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Children's Bookwatch

Volume 32, Number 4 April 2022 Home | CBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Social Issues Shelf Environmental Shelf
Christmas Shelf Multicultural Shelf Biography Shelf
Picturebook Shelf Board Book Shelf Historical Fiction Shelf
Middle Grade Fiction Shelf YA Fiction Shelf Mystery/Suspense Shelf
Fantasy/SciFi Shelf Coloring Book Shelf Activity Shelf
Jigsaw Puzzle Shelf Graphic Novel Shelf Music CD Shelf
Christian Shelf Judaic Shelf Islamic Shelf
Art Shelf Folktale/Fairytale Shelf Pets/Wildlife Shelf
Science Shelf Aviation Shelf Hunting Shelf
Egyptology Shelf LGBT Shelf Books in Series
Story Monsters Ink Shelf    

Reviewer's Choice

I'll Go Rhythm
Justin Webb, author
Kayla Stark, illustrator
Read-With-Me Books, LLC
9781638775119, $20.99, HC, 44pp

Synopsis: With "I'll Go Rhythm", children will enjoy journeying down the rabbit hole of the internet through the eyes of Charlie, a creative kid who loves to play drums and hang out with friends. Charlie meets AL, an algorithm who can promise Charlie everything and anything, but at what cost? "I'll Go Rhythm" follows Charlie on a path of self-discovery and the realization that the online world isn't always what it's cracked up to be!

Critique: An especially timely picture book for children in this age of social media and the internet, "I'll Go Rhythm" is charmingly illustrated and with its storytelling style inverse by Justin Webb is a particularly effective way to introduce young readers ages 5-8 to the values of friendship and the limitations of what the internet can be and do. While also readily available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99), "I'll Go Rhythm" is highly recommended for family, elementary school, and community library collections.

Chocolate Covered Courage With Blessings On Top
Nikki Cooper
VMH Publishing
9781947928626, $15.99, HC, 38pp

Synopsis: Being brave is not easy! Davis is a little girl whose magical outdoor adventure is cut short when her mother asks her about a choice she made earlier. Will Davis be brave and tell the truth or will she run away from it?

Critique: A thoroughly fun read and with an important underlying message about personal responsibility, "Chocolate Covered Courage With Blessings On Top" by author and illustrator Nikki Cooper is an ideal and highly recommended addition to family, elementary school, and community library Life Skills picture book collections for children ages 4- 10.

Editorial Note: Also highly recommended is author/illustrator Nikki Cooper's first picture book for children ages 4-10, "Chocolate Covered Gratitude with Blessings on Top" (9781947928589, $14.99, 9781947928596, $11.99 PB, 32pp).

Ava's Triumph
Mary Miller & Linda Woo
Ninewise Publishing
9781735713823, $19.99, HC, 38pp

Synopsis: "Ava's Triumph" by the team of Mary Miller and Linda Woo is a unique picture book story about a young rabbit named Ava who aspired to be an artist but finds that she must deal with and overcome serious accident to her work. Heartbroken Ava must push herself to overcome the disastrous setback with dignity and hard-work -- which ultimately leads to a triumph of her own which is celebrated by the support of her little community of fellow rabbits.

Critique: The illustrations of this unusual and very special picture book are full page, full color photographs using stuffed animals. The story is presented with simply and effective sentences. This combination of image with storyline is remarkably effective as entertainment with an underlying and inspiring moral message about personal responsibility and perseverance. "Ava's Triumph" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to family, daycare center, preschool, and community library picture book collections for children ages 1-4.

Editorial Note: The announced mission of Ninewise Publishing is to share the wisdom of parenting! Their goal is to publish the work of authors that will create a foundation of expertise, research, and experience to build parenting perspectives and knowledge. The focus of Ninewise Publishing is on baby books and children's books that will create a culture of learning, arts, and human interests.

The Clothesline Code
Janet Halfmanfn, author
Trisha Mason, illustrator
Brandylane Publishers
5 South 1st Street, Richmond, VA 23219
9781951565572, $22.95, HC, 36pp

Synopsis: Lucy Ann and Dabney Walker didn't have to risk their lives to spy for the Union army. The couple had already risked everything to escape slavery themselves. But in early 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, the couple was determined to help defeat slavery for everyone-no matter the risk.

Together, they created a secret code disguised as laundry on a clothesline. Their plan was incredibly dangerous: it required Lucy Ann to sneak into Confederate territory to steal military secrets, while Dabney took the vital information she gathered to the Union army.

"The Clothesline Cod" is a true story of sacrifice and bravery that shows young readers that when they have courage and compassion for the world around us, even the simplest items can become powerful tools for change.

Critique: While also available for personal reading lists in a paperback edition (978-1951565589, $13.95), "The Clothesline Code: The Story of Civil War Spies Lucy Ann and Dabney Walker", by author/storyteller Janet Halfmann and artist/illustrator Trisha Mason is an exceptionally well written and entertaining picture book contribution to family, elementary school, and community library Civil War era stories and biographies for children ages 6-11.

Editorial Note: Author Janet Halfmann's inspiration for "The Clothesline Code" was to bring into the light a story that had been lost to history. Most mentions she found in her research of this risky exploit didn't even include the couple's last name, so it took lots work on her part to find the details behind this story. In the past, some have thought this story was but a legend, but the truth can be found in Dabney Walker's pension request submitted to Congress and in the Civil War diaries of Captain William H. Paine, whom Dabney worked with in surveying and mapmaking, as well as in newspaper accounts of people who were in the Union camp in Virginia with the Walkers. Janet Halfmann maintains an informative website at

The Social Issues Shelf

See You Soon
Mariame Kaba, author
Bianca Diaz, illustrator
Haymarket Books
PO Box 180165, Chicago, IL 60618
9781642597639, $18.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: Queenie is a little girl who loves living with Mama and Grandma Louise. Together, they go to the grocery store, eat ice cream, and play games in the park. Mama braids Queenie's hair and helps her with her homework.

Sometimes, when Mama is sick, she has to go away. One day, Queenie and Grandma ride the bus with Mama to the county jail.

Queenie is worried about what will happen when Mama goes to jail. She's afraid to ask questions, and overcome with feelings of worry and sadness. Does Mama have a warm bed to sleep in? When will Queenie see her again?

Soon after she and Grandma return home, Queenie opens a letter from Mama, and savors every word. She knows her Mama loves her, and looks forward to their upcoming visit.

Critique: A unique children's picture book that deftly addresses the very sensitive subject of an incarcerated parent, "See You Soon" by the team of author/storyteller Mariame Kabs and artist/illustrator Bianca Diaz is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to family, daycare, preschool, elementary school, and community library collections for children ages 4-8.

Editorial Note #1: Mariame Kaba is an educator and organizer based in New York City. She has been active in the anti-criminalization and anti-violence movements for over 30 years. Mariame is the founder and director of Project NIA, a grassroots organization with a long-term vision to end youth incarceration. She is the author of Missing Daddy and We Do This 'Til We Free Us. She maintains a website at

Editorial Note #2: Bianca Diaz is a Mexican American artist from Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood. She is the illustrator of the children's books Starting Over in Sunset Park and The One Day House. She has a website at

The Environmental Shelf

It's Up to Us
HRH The Prince of Wales, et al.
What on Earth Books
9781913750565, $21.99, HC, 64pp

Synopsis: "It's Up to Us: Building a Brighter Future for Nature, People & Planet" is based on the Terra Carta, a roadmap to sustainability issued by His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales and his Sustainable Markets Initiative. The story explains in lyrical text how Nature operates in a world without humans. It then shows the damaging impact People have had on the Planet. It finishes by proposing a series of new pledges that we can all make -- the creation of a new Terra Carta to help solve the problems this beautifully presented picture book for children has showcased..

Critique: Children ages 6-20 will fully enjoy joining the Prince of Wales, along with author Christopher Lloyd and 33 amazing award-winning artists from around the world, including Peter SĄs, Harmony Becker, Wesley Bedrosian, Sally Deng, and Stuart Armstrong from the United States, on a beautiful, lyrical, informative, thought-provoking, and inspirational voyage through Nature, learning about the threats we face, and an 'real world practical' action plan to address them. Simply stated, "It's Up to Us: Building a Brighter Future for Nature, People & Planet" is especially and unreservedly recommended for family, elementary school, and community library Environmental picture book collections for young readers ages 6-10.

