter gets easily frustrated when she doesn’t get her way, encourage her to share and be polite with her cousins—and let her know she should find you if conflict arises that they can’t settle amicably.

Dr. Dickstein says family gatherings can be a teachable moment. “Let kids know that family is important and sometimes you have to deal with people you don’t really like, but you should work it out, if you can. As parents, you are probably doing that with your relatives, too, so you can model good social behavior.”

Think about the menu

Family gatherings centered on a meal can put a lot of pressure on kids who are picky eaters or who have sensory issues that limit their diet. If you are going to someone else’s house for dinner and you know the menu will be a problem, Dr. Busman suggests packing something your child will eat and bringing it with you.

Have a conversation with your child ahead of time to reassure them, explaining, “I know we’re going over to your aunt’s house, and there’s going to be some different foods there, but we’ll make sure that we bring some things that you like. It would be great if you could try something else, too.” Exploring new foods is good for kids, but it shouldn’t be the most important thing.

Manage your expectations

Both Dr. Busman and Dr. Dickstein agree that managing your own expectations of what the holidays “should” be like is the most essential step to any holiday gathering. “As parents, we should check in with ourselves over what our own expectations are and not extend them to our kids,” says Dr. Busman. “It would be great if the kids could sit at the table and eat a nice holiday meal with us, but they’re probably not going to want to sit still for a long time. It’s important to appreciate that kids might find the fun in other things, like watching a movie with their cousins or running around outside. And that’s ok.”

Dr. Dickstein advises identifying one or two things you would like your kids to get out of the holidays—an idea, a value, a memory of doing something special together as a family—and work on achieving that. “But above all, give yourself a break,” he says. “You can’t make everyone happy, and perfect holidays are nonexistent. Think of all those Hollywood comedies about disastrous family gatherings. There’s a reason why they’re funny.”

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The Year in Review: Some of Our Favorite Books

The Year in Review: Some of Our Favorite Books from 2023

For more recommendations, look at Curated Bookshelves from some of our Educator-Partners

To purchase any of these books


A Real-Life Fairy Tale: Princess Grace

Princess Grace of Monaco is a global icon known for her beauty, glamour and grace. The former Hollywood actress who lit up the silver screen as Grace Kelly, Princess Grace also exemplified leadership and philanthropy.  Acclaimed children’s author Emberli Pridham tells her story in A Real-Life Fairy Tale: Princess Grace, guaranteed to inspire young readers in your life this holiday season.

For more information visit  ($21.95).

I’m From 

by Gary R Gray Jr (Author) Oge Mora (Illustrator)

Reading Level: K − 1st Grade

A poetic, heartwarming ode to the small, defining moments of a boy’s life by a brilliant new debut and a Caldecott Honoree. For fans of Last Stop on Market Street.

Early morning wakeups and homemade pancakes,

Raucous bus rides and schoolyard games,

Family games and bedtime rituals…

These are the small moments that shape a child’s day. I’m From is an invitation into the vivid world of one small boy, a poetic account of all the people and places and things that shape who he is and define where he is from.

Hidden Gem 

by Linda Liu (Author) Linda Liu (Illustrator)

Reading Level: K − 1st Grade


(It also happens to be about a rock…)

“Breathtaking.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred review

Prepare to fall in love with this debut picture book and its irresistibly quirky story of a tiny, unassuming rock’s journey to self-confidence, perfect for fans of Eric Carle & Jon Klassen.

When a small pebble sees others gathering on the steps of the Museum of Rocks, he grows curious. Once inside the esteemed halls, he is shocked by what he discovers. The only rocks on display are glittering gemstones, geodes and crystals!

These beautiful stones make him wonder: Can he be special, too? Perhaps he’ll find an answer in the World’s Most Beautiful Gem exhibition . . . or maybe, just maybe, he will find the answer inside himself.

Elena Rides

by Juana Medina (Author) Juana Medina (Illustrator)

Reading Level: K − 1st Grade

Beginning readers–and beginning riders–will be drawn to this bright, buoyant story of a determined elephant and her loyal sidekick from the award-winning creator of Juana & Lucas.

Elena wants to ride her bike. She steadies, she readies. She wobbles, she bobbles . . . KA-BANG! Learning to ride a bike is hard. But Elena can do it. She just has to try, try again. With this reassuring story of childlike persistence, Juana Medina, creator of the acclaimed Juana & Lucas series, introduces Elena, a plucky elephant, and the little red bird, who is Elena’s faithful cheerleader.