Editorial Note: "It's Up to Us: Building a Brighter Future for Nature, People & Planet" has been developed in partnership with The Prince's Foundation, a charity established by HRH The Prince of Wales to demonstrate how Nature can be put at the heart of human activities. Half of all the proceeds from sales will go directly to the work of the charity, based at Dumfries House in Scotland, UK. Printed in Canada on 30% recycled FSC paper with vegetable inks, and all carbon impacts of the production have been offset through sustainable forestry programs.

A Hot Mess: How the Climate Crisis Is Changing Our World
Jeff Fleischer
Zest Books
c/o The Lerner Publishing Group
241 First Avenue North, Minneapolis, MN 55401-1607
9781541597761, $37.32, Library Binding, 192pp

Synopsis: We already know what climate change is and many of us understand the human causes. But what will climate change do to our world? Who will be affected (spoiler: all of us!) and how will our lives change in the future?

"A Hot Mess: How the Climate Crisis Is Changing Our World" by Jeff Fleischer is a compendium of topics the include sea levels, extreme weather, drought, animal and plant extinction, and human and animal migration. Drawing on real-life situations and stories, "A Hot Mess" offers an informed, approachable look at how our world will likely change as a result of our actions, including suggestions on what we can still do to slow down these unprecedented effects.

Critique: With black-and-white illustrations, "A Hot Mess: How the Climate Crisis Is Changing Our World" is an exceptionally well written, organized, timely, and highly recommended addition to middle school, highschool, and community library Contemporary Environmental & Conservation Issues collections for young readers ages 6-12. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "A Hot Mess: How the Climate Crisis Is Changing Our World" is also readily available in a paperback edition (978-1541597778, $16.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.34).

Editorial Note: Jeff Fleischer is a Chicago-based author, editor, and journalist. He is also the author of Votes of Confidence: A Young Person's Guide to American Elections (Zest Books, 2020 and 2016), Rockin' the Boat: 50 Iconic Revolutionaries (Zest Books, 2015) and The Latest Craze: A Short History of Mass Hysterias (Fall River Press, 2011).

The Christmas Shelf

The Christmas Curse of Krampus
Devin Arloski
EurownAmerica Publishing
9780578952390, $9.99 Paper/$2.99 Kindle

The Christmas Curse of Krampus is a children's book that will appeal to pre-teens. Eleven-year-old Max follows a light in the forest away from the Christmas festivities in Germany and into a world that contains the unexpected. There, he confronts a terrifying beast, is rescued by a friendly stranger, and is challenged to more closely examine his own beliefs about Christmas and family as he ventures into a strange world of curses and threats.

These are not the traditional trappings of a holiday story, but provide a storm of confrontation and accompanying wisdom that test Christmas beliefs, faith, and the underlying chemistry of Christmas in unusual ways.

As Santa and others interact and Max comes to realize the real power of Christmas, advanced elementary to middle grade readers receive a vivid story that is anything but the usual holiday feature.

While some might believe the Christmas spirit could be lost within the angst and struggle that this story embraces, one of the pleasures of The Christmas Curse of Krampus lies in its unique ability to blend the trappings of a horror story and German backdrop with a holiday atmosphere: "His mom had always taught him to help those in need, and he often found himself agreeing to things he didn't want to do. It didn't matter anyway; there was no turning back now."Are we going to take out your sleigh?" Max asked, a little excited at that thought.

"No, I only take the reindeer out on Christmas Eve. It's too risky to endanger the reindeer on Krampusnacht when Krampus and his Darklings are at their most powerful."

As Max learns new spells and faces his darkest fears, the Christmas spirit burns ever brighter in a story that will attract kids both for its holiday and horror themes.

Its underlying messages about family and love (based on the folklore of the alpine regions of Germany and Austria) and its depth creates a standout in Christmas literature. This warm, uplifting story is highly recommended for kids and read-aloud parents who look for vivid, original tales the entire family can share and discuss.

The door is left more than ajar for a sequel, which is forthcoming. The stage that's been set for this event promises another involving story.

The Multicultural Shelf

For the Love of Laxmi
Bijal Shah
Mascot Books
620 Herndon Parkway, #320, Herndon, VA 20170
9781637552032, $18.95, HC, 38pp, Ages 6-8

For the "For the Love of Laxmi: Everyday Desi Biases and the Imprints They Leave" is a study in Indian multigenerational interactions. It presents a whimsical, fun series of dialogues between family members as they pose for a family portrait, argue, and love one another.

At the heart of this family encounter is Laxmi, a child who receives the loving attention of uncles, aunts, parents, and siblings.

Each family encounter causes Laxmi to question the nature of love, family support systems, and understanding not just between generations and the sexes, but in her role in her family unit and the world around her.

Fine illustrations by Alexa Carter personalize Laxmi's family and their experiences, bringing her encounters and questions to life. But it's the warm dialogues between family members leading to questions in Laxmi's mind (outlined clearly in sidebars that illustrate her thinking) that make Bijal Shah's story so compelling.

Shah, born in India and raised in the U.S., has always been fascinated with being raised in two cultures. Their contrasts (and little Laxmi's growth and evolution) receive center stage in a study in differences and independence which embraces both worlds and the choices Laxmi faces living in each as she grows up and moves to college and life away from home.

Picture book collections looking for multicultural reads that contrast different thinking, parenting styles, and a bi-cultural child's concerns between them will relish the lively and clear interactions in For the Love of Laxmi, which ultimately is a study in love.

The Biography Shelf

American Shoes: A Refugee's Story
Rosemarie Lengsfeld Turke, author
Garrett L. Turke, author
Beyond Words Publishing
c/o Simon and Schuster (dist.)
9781582708522, $24.00, HC, 352pp

Synopsis: Set against a backdrop of Adolf Hitler's rise to power, the reign of Nazi Germany, and the entire course of World War II in Europe, "American Shoes: A Refugee's Story" recounts the tumultuous childhood of a young American girl and her family who were trapped within a country that had turned against itself, where human decency eroded and then vaporized. Forced to grow up in the midst of endemic fear stoked by a ravenous madman, "American Shoes" vividly portrays the breakdown of a society from a child's point of view, deep inside a land where millions of law-abiding citizens were targeted as threats, and then removed for extermination.

"American Shoes" is the true story of a brave girl who, despite not being Jewish, was perceived to be one of those threats and was compelled to keep her American identity secret for fear of her family's arrest, concentration camp placement, or worse. Fighting to see through a relentless barrage of Nazi lies and propaganda, and caught within a nation where resistance or opposition meant incarceration if not certain death, "American Shoes" illuminates one family's struggle to survive against impossible odds as a cataclysmic world war marched closer and closer until it was upon them.

Vividly told for the first time after seven decades of a family's collective silence, "American Shoes" reveals the story of a brave and spirited young girl named Rosel who refused to accept the new order of a world gone mad, inside a society that became more sinister and macabre than any childhood nightmare could ever be. Driven by the faint memories of the land where she was born (a hazy beacon that guided her toward freedom and a new life) "American Shoes" is the story of Rosemarie Lengsfeld Turke.

Critique: A critically important and valued addition to middle school, highschool, and community library World War II Biography & Memoir collections, "American Shoes: A Refugee's Story" is a timely introduction for teens and young adults ages 12-18 to what life is like within a totalitarian state in general, and during the Nazi domination of Germany in particular. A vividly written, impressively informative and exceptionally compelling read from first page to last, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "American Shoes: A Refugee's Story" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note #1: Rosemarie Lengsfeld Turke is an American citizen who spent a large part of her formative years growing up in the clutches of Nazi Germany. Her family spent many years trying to escape the war's atrocities before Rosemarie was able to board a ship back to America alone at the age of 15, leaving her family behind until they could be reunited years later. Rosemarie has spent her life nurturing kindness and compassion in children as an au pair, as a Montessori directress, and as a parent, grandmother, and now great-grandmother. While working on "American Shoes: A Refugee's Story", Rosemarie has found that sharing her story and inspiring others is her true life's purpose. She strongly believes that children are the keepers of the light.

Editorial Note #2: Garrett Turke is a former clinical psychologist who has been a father, caregiver, and healing professional for more than three decades, and is the author of two previous books: There's a Window to Heaven (2018) and 497 Nails (2015).

Rena Glickman, Queen of Judo
Eve Nadel Catarevas, author
Martina Peluso, illustrator
Kar-Ben Publishing, Inc.
241 First Ave. N, Minneapolis, MN 55401-1607
9781728424309, $17.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: Rena Glickman, known professionally as Rusty Kanokogi, was a Jewish girl who grew up to become the preeminent female judo master of her time, overcoming many odds. At a time when judo was a sport strictly for boys and men, Rusty was determined to practice the sport she loved.