Simple, energetic text and bold, brilliant artwork convey a relatable tale of the ups and downs of learning something new (not without protest or tears) and the final thrill of mastery that will have children rooting for Elena and ready for her next adventure.

Tiger Trouble (Tig and Lily)

 Reading Level: K − 1st Grade

Series: TIG and Lily

Lions, Tigers, and . . . a house cat?! Oh my! Life at the zoo gets complicated when a tiger finds out she has a new roommate. A purr-fect graphic chapter book series!

What makes a tiger a tiger? Is it the stripes? The roar? This is something that Lily, the tiger at the local zoo, has never had to worry about — until she meets the fiercest animal of them all . . . her new roommate. Tig might look like a house cat, might sound like a house cat, but Tig knows he is a Tiger.

The competition is on as these two cats figure out what it means to be a Tiger . . . and a friend.

Seals are Jerks! 

by Jared Chapman (Author) Jared Chapman (Illustrator)

Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade

In a hilarious story for fans of We Don’t Eat Our Classmates, a young girl is determined to find out the truth about her favorite animals — and find out once and for all, are seals really jerks and do they really eat penguins?!

Seals are Lorelei’s favorite animal: they’re so cute and cuddly and best buddies with penguins. Well… that’s what she thought before learning the ugly truth — some seals EAT penguins! She doesn’t want to believe it at first, but she drags Penguin, the classroom guest and seal whistleblower, to Antarctica to prove Penguin wrong and confront Seal face-to-face. And Seal finally reveals the truth.

Beloved creator of bestseller Vegetables in Underwear, Jared Chapman, explores the ultimate question: Can seals be Lorelei’s favorite animal even if they eat penguins? This laugh-out-loud story, brimming with honesty and charm, is perfect for today’s young readers. Seals Are Jerks! is the launch of an exciting new series in the spirit of We Don’t Eat Our ClassmatesChildren Make Terrible Pets and I Want My Hat Back.

Egyptian Lullaby   

by Zeena M Pliska (Author) Hatem Aly (Illustrator)

Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade

A rich, beautifully layered ode to the great city of Cairo, Egypt, its people, and culture.

Every night, my Ametti Fatma sings the sounds of Egypt to me as I fall asleep.

This is the Nile,

that flows through the city.

Swish, swoosh, swish.

This is the boat,

that glides on the Nile,

that flows through the city.

Swish, swoosh, swish.

Each night, a young girl’s Auntie Fatma puts her to bed, singing a lullaby filled with rich imagery of her home in Egypt. As Auntie Fatma sings, we are given a glimpse of modern Cairo, from boats making their way down the Nile to gentle calls to prayer from the mosques to young children joyfully playing soccer in the streets.

Join Zeena Pliska and Hatem Aly on a vibrant journey to Cairo in this gorgeous, layered song.

Fire in the Sky (Spooky Sleuths) 

by Natasha Deen (Author) Lissy Marlin (Illustrator)

Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade

Series: Spooky Sleuths 

There are mysterious explosions near the old abandoned houses in town. Is it science . . . or is it something strange and ghostly? Find out in the latest installment of the spooky chapter book series Spooky Sleuths.

Asim’s friend Max is in danger! Asim is sure some sort of supernatural being–a witch, maybe?–is after Max. Rokshar, the levelheaded one of the group, thinks the woman is a scientist using kids for her experiments! Either way, Max is in trouble, and it’s up to Asim and Rokshar to keep him safe. But when they get close to finding answers, Asim and his friends are attacked by fireballs. Is science behind the flying fire? Or is it a witch from Guyanese folklore? Find out . . . if you dare!

Don’t miss the Spooky Sleuths series based on ghost stories from Guyana.

A Nessie Situation (Cryptid Club #2)

by Michael Brumm (Author) Jeff Mack (Illustrator)

Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade

Series: Cryptid Club

Fans of The Bad Guys and Catwad will love The Cryptid Club, a hilarious new four-book graphic novel series about an unlikely team of kid sleuths out to solve the mysteries behind the sudden spate of monster sightings around their school.

The Cryptid Club has found its next case! When they discover strange writing on the bathroom stalls and that something is stealing paper and pens, they know it’s going to take some super sleuthing to crack this caper.