Critique: Impressively illustrated by the artistry of Martina Peluso, in support of biographer Eve Nadel Catarevas text, "Rena Glickman, Queen of Judo" is an engaging, entertaining and informative read throughout. While highly recommended for family, elementary school, and community library picture book biography and martial arts/sports picture book collections for children ages 5-9, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Rena Glickman, Queen of Judo" is also available in a paperback edition (978-1728427973, $7.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99).

Close-Up on War
Mary Cronk Farrell, author
Harry N. Abrams, Inc.
9781419746611, $22.99, HC, 208pp

Synopsis: "Close-Up on War: The Story of Pioneering Photojournalist Catherine Leroy in Vietnam" by Mary Cronk Farrell is the inspiring and fascinating story of the woman who gave a human face to the Vietnam War.

"Close-Up on War" tells the story of French-born Catherine Leroy, one of the war's few woman photographers, who documented some of the fiercest fighting in the 20-year conflict. Although she had no formal photographic training and had never traveled more than a few hundred miles from Paris before, Leroy left home at age 21 to travel to Vietnam and document the faces of war.

Despite being told that women didn't belong in a "man's world," she was cool under fire, gravitated toward the thickest battles, went along on the soldiers' slogs through the heat and mud of the jungle, crawled through rice paddies, and became the only official photojournalist to parachute into combat with American soldiers. Leroy took striking photos that gave America no choice but to look at the realities of war (showing what it did to people on both sides) from wounded soldiers to civilian casualties.

Later, Leroy was gravely wounded from shrapnel, but that didn't keep her down more than a month. When captured by the North Vietnamese in 1968, she talked herself free after photographing her captors, scoring a cover story in Life magazine. A recipient of the George Polk Award, one of the most prestigious awards in journalism, Leroy was one of the most well-known photographers in the world during her time, and her legacy of bravery and compassion endures today.

Author and biographer Mary Farrell interviewed people who knew Catherine Leroy, as well as military personnel and other journalists who covered the war. In addition to a preface by Pulitzer Prize-winning Vietnam War photographer Nick Ut and a foreword by Pulitzer Prize - winning journalist Peter Arnett, "Close-Up on War: The Story of Pioneering Photojournalist Catherine Leroy in Vietnam" also includes an Mary Farrell's note, endnotes, bibliography, timeline, and index.

Critique: Profusely enhanced throughout with Catherine Leroy's photographs, "Close-Up on War: The Story of Pioneering Photojournalist Catherine Leroy in Vietnam" is an inherently fascinating and compelling biography of a remarkable woman doing a remarkably difficult job in remarkable dangerous war. While also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99), "Close-Up on War: The Story of Pioneering Photojournalist Catherine Leroy in Vietnam" is a significant and unreservedly recommended addition to middle school, highschool, and community library American Biography and Viet Nam War history collections for young readers ages 12-18.

Editorial Note: Mary Cronk Farrell is an award-winning journalist and children's book writer. Her books have won a SPUR Award for Best Juvenile Fiction about the American West and been honored on lists such as the Notable Social Studies Books for Young People, Bank Street College's List of Best Children's Books, and the New York Public Library's Best Books for Teens. Her journalistic work has also received numerous awards for excellence from the Society of Professional Journalists and two Emmy nominations. Farrell frequently speaks at schools, libraries, conferences, and women's and family workshops.

The Picturebook Shelf

Goodbye, Colors!
Victor D.O. Santos
9781649621214, $12.99 Paperback
9781649621283, $23.99 Hardcover

Goodbye, Colors! enjoys gorgeous, colorful drawings by Eszter Miklos as young Sabrina confronts an evil witch who is intent on ridding the world of colors after she crashes into a rainbow. Sabrina throws an apple at her. There goes red!

She slingshots an avocado missile at the witch. There goes green! As Sabrina's efforts to stop the witch only result in more missing colors from the world, the effects of each color's absence resonates. Stop lights are no longer red or green. With no green in leaves, they fall off the tree, unable to achieve photosynthesis. Her actions only make things worse, until the world falls dark. And, courageous Sabrina has only one fear...

Victor D.O. Santos crafts an inviting story that goes far beyond helping young picture book readers identify colors. He explores the meaning of color in the world through the courage of a young girl determined not to see an evil force take them away. His story of a witch who inadvertently forces Sabrina to confront her deepest fears will delight adults who choose Goodbye, Colors! for a lively picture book read. Those who believe that the presence of a witch regulates this story to Halloween alone will be delighted to discover that the adventure offers year-round appeal.

Ann Bonwill, author
Kayla Harren, illustrator
Two Lions
9781542032896, $17.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: When a little girl learns about her parents' divorce on a Thursday, it ruins her favorite day of the week. But her stuffed-unicorn friend steps in to help, taking her on adventures to cheer her up and staying by her side to comfort her when feelings are hard. Then, slowly, the little girl and her unicorn friend awaken to the natural world that surrounds them as life continues to shift and change until the day that Thursday can become just Thursday again.

Critique: Told with great sensitivity and beauty by author/storyteller Ann Bonwill and charmingly illustrated by the artistry of Kayla Harren, "Thursday is an impressively presented picture book of healing and hope for young children who are experiencing the trauma of divorce and an effective, entertaining, and thoroughly 'kid friendly' testament to the power of friendship in helping overcome life's biggest problems. While especially and unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for children ages 3-7, it should be noted for personal reading lists of children having to deal with divorce, troubled emotions, and the beneficial impact of friendship that "Thursday" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99).

Cedric's Tail
Amani Udumas, author
Agnes Ernoult, illustrator
Yeehoo Press
9781953458223, $14.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: What would you do if your birthday wish came true -- and now you had a tail? Cedric is a young boy who wishes for a tail on his birthday and is overjoyed when his wish comes true. Having a tail is great! Now Cedric can swing around on trees, help his mom clean up the house twice as fast, and even fight crime! As Cedric gets used to his new limb, though, he realizes that having a tail isn't everything he thought it would be. But can he ever go back to being a regular tail-less kid?

Critique: "Cedric's Tail" by the team of author/storyteller Amani Udumas and artist/illustrator Anes Ernoult is a hilarious cautionary tale about the joy of an unexpected gift, and the dilemma of needing a solution to unexpected consequences. While also readily available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $5.99), "Cedric's Tail" is specifically recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for children ages 4-7.

Pura's Cuentos
Annette Bay Pimentel, author
Magaly Morales, illustrator
Harry N. Abrams
9781419749414, $18.99, HC, 40pp

Synopsis: Pura's abuela always has a cuento to share. She crows Qui-qui-ri-qui! for Senor Gallo, booms Borom, Borom for Senor Zapo, and tells of a beautiful cockroach who loves a mouse. Pura clings to these stories like coquies cling to green leaves.

When Pura grows up and moves from Puerto Rico to Harlem, she gets a job at the library, where she is surrounded by stories -- but they're only in English. Where is Senor Gallo? Where is Perez the mouse? Where is Puerto Rico on these shelves? She decides to tell children the tales of her homeland in English and in Spanish.

Lyrically written, with lively illustrations, "Pura's Cuentos" fully captures the exuberant spirit and passion of Pura Belpre: celebrated storyteller, author, folklorist, and the first Latina librarian in New York City. A pioneer of bilingual storytimes, she welcomed countless new families to the library, formed cultural bridges in her community, and broke the rules by telling stories that weren't printed in books -- at least, not yet.

Critique: A delightfully entertaining picture book biography by the team of author/storyteller Annette Bay Pimentel, and artist/illustrator Magaly Morales, "Pura's Cuentos: How Pura Belpre Reshaped Libraries With Her Stories" will prove to be a welcome and popular addition to family, elementary school, and community library contemporary biography picture book collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "'s Cuentos: How Pura Belpre Reshaped Libraries With Her Stories" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

The Bear and the Little Green Thing
Berbay Publishing
9780645069648, $17.99, HC, 40pp

Synopsis: When the little green thing is dropped from the mouth of a bird, it finds an unexpected home on the back of a bear! The little green thing just needs to convince the bear to let it stay. You might not think a little green thing has a lot to say, but this one does!

It offers to provide great conversation, act as a gentle fan and protect the bear from intruders. In exchange, the little green thing receives warmth and safety. But when the seasons change, and it's time for the little green sapling to become a big green tree, how will their friendship survive?

Critique: All the more impressive when considering that "The Bear and the Little Green Thing" is storyteller/illustrator DianDian's debut as a children's picture book author and artist, this beautifully designed, oversized hardcover (9.3 x 0.5 x 11.7 inches), and fully entertaining children's book is especially and unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library collections for ages 3-6.