But when a monster starts popping up in every toilet around the school, the principal orders all the bathrooms immediately closed. Now Lily, Henry, Oliver and their superhero-wannabe friend, Ernie, must solve the mystery before the whole school can’t hold it in any longer!

Everything is not as it seems in this hilarious new graphic novel series debut by Emmy Award-winning writer for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert Michael Brumm and bestselling illustrator Jeff Mack.


by Zachary Sterling (Author) Zachary Sterling (Illustrator)

Reading Level: 4th – 5th Grade

From rising star Zachary Sterling comes a humorous and heartwarming middle-grade graphic novel that celebrates food, family and folklore.

Can two kids save the world and work their family food truck?

First-generation Filipino siblings JJ and Althea struggle to belong at school. JJ wants to fit in with the crowd, while Althea wants to be accepted as she is. To make matters worse, they have to help their parents run the family food truck by dressing up as a dancing pig and passing out samples. Ugh! And their mom is always pointing out lessons from Filipino folklore — annoying tales they’ve heard again and again. But when witches, ogres and other creatures from those same stories threaten their family, JJ and Althea realize that the folklore may be more real than they’d suspected. Can they embrace who they really are and save their family?

The Sea of Terror (Once Upon a Time #3)

by Stuart Gibbs (Author) Stacy Curtis (Illustrator)

Reading Level: 4th – 5th Grade

Series: Once Upon a Tim 

Join Tim and his friends on a treacherous journey across the seas in the laugh-out-loud funny, highly illustrated third book of the New York Times bestselling Once Upon a Tim series from Spy School author Stuart Gibbs.

After helping Princess Grace foil the villainous Prince Ruprecht–twice!–junior knights Tim, Belinda and Ferkle are on a new quest–this time to recover the Queen of Merryland’s precious golden fleece (and, more importantly, the protective amulet in its pocket) from the Kingdom of Dinkum. The safety of all Merryland depends upon them. But first, they must face the deadly Sea of Terror and the dastardly perils it contains. Tim and his friends will have to use every ounce of bravery, valor and intelligence they possess to navigate the treacherous waters–or else risk becoming flotsam on the waves.


by Jessixa Bagley (Author) Aaron Bagley (Illustrator)   

Reading Level: 4th – 5th Grade

A rivalry between sisters culminates in a fencing duel in this funny and emotional debut graphic novel sure to appeal to readers of Raina Telgemeier and Shannon Hale.

Sixth-grader Lucy loves fantasy novels and is brand-new to middle school. GiGi is the undisputed queen bee of eighth grade (as well as everything else she does). They’ve only got one thing in common: fencing. Oh, and they’re sisters. They never got along super well, but ever since their dad died, it seems like they’re always at each other’s throats.

When GiGi humiliates Lucy in the cafeteria on the first day of school, Lucy snaps and challenges GiGi to a duel with high sisterly stakes. If GiGi wins, Lucy promises to stay out of GiGi’s way; if Lucy wins, GiGi will stop teasing Lucy for good. But after their scene in the cafeteria, both girls are on thin ice with the principal and their mom. Lucy stopped practicing fencing after their fencer dad died and will have to get back to fighting form in secret, or she’ll be in big trouble. And GiGi must behave perfectly or risk getting kicked off the fencing team.

As the clock ticks down to the girls’ fencing bout, the anticipation grows. Their school is divided into GiGi and Lucy factions, complete with t-shirts declaring kids’ allegiances. Both sisters are determined to triumph. But will winning the duel mean fracturing their family even further?

Where Are The Aliens? The Search for Life Beyond Earth 

by Stacy McAnulty (Author) Nicole Miles (Illustrator)

Reading Level: 4th – 5th Grade

A fun-filled, highly illustrated, science-based exploration into one of the universe’s greatest mysteries—does life exist beyond Earth?—from bestselling and award-winning author Stacy McAnulty.

Spoiler: Scientists haven’t discovered life beyond Earth, not even a single teeny-tiny organism. But there’s a whole lot of outer space, and humans have searched only a fraction of a fraction of it. So, do you believe in the possibility of life out there? Or do you think Earth is perfectly unique in its ability to grow organisms?

Where Are the Aliens? takes readers on a journey of theories and discoveries, from the Big Bang and primordial soup to how the ancient Greeks considered the cosmos to the technology used today to listen and (possibly!) communicate with far-off exoplanets. Packed with playful illustrations and fascinating factoids, this is the perfect book for anyone who has ever looked up and asked, “What’s out there?”

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