Editorial Note: Currently based in Brussels, DianDian is a gifted picture book author and illustrator. She is always challenging herself to be a good storyteller. Born in China, she studied at Royal Academy of Fine Arts of Brussels and at the Camberwell College of Arts in London.

Peter Bently, author
Becka Moor, illustrator
Andersen Press USA
c/o The Lerner Publishing Group
241 First Avenue North, Minneapolis, MN 55401-1607
9781728449739, $17.99, 32pp

Synopsis: In the pages of "Pantemonium!" by author/storyteller Peter Bently and artist/illustrator Becka Moor, young children will delightfully enjoy following Fred as he drags his giant pants all around town, scooping up a cat, the baker and all his cakes, a fire engine. They will be simply amazed how much fits in those megapants. What pantemonium!

Critique: Fun, light hearted, unique, kid friendly, "Pantemonium!" will prove to be an immediately and enduringly popular addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for children ages 4-9. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Pantemonium!" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note #1: Peter Bently lives in England. He studied languages at Oxford University and has written more than 40 titles, one of which led to him win the Roald Dahl Funny Prize 2011.

Editorial Note #2: Becka Moor studied illustration for children's publishing at Glyndwr University. Since then, she has worked on a variety of young fiction, nonfiction, and picture books, and she was shortlisted for the Waterstones Children's Book Prize. Becka lives and works in the UK.

We Belong
Laura Purdie Salas, author
Carlos Velez Aguilera, illustrator
CarolRhoda Books
c/o The Lerner Publishing Group
241 First Avenue North, Minneapolis, MN 55401-1607
9781541599130, $17.99, 32pp

Synopsis: With the rhyming verse text by storyteller Laura Purdie Salas and the lively an d charming artwork of illustrator Carlos Velez Aguilera, young children will have fun exploring and celebrating who they are and who others are too in the new picture book "We Belong". Inviting children to notice the diversity of our world and affirm that we all belong, just as we are, "We Belong" features a diverse group of children, playing and learning in an urban setting.

Critique: A fun and entertaining picture book with its message of the value of friendship and diversity, "We Belong" is a welcome and recommended addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for children ages 4-8. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "We Belong" is also available in a digital book format as well (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note #1: Laura Purdie Salas is the author of more than 130 books for kids, including If You Were the Moon, Water Can Be..., and Bookspeak! Poems about Books. Poetry and rhyming nonfiction books are her favorite things to write. Laura loves to do author visits, writing workshops, and teacher inservices. She maintains a website at

Editorial Note #2: Carlos Velez Aguilera is a professional illustrator based in Mexico City, Mexico. He graduated from the National School of Plastic Arts and has illustrated more than twenty children's books including his graphic novel Salon Destino.

Alycat and the Cattywampus Wednesday
Alysson Foti Bourque
Pelican Publishing Company
c/o Arcadia Publishing
990 N. Corporate Dr., Suite 100, New Orleans, LA 70123
9781455626489, $17.99, HC, 32pp, Ages 3-8

Alycat and the Cattywampus Wednesday tells of a day where everything seems 'upside down', from the dinner Alycat gets to eat for breakfast to a school bus which is full when it reaches her, even though she's supposedly the first stop it makes.

In fact, everything is backwards, from her locker number at school to the order of her classes. Isn't it fun to do things differently sometimes? Not if everything is different, all at once!

Alycat responds in the best way possible. Her assessment of the day's special challenges and how she can confront them gives picture book readers insights into the ways in which attitude can make a big difference in outcomes.

From problem-solving and positivity to friendship revelations, Alycat and the Cattywampus Wednesday gives many enlightening insights during the course of a zany day's experiences, mixing an entertaining read with thought-provoking moments.

Parents who choose this simple story for its read-aloud value will find Alycat and the Cattywampus Wednesday filled with opportunities for discussions about adaptation and how to handle difficult days when they seem to go all cattywampus.

Chiara Civati's engaging cat drawings bring Alysson Foti Bourque's fun characters to life in this whimsical, Louisiana-based story about kitties who confront a very different world.

Gordo Goo
Ruth Neikirk
Mascot Books
620 Herndon Parkway, #320, Herndon, VA 20170
9781645435952, $16.95 Hardcover/$4.95 ebook

Gordo Goo uses a rollicking rhyme to power the picture book story of a team of basketball players who face a particularly challenging game. It's time to bring in Gordo Goo, who "Missed his lay-ups by a lot;/Now is his chance to show he's hot."

Gordo has a solution to his problem. Literally. It's Magic Potion #2, a Big Blue taste that packs a punch and gives Gordo the confidence to become a winner. What is Magic Potion #2? It's an injection of positivity that Coarch Harris "makes for the team/Every night;/It keeps our bodies/Ready and right."

While adults may initially balk at the idea of a magic game-changing formula for enhancing sports ability, it quickly becomes evident that the drink is not a drug, but a dose of self-confidence that taps strengths that originate from the heart.

As Gordo proves himself and the magic potion is considered by others, readers gain insights into the real origins of achievement that stem not from magic, but from its perception.

Adults who choose this fun story for read-aloud discussion will find appealing not only its premise, but the fun drawings by Remell Segovia, which bring to life the efforts of a basketball team and a savvy coach who develops a formula to ensure it does its best.

You and Me in the Trees
Amoris Walker
Mascot Books
620 Herndon Parkway, #320, Herndon, VA 20170
9781637552117, $17.95, HC, 38pp

You and Me in the Trees follows families that celebrate being in the forest and in nature. It provides a fine picture book story embellished with full-page, lovely illustrations by Alyssa Gnos as it explores children and adults who interact with each other and nature.

Diversity is also celebrated as characters of all ethnic origins explore the forest backdrop. Even the dress changes, from the old-fashioned attire of a girl who climbs a tree to enjoy the view to a modern mountain biker who enjoys "whooshing by" on a mountain road.

"Aren't we lucky to enjoy all the beauty that abounds?"

The question and presentation not only capture nature's beauty, but the equally beautiful diversity of a range of people who enjoy a walk in the woods and the gorgeous landscapes of Mother Nature.

Any picture book library looking for stories of nature encounters and diverse characters will find You and Me in the Trees a winning standout from the usual child-in-nature approach.

The School of Failure: A Story about Success
Rosie J. Pova, author
Monika Filipina, illustrator
Yeehoo Press
9781953458179, $15.99, 40pp

Synopsis: Once upon a time, there were three hopeful fairy-tale characters: Wolfred, Zinderella, and the Non-Evil Queen. Already rejected from classic fairy-tales, a happily-ever-after for these three seems a world away. So the trio is headed to the School of Failure. Once there, they discover that with patience and persistence, mistakes can also lead to the perfect storybook ending.

From author/storyteller Rosie J. Pova and artist/illustrator Monika Filipina comes a charming fractured fairy-tale about beloved characters who don't make the final cut to be in a famous story but still find their starring roles.

Critique: A charming, fractured, picture book fairy-tale about the road to success often being paved with mistakes, but that it shouldn't stop us from pursuing our goals and the most important thing is to keep trying, "The School of Failure: A Story about Success" is a fun and recommended reading for children ages 4-7 -- making an ideal addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections.

Lulu the Unstoppable Dancing Dog
Marie Dimitrova, author
Romi Caron, illustrator
Greenleaf Book Group Press
PO Box 91869, Austin, TX 78709
9781626347717, $17.95, HC, 40pp

Synopsis: Lulu is a happy little pug who lives in New York City with her family, Belle and Doug. They spend their time exploring the bustling city and going on adventures together. When Belle and Doug attend dance classes, Lulu sees them waltzing and tries to join in on the fun, but she trips over her own feet and falls. Lulu is embarrassed but determined.

Lulu wants to waltz more than anything. Will she be able to concentrate on practicing or will she get distracted and not learn the proper techniques? Can dogs learn to dance?

Critique: "Lulu the Unstoppable Dancing Dog" by the team of author/storyteller Marie Dimitrova and artist/illustrator Romi Caron is a delightfully charming picture book significant underlying message that practice makes perfect and that with hard work and determination the young reader can do anything he or she wants to accomplish. While especially recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for children ages 3-6, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Lulu the Unstoppable Dancing Dog" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.99).

Editorial Note: Marie Dimitrova has always felt a strong connection with animals, and they have served as the inspiration for her whimsical children's books. She loves all animals but especially Lulu, who is a devoted writing companion. Marie and her husband were surprised when, one day, Lulu ran across the dance floor during one of their dance lessons, jumping on their legs, trying to dance with them. They picked her up and waltzed with her across the room. Now, Lulu considers herself an active member of the dance community in New York City, where they live. Lulu the Unstoppable Dancing Dog is based on this funny, affectionate pug whom Marie cares for so much. See more photos of the real Lulu on Marie's website:

Bubbie's Magical Hair
Abbe Rolnick, author
Lynda Porter, illustrator
Sedro Publishing
9780999529195, $17.99, HC, 34pp

Synopsis: "Bubbie's Magical Hair" by the team of author/storyteller Abbe Rolnick and artist/illustrator is a whimsical fun picture book story of a grandmother playing with her grandchildren. Sparse in words, but deep in feeling, the charming full color illustrations convey and enhance an original story of magic and fun as Bubbie grows older and the children mature. Nature and imagination combine honoring the power of all grandparents and relationships that endure through life.

Critique: A visual delight of adventure, change, and a world united by love, "Bubbie's Magical Hair" is a story to be read on many levels exploring feelings, science, international customs, and imagination. A memorably entertaining picture story for children ages 5-7 that is also readily available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99), "Bubbie's Magical Hair" is especially and unreservedly recommended for family, elementary school, and community library collections.

Matthew Forsythe
Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY, 10020-1513
9781481480413, $17.99

Mina is recommended for picture book readers ages 4-8 and tells of a father and daughter who live in a tree stump on the edge of a pond. Mina leads a good life until one day her father brings home something mysterious from the woods, claiming that it's a squirrel. Mina believes it to be something quite different, and is faced with the issue of either believing her father or trusting her own questioning instincts. The fun story is made particularly engaging by large-size, colorful drawings that accent the mystery and fun.

Big Wig
Jonathan Hillman
Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY, 10020-1513
9781534487710, $17.99

Picture book enthusiasts will find Jonathan Hillman's Big Wig a zany, fun read whose effect is heightened by illustrations by Levi Hastings. A child dresses in drag to compete in the neighborhood costume competition, but the key to success is a wig called Wig. There's one problem: when faced with competition, Wig feels inadequate. When she flies off B.B.'s head, an unusual attribute is shared with all. The focus and subject of this book will especially appeal to libraries seeking to expand the diversity of their picture book collections with stories that embrace the queer community and some of its culture (dressing in drag).

The Gift
Alain Serge Dzotap and Delphine Renon
4035 Park East Court SE, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49546
9780802855831, $17.99

The Gift tells of Leo, a leopard who receives many lovely presents for his birthday. Most of all, he loves his father's gift: a pen filled with "all sorts of beautiful things inside." His parents are too busy to show him how to use it right away, and Leo is too impatient to wait. As he tries on his own and then consults a variety of characters, to no avail, Leo begins to question the power in the pen. Lovely drawings illustrate a story about creativity, art, patience, and love that young picture book readers will appreciate.

Candlewick Press
99 Dover Street, Somerville, MA 02144

Four new picture books from Candlewick Press are highly recommended for young leisure readers. Each offers a story that is delightfully illustrated and engaging.

Not That Pet! by Smriti Prasadam-Halls (9781536217766, $17.99) receives action-filled, inviting drawings by Rosalind Beardshaw as it explores a family that lets Mabel choose what kind of pet to get. Of course, few prove to be the right fit for the family. Her innovative choice tests her ability to make decisions, dream big, and involve her family in the unexpected in a zany coverage of pet possibilities and the realities of owning and enjoying them.

Lion Lullaby by Kate Banks (9781536209822, $17.99) receives lovely illustrations by Lauren Tobia, who presents the animals of the savanna as Banks surveys the dilemma faced by ten little lions who need to be home before dark, crossing the wilderness to achieve their goals. When will the pride go to sleep? When everyone's safely home. This lullaby will enchant read-aloud parents who enjoy animal-based stories with African backgrounds.

Ear Worm! by Jo Knowles (9781536207835, $17.99) receives especially notable, fun drawings by Galia Bernstein as it provides the whimsical and dance-filled actions of creatures who face the music caused by an 'ear worm' that captures a song. Each animal turns out to be motivated by its own songs as it sings and dances to the tunes in their head, bringing young picture book readers along for a zany ride. All but Little Worm, who wants to know where the ear worms come from. Read-aloud parents and young readers alike will find these books creative, original, inviting choices.

Middle grade readers will find Medera Trehan's The View from the Very Best House in Town (9781536219241, $17.99) a fine story of a long friendship between two autistic children, Sam and Asha, and what happens when everything changes and Sam leaves Asha for new opportunities. Middle school is frightening without him, and as Asha finds not only their friendship but everything else changing, she seeks to discover who she is, alone. Changing points of view between Asha, Sam, and the Donnybrooke mansion that oversees them creates a multifaceted story like few others, recommended for middle graders looking for something different, intriguing, and thought-provoking.

Random House/Penguin

Four fine new picture books from Random House are recommended for collections looking for exceptional leisure reads for young children.

Kate McMullan's This is the Tree We Planted (9780525579472, $17.99) provides an engaging story illustrated by Alison Friend about the lasting impact kids have when they plant a tree. As a nest, chicks, and other creatures begin to make use of the tree, children who observe these developments come to realize the importance of their contribution to nature.

Janet Lawler's Oceans of Love (9780593326756, $17.99) receives fun drawings by Holly Clifton-Brown as it takes young readers on an undersea journey based on observing how ocean moms show love for their young. Watercolor illustrations make a story bright with not only fish from manta rays to minnows, but clams and others that raise their young in these watery environments.

Lera Auerbach and Marilyn Nelson's A is for Oboe: The Orchestra's Alphabet (9780525553779, $17.99) receives especially vibrant drawings by Paul Hoppe and combines the strengths of a composer and a conductor who join forces to bring the instruments and leaders of a typical orchestra to life. This isn't a simple collection of one-liners: each definition (such as E for English Horn, or cor anglais) offers background history, insights about the evolution of the instrument and its name, and poetic descriptions of its sound. The result is recommended beyond young alphabet learners, especially for aspiring young musicians who receive a more passionate survey of an orchestra's instruments than most books directed to the young.

If You Were A Garbage Truck by Diane C. Ohanesian (9780593375150, $17.99) receives whimsical illustrations by Joey Chou as it presents the rhyming story of a garbage truck's personality and other big vehicles that do important work. From diggers and tow trucks to mail trucks, these vehicles and their purposes are playfully depicted in a manner that lends to parental read-aloud fun.

All four are winning choices for picture book libraries and leisure readers.

The Board Book Shelf

Big Ideas for Little Environmentalists
Maureen McQuary, author
Robin Rosenchal, illustrator
G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
c/o Penguin Young Readers Group
9780593323601, $8.99 Board Book, $8.99 Kindle, 20pp

Synopsis: Even little children can make a positive impact on the environment. Jane Goodall has dedicated her life to studying chimpanzees, and realized that sometimes people hurt the places where animals have always lived. She began to teach others how we can enjoy nature while also making sure that the homes of animals aren't suffering.

Kids will come away from "Big Ideas for Little Environmentalists: Conservation with Jane Goodall" by the team of author/storyteller Maureen McQuarry and artist/illustrator Robin Rosenthal with thoughts about what animal habitats they can care for in their own community, and how conservation work makes sure all people and animals have a healthy home.

Critique: Charming illustrations combine with 'kid friendly' storytelling to make "Big Ideas for Little Environmentalists: Conservation with Jane Goodall" an ideal and highly recommended addition to family, daycare center, and community library board book collections for very young children ages 1-3. Also highly recommended are the other books in the 'Big Ideas for Little Environmentalists' series: "Restoration with Wangari Maathai", "Preservation with Aldo Leopold", and "Ecosystems with Rachel Carson".

What is Chick Going to Do?
Carly Madden, author
Caroline Dall'ava, illustrator
Happy Yak
c/o Quarto Publishing Group USA
100 Cummings Center, Suite 265D, Beverly, MA 01915
9780711274365, $9.99, Board Book, 12pp

Synopsis: Little chicks go on big adventures in the new children's board book, "What is Chick Going to Do?: Lift the flap and find out!". Children ages 1-3 will have fun looking at where each chick is and see if you can you guess what they are about to do! Opening the flap on each spread to discover the answer in a delightful, colorful scene!

With sturdy flaps to aid hand-eye co-ordination and a question on each page to prompt conversation between parent and child, this bright, engaging board book is the perfect exploration of the activities that make up a baby or toddler's day.

Critique: A fun, lively, colorful, and fully entertaining board book that is ideal for reading together with young children, "What is Chick Going to Do?" is the latest title from the Happy Yak 'Lift-the-Flap' series and is unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, and community library board book collections for children ages 1-3.

Disney Baby I Love You, Dad
Disney Books, author
Jerrod Maruyama, illustrator
Disney Press
c/o Disney Publishing Worldwide
9781368060769, $10.99, Board Book, 10pp

Synopsis: With the newest Disney board book, "I Love You, Dad", for babies to two year olds, messages of love come to life with an eye-catching die-cut board book, which also features fun and chunky lift-the-flaps.

Critique: With the board book "I Love You, Dad", now babies can lift the flap on each spread to see what Disney characters love about their Dads! An ideal gift for Father's Day, for baby showers, or just for fun, "I Love You, Dad" is a an especially and charmingly illustrated board book for very young children showcasing relatable moments sure to inspire bedtime kisses for baby to give Dad, time and time again. "I Love You, Dad" is very highly recommended for family, daycare center and community library board book collections,

The Historical Fiction Shelf

The Eyes of the Leopard
Brian Hayden
Granville Island Publishing
9781989467428, $17.95, PB, 192pp

Synopsis: At nearly thirteen years of age, Sev knows he's ready to take his place as a respected hunter of the Bear Clan. But first, he must prove he is worthy -- and what better way to show his bravery than to venture alone into the forbidden, echoing depths of the Cave of Lions?

Sev will soon face the powerful array of human, animal, and spirit forces that stalk his world, and overcome the strongest challenger of them all -- himself!

Critique: "The Eyes of the Leopard" by novelist and anthropologist Brian Hayden is a deftly crafted work of historical fiction that takes place in the paleolithic era of virgin forests and rolling plains in what is now known as France, and in a time of stone age cave art and tribal rituals. An original and richly illustrated story that will have special appeal for young readers with an interest in Paleolithic/Neolithic cultures and adventures, "The Eyes of the Leopard" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to middle school, highschool, and community library YA Fiction collections.

Editorial Note: Brian Hayden is a Research Associate in the Department of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia and Professor Emeritus at Simon Fraser University. In addition to excavating sites on three continents, he has conducted ethnoarchaeological research in Australia, British Columbia, Guatemala, Mexico, Polynesia, and Southeast Asia. These studies have resulted in new models of domestication, feasting, social inequalities, and now ritual and religion. Hayden has been recognized for this pioneering work as a member of the Royal Society of Canada. His other works include The Power of Feasts (Cambridge, 2014), The Power of Ritual In Prehistory (Cambridge), Shamans, Sorcerers, and Saints: A Prehistory of Religion (2003), and Archaeology: The Science of Once and Future Things (1993).

The Middle Grade Fiction Shelf

Lucy and Dee: The Silk Road
Kirsten Marion
Common Deer Press
9781988761640, $13.95 HC/$12.95 PB/$8.49 Kindle, 214pp, Ages 9-12

Lucy and Dee: The Silk Road is recommended for middle grade readers who enjoy stories of adventures and quests. It follows the excitement two children face when they enter a land of magic and dragons to befriend a querulous young emperor who proves a royal pain.

Lucy Banks lives a conventional life with too-predictable parents. Neighbor Dee, on the other hand, injects surprises into her life via "silly experiments" her parents deem undesirable, and so he is her best friend - and the perfect companion to accompany her into this other world.

Kirsten Marion injects elements of reality into Lucy and Dee's life which gives their perspective a solid grounding in real-world dilemmas: "Her parents never even tried to make things any better. They just sailed along, telling each other stories about how the next job would be the one to make them all rich. All the while their house quietly collapsed around them."

She also provides surprising insights as the children encounter these magical and strange creatures that ask questions about their possible evolution: "Are there female Xami? Are you able to reproduce?"

"Dee! Personal question!" Lucy looked shocked.

He felt a flush creep up his neck. "Sorry, it's just that where we come from, mules, the product of crossbreeding between horses and donkey, are sterile."

"A Xamu can be either male or female. But we have to be individually made." Zi sighed. "Unfortunately, the learning for that was lost four centuries ago. No more of us have been made since. It's becoming a worry."

What happens when a royal figure that is supposed to be protected turns out to be so annoying that his saviors just want to dump him? Lucy's dilemma over Yidi and her duty is clear: "I know the kid is in danger. And I know our mission is to protect him." Lucy angrily stripped plump blackberries from their branches stopping to suck her thumb when a thorn pierced it. "But right now, his greatest danger is me. I could strangle him."

A further test is Dee's efforts to locate his missing parents.

Middle grade readers who choose Lucy and Dee: The Silk Road will find that its action and adventure operate on several different levels. It's a satisfying story of growth, understanding, courage, and friendships which also examines danger, embarrassment, disastrous choices and their consequences, and evolving maturity.

All the questions aren't neatly answered by the story's end, leaving the door ajar for more Lucy and Dee adventures; but many keys to success are achieved in a manner that will delight fantasy readers looking for a story more firmly rooted in psychological growth than most.

Libraries that cater to young patrons who like adventure fantasy quest stories will find Lucy and Dee: The Silk Road an excellent addition.

All You Need
Sheela Word
Independently Published
9798480875676, $15.00 Paper/$3.99 Kindle, 348pp

All You Need represents coming-of-age historical fiction at its best, and will appeal to young adult and adult audiences alike. Set in 1968, it follows the life of twelve-year-old Terry Morales, who lives in Southern California with her Mexican mom.

Revolution is in the air with Dr. King and Kennedy's assassinations and the rise of protests against the Vietnam War, but Terry is more affected by the sudden appearance of an absentee father who invites her to spend time with him at an Oregon commune.

Terry looks forward to this transition: ", she thought, a very worthwhile summer was about to happen. A summer with her dad, who was not like anyone else's dad, he was so funny and original and had such unusual things to say."

Idealistic about the opportunity and its impact on her young life, Terry has yet to understand her independent mother's concerns about her future.

As she absorbs her father's unusual off-grid lifestyle and comes to realize that his invitation does not necessarily mean they will become closer, Terry begins to understand more about her mother Luisa's life and worries, her questionable role in her father's new life, and her own ability to handle her father's distance, intoxication, and choices.

When tragedy strikes and further changes happen, Dirk begins to understand his failings as a parent...which do not necessarily lead to him improving. Can men really change?

Sheela Word presents a powerful story of a young girl who grows to better understand her parents' personalities, choices, and her own best interests. As she encounters different family structures and faces new options, Terry's inherent sense of optimism is challenged.

The flavors of Mexican culture injected into this story give it an unexpected atmosphere filled with revelations, with details showing how Terry's background influences her perception and future.

Middle grade readers will be the most likely audience for this novel; but adults, too, will appreciate this story of a preteen's evolution as she faces two very different cultures, parents, and the social whirlwind of the 1960s that affects everything around them.

Impeccable psychological and social inspections make All You Need a riveting saga for all ages. It should earn a place in discussion and reading groups interested in multicultural accounts that operate on social and ethnic history levels.

The YA Fiction Shelf

Bright Eyes: A Kunoichi Tale
David Kudler
Still Point Digital
9781938808630, $14.95, PB, 240pp

Synopsis: Two armies have descended on the Full Moon, and the war that has torn Japan apart for over a century threatens to destroy Lady Chiyome's school for young shrine maidens (and assassins).

"Bright Eyes: A Kunoichi Tale" is the thrilling sequel to Risuko: A Kunoichi Tale. It is the continuing story of Risuko, a woman who must face warlords, samurai, angry cooks, a monster in the hills, the truth about her father, a spy among the kunoichi -- and a murderer!

Someone kills a Takeda lieutenant, staging it to look like suicide. Can Risuko figure out who would do such thing? -- And can she keep it from happening again?

Critique: Once again David Kudler as fully succeeded as a novelist with a genuine flair for historical fiction populated by memorably crafted characters and decidedly entertaining plot twists and turns. Like the first novel in the author's 'A Kunoichi Tale' series, "Bright Eyes" is imaginative, original, exceptionally well written, and highly recommended for middle school, highschool and community library YA Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists of young readers ages 14-18 that "Bright Eyes" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99).

Editorial Note: Author, editor and publisher, David Kudler has also co-written an entertaining adaptations of a series of children's folktales, "Winter Tales" with his wife Maura. He has also written extensively on the subject of publishing. For over two decades, he has served as managing editor of The Collected Works of Joseph Campbell.

The Cup
D.P. Hardwick
Atmosphere Press
9781639881758, $16.99

Young adults interested in sports stories in general, hockey in particular, and musical embellishments will find realistic and compelling this story of a group of Canadian kids that plays for the Stanley Cup final in their dreams.

The first thing to note about D.P. Hardwick's story is that it is embedded with musical links and references to lyrics. This makes it especially recommended in ebook form, where readers can presumably click on the referenced links to receive lyrics and musical interludes as they follow the story.

The first-person inspection arrives with the bang of an awakening household excited about Game Day, where Canada is to compete with Russia. The sixth-grader narrator isn't the only one excited about this event. His entire class is involved in living vicariously through the news and their own hockey-playing efforts.

Set against the backdrop of Canadian culture, the young narrator (who is a transplant from Indiana) observes the excitement of his peers over the evolving hockey championship: "The principal made rounds to every classroom to congratulate all the teachers and students, like we all had a part in the victory or something. This is probably the first time that I realized what it meant to be a fan of a national sport."

The game and its allure are both vividly described. Young readers will find there's no need to already be familiar with either hockey or Canadian culture in order to appreciate a story which blends the differences between American and Canadian perspectives with the evolving connections a group of kids make over sports and other life experiences. From a mean old man neighbor who proves an unexpected savior to building a winning team against all odds, the story takes many twists and turns as it explores how friendship, bullying, music, and sports influences change the direction of hearts and minds.

Readers who believe The Cup will be about winning may be right -- but the ultimate prize takes unusual forms, and proves to be as much about relationship-building and understanding as it is about either the game of hockey or interactions between adults and kids. YA library collections strong in sports-based stories of growth and understanding will find The Cup a winning story made all the more powerful for its semi-autobiographical roots.

Every Variable of Us
Charles A. Bush
c/o North Star Editions, Inc.
2297 Waters Drive, Mendota Heights, MN 55125
9781635830743, $17.99, HC, 376pp

Synopsis: After Philly teenager Alexis Duncan is injured in a gang shooting, her dreams of a college scholarship and pro basketball career vanish in an instant. To avoid becoming another Black teen trapped in her poverty-stricken neighborhood, she shifts her focus to the school's STEM team, a group of self-professed nerds seeking their own college scholarships.

Academics have never been her thing, but Alexis is freshly motivated by Aamani Chakrabarti, the new Indian student who becomes her friend (and crush?). Alexis begins to see herself as so much more than an athlete. But just as her future starts to reform, Alexis's own doubts and old loyalties pull her back into harm's way.

Critique: A fictional treatment of real world conditions, and all the more impressive when considering that "Every Variable Of Us" by Charles A. Bush is his debut as a novelist. This original and compelling story is especially recommended to teens and young adults with an interest in the subjects of highschool women's athletics, racial issues, LBGQT concerns. Exceptionally well written, entertaining, and thought-provoking, "Every Variable Of Us" is particularly appropriate for middle school, highschool, and community library YA Fiction collections for ages 13-18. It should also be noted for personal reading lists that "Every Variable Of Use" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Critique: Black and queer, novelist Charles A. Bush was raised in Philadelphia, and attended Cabrini University before honing his craft at the University of Oxford. Charles can be followed on Instagram @Charles_A_Bush

The Ostrich and Other Lost Things
Beth Hautala
c/o Penguin Young Readers Group
9780399546068, $16.99, HC, 288pp

Synopsis: Eleven-year-old Olivia Grant has a knack for finding lost things. She can find lost rings, pets, and even her elderly neighbor's misplaced glasses. There's only one thing Olivia has never been able to find is her brother Jacob's toy ostrich. It wasn't until the day Jacob lost his ostrich that Olivia noticed how different he was: Jacob is autistic, and though she's his little sister, Olivia often feels like the older of the pair, his caretaker. And with her parents so heavily focused on maintaining status quo for Jacob, it's Olivia who has stagnated in his shadow -- unable to explore new opportunities, or to be her own person. In fact, apart from being Jacob's sister, Olivia's not really sure who she is.

So when summer break begins, and the local community theater announces auditions for an all children's production of her favorite show, Peter Pan, Olivia jumps at the chance to claim something for herself. But what begins as a promising opportunity and a wonderful escape quickly becomes pure chaos. The visiting zoo with an odd assortment of animals (including an ostrich that causes even more trouble than Jacob's missing toy) only make matters worse, as Olivia's summer is shaping up to be just as consumed by Jacob's needs as the rest of her life has been.

In time, and with the help of some unlikely alliances, Olivia must learn what it means to be separate from her brother and still love him, how to love herself in spite of her own flaws, and that not all lost things are meant to be found.

Critique: A skillfully written and fully entertaining novel that carries a significant message about self-identity, self-esteem, compassion, perseverance, and personnel integrity, "The Ostrich and Other Lost Things" by Beth Hautala is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to elementary school, middle school, and community library fiction collections for young readers ages 10-13. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Ostrich and Other Lost Things" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Eastside Story
Steven C. Thedford
New World Press Inc.
9780975973080, $17.99

Eastside Story paints a very different portrait of African-American teen Egypt James, who has led a privileged life, attended private school, and is on course to be a debutante at a ball where the Father/Daughter Dance is a time-honored tradition. There's only one problem. Her father vanished from their family when her mother found out about his involvement in illegal human trafficking and kicked him out of the house. She has no father figure to dance with her.

William, who runs in quite different circles, is on track to be a member of the same trafficking organization as her father. He is also on course to success, seemingly making him the perfect link between her father's sordid world and her own up-and-coming achievements. William could be the perfect boyfriend, but unbeknownst to Egypt, he's come out as gay -- another strike against him, in the eyes of his family.

The duo seem an unlikely combination to solve any problems together, but as Egypt explores new possibilities in her search for past resolution and present options, young adult readers will follow their journey with interest.

Author Steven C. Thedford depicts a different form of gang activity and those who operate both within its circles and outside of them. The level of candor in the story makes it recommended for older, mature teens as Egypt and William embark on a physical relationship, struggle with conflicting psychological influences both from within and from their peers, face adult concerns (such as AIDS and children), and consider their underlying motivations for choosing one other.

These and other adult themes place Eastside Story in a very different milieu than most, offering mature teens the opportunity to consider family and interpersonal relationships and influences against the backdrop of an alluring gang environment, the illusion and realities of romance, and an examination of privileged status.

Steeped in African-American culture operating at different class levels, Eastside Story offers much food for thought as its evolving friendships and conundrums introduce many surprising twists. While its story is quite different in many ways, Eastside Story might be read in conjunction with Irving Shulman's classic West Side Story, which will offer additional fodder for discussion and debate as these two very different, gang-connected worlds come alive.

The Mystery/Suspense Shelf

Pentagon Pirate Gang: Secret of the Orchard
J. W. Nelson
Michael Terence Publishing
9781800942547, $10.99 Paper/$2.99 ebook

Place five children in a school run by an evil headmistress and her sidekick, who involve them in the mystery in Sherwood Forest. Lead them into the truth about the secret these leaders have been trying to keep hidden. Then follow them out again, with new knowledge that will change everything forever. Pentagon Pirate Gang: Secret of the Orchard is a children's mystery story that will reach advanced elementary to middle-grade readers with an evocative tale replete in scenarios of danger. The special camp/school they're sent to for six weeks by well-meaning parents is meant to provide a unique learning experience.

Ironically, the purpose of this school is challenged by its own structure and leadership as the five children receive valuable lessons about trust, solidarity, shared experiences and perceptions, and more. J W Nelson does a fine job of capturing the atmosphere of mystery and the interpersonal relationship challenges that accompany it. This creates a story that operates on more than the level of intrigue alone, drawings kids with a compelling account of evolving connections that keeps both readers and characters on their toes.

Minor grammatical errors (primarily punctuation) pepper the story. While they happen enough to be noteworthy, the story's ability to captivate young readers with action, psychological inspections, and intrigue is still an excellent draw.

Kids who like stories of wonder and discovery will find Pentagon Pirate Gang just the ticket for a different kind of adventure that holds more depth and psychological revelation than most.

The Fantasy/SciFi Shelf

Orson Scott Card
Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY, 10020-1513
9781534475908, $19.99

Orson Scott Card's Wakers will reach young adult to adult sci-fi readers with its engrossing story of a teen who has the power to reach into parallel worlds and versions of himself.

This seems like a desirable attribute until one day he walks up in a cloning facility on a different Earth, surrounded by dead clones, and comes to question his own identity and what has happened to the world he once knew.

The haunting story that evolves will reach a wide age range with its thought-provoking story, which is compellingly unpredictable and original.

The Two Sisters
Kara Jacobson
Atmosphere Press
9781639882175, $9.99

This wasn't how it was supposed to go. These were Adrianne's last words before she fell into a world that leaves sister Sasha alone. Adrianne was the one with predictive powers of the future. Did she get a portent of her own demise? And what is Sasha to do with these words?

The Two Sisters presents the first book in the Intra-Earth Chronicles, is set in 2044 after two sisters have survived a nuclear war, and tells of a quest which begins when Adrianne falls into a ravine, leaving Sasha alone. Convinced that her sister is still alive, Sasha pursues a way to enter this underground rift while Adrianne (who is, indeed, alive) runs for her life. Adrianne has the reputation of being the brave one. Sasha is a self-confessed coward. Each is forced to face challenges in their newly separated lives as they consider their revised destinies, their connections to one another, and the impact of their choices.

Author Kara Jacobson weaves a compelling saga based not just on a science fiction adventure, but on the evolving relationship between two close sisters. This gives The Two Sisters an unexpected flavor of closeness as fifteen-year-old Sasha receives a key to her sister's whereabouts from a former school custodian James Reichert, who tells her that Adrianne is alive, albeit "with the people inside." James is not the only one to give Sasha hope. Enoch, who is organizing an exodus of people to build a new world, also tells Sasha that her sister is not gone forever, reinforcing the notion that Sasha's inability to save her sibling doesn't mean that she's powerless.

As Adrianne pursues a machine to save her civilization and is saved by satellites that protect her mission, each sister faces new challenges and revelations that reveal their true identities and purposes in the world. Sasha's struggle to join Adrianne results in both of them separately realizing new truths about their true potentials as nuclear machines, defensive satellites, and deluded leaders enter the picture.

As an author, Jacobson provides middle grade readers with a rich story rooted in a sense of place and purpose. The adventure component is fast-paced, but the attention to detail in presenting two sisters' connections and disconnections is the real attraction in a story that evolves on several different levels. Middle grade readers and older who enjoy dystopian adventure stories and tales cemented by changing relationships will find The Two Sisters a compelling read.

From coincidences to castes and sisters who prove to be harbingers of hope and change, The Two Sisters is a fitting opening to the series that deserves a place in any fantasy library, and on reading lists driven by action and psychological insights alike.

Jack Gregson & the Stolen Sons
Peter Wilson
Crystal Publishing LLC
9781942624752, $14.39 Paper/$5.76 ebook

Jack Gregson & the Stolen Sons adds the second book to a fantasy series revolving around three cousins who must leave a safe haven to tackle a growing evil force and the dark prophecy which predicts its power. Prior fans will recall the adventure began in Jack Gregson and the Forgotten Portal, where the three were pulled into the Forgotten Portal to confront this same force. As they tackled a magic book, an inheritance, and other worlds beyond Gregson Manor, they got more in touch with their own innate abilities.

Jack Gregson & the Stolen Sons is a follow-up story which continues the saga and opens not with Jack and his compatriots, but with a Chaos Pixie whose mission is affected by a message she can't quite remember. Humor is evident from the start as the first chapter reviews an exercise gone awry. Little do the cousins and siblings know that they are about to be called back into a magical conflict that will require all of these abilities, even if they are still forming.

Readers ages 10 and older (into adult years) will find Jack Gregson & the Stolen Sons lively, involving, and hard to put down. While it builds on events presented in the prior book, no previous familiarity with the characters is needed in order for newcomers to quickly become immersed in the latest adventure. Peter Wilson not only fills in the blanks seamlessly for his fans and new readers alike, but he charts both the uncertainty of this group's neophyte powers and the sometimes-contentious ways they interact with one another as they face forces beyond their imagination.

A magic ring could allow them to understand the strangers they encounter along the way, but it does little to interpret the nuances that flow between them as they struggle in many levels: inwardly, amongst themselves, and against an outside force that threatens many worlds. Some of the story is reminiscent of A Wrinkle in Time; particularly the notion of a world in darkness that doesn't have a sun anymore.

As the Cortavian sun struggles to rise again and competing forces (spun by the Shadow Man who invigorates the Horde with his energy) come alive, the question arises of how reinstated power intersects with personal pain to direct the outcome of good and evil alike. Dark forces are needed to combat this threat as Jack the human boy and Jarl the pixie find themselves at the heart of an interplanetary conflict.

Wilson injects the classic struggle between good and evil with a gray area that encourages youths to think about good intentions gone awry and the force created by loss, grief, and anger. As the characters interact and grow, so does the reader, who finds that not all forces are clearly either good or evil in their intentions or outcomes.

On the surface, this is a fine fantasy that engages with strong characterization and swift action. But, underneath is a wellspring of reflections about what motivates all kinds of forces on both sides to take a stance and interact. Ideally, Jack Gregson & the Stolen Sons will not only be chosen for elementary-level fantasy libraries, but will be used in discussion groups and book clubs for the young for its examples of how deceit, magic, and redemption form the foundations of change, both for better or for worse.

The War of the Woods
D.E. Night
Stories Untold
c/o BCH Fulfillment & Distribution
9708985378214, $12.99 PB, $8.99 Kindle, 336pp

The War of the Woods is the fourth book in the Crowns of Croswald young adult fantasy series, and will be especially appreciated by prior fans of Ivy Lovely's adventures.

Her search for the Kindred Stone, the final piece of the puzzle she's tried to put together in the previous books, leads her towards the Dark Queen and new struggles as she faces evil and the changing friendship with Fyn, who supported her prior encounters.

The strong fantasy elements Night built in previous books are still present and are expanded upon in The War of the Woods, where Ivy faces her final battle and questions how she can help the world if she can't even succeed in helping one individual.

Ivy's friends also return and come to her rescue in a big way - but not before everything they've built and believe in is threatened.

As in the other books in the Crowns of Croswald series, Night cultivates action-packed adventure, interpersonal interactions, and a host of fantasy elements, from dwarfs to evil queens.
Night also refines Ivy's ability to absorb life lessons and insights as she confronts her deepest fears and strengths: "Pure fear cannot touch or own pure magic."

As a dark army rises and a vortex of magical spells emerges on both sides, young adults are treated to vivid battle scenes, changing relationships, and a final goal which is rocked by internal and external struggles.

The characters developed in the previous books grow into their full-faceted abilities in a manner that is sometimes familiar and yet often surprising, as main characters and new personalities rise to the occasion.

Ivy steps into a revised role that, in many ways, was meant to be: "Just because something always has been, doesn't mean it should be."

These characters combine with a vivid quest adventure through fantasy realms to create a delightful conclusion to a series especially recommended for prior fans and library collections seeing interest in the Crowns of Croswald books.

The Coloring Book Shelf

The First Unibear
Kathleen J. Shields
Erin Go Bragh Publishing
9781956581003, $19.95 Hardcover/$9.95 Paper/$4.99 Kindle. 48pp

The First Unibear by Kathleen J. Shields is a picture book story decades in the making. The hardcover is illustrated in lovely full color by Aashay Utkarsh, while its paperback coloring book version is presented in black-and-white so kids can also enjoy a coloring book experience.

The vivid story lends to read-aloud as a playful little bear cub explores his world. The tale is presented in rollicking rhymes accompanied by spiritual and psychological inspections as the cub stumbles upon a sad horse in the forest:

"Hello Mister Horse, are you feeling okay?
Why look so sad on such a fine day?
The birds they are singing, the flowers in bloom,
why Mister Horse, do you show so much gloom?"

It takes a kind heart to reap the rewards of helping another, and when little bear is given insights (which he shares with others) about the horse, unexpected changes take place.

Parents who choose this inviting fantasy story for kids will be able to not only embellish the rhymes and enjoy the colorful forest animals, but can explain the bear's discoveries, dilemmas, and choices as well as the special form of magic which evolves when the tables are turned.

Lessons about kindness, giving, rewards, sharing magic, and appreciating spiritual components in life abound in the guise of a fun fantasy story that kids and read-aloud parents will appreciate.

There is nothing in the children's picture book world that's quite like The First Unibear. Its winning messages offer much food for thought in a detailed, fun story that will keep young listeners engaged and thinking and read-aloud parents delighted by the numerous opportunities to discuss lessons about the many types of gifts received from helping others.

Colour Me
Marneta Viegas
Our Street Books
c/o John Hunt Publishing
9781789049855, $21.95, PB, 208pp

Synopsis: "Colour Me" is a unique coloring book by child relaxation expert Marneta Viegas that will help children to open the door to the magic of their imagination and give them the keys to new and exciting possibilities of expression. By developing their imagination through coloring various images, children can increase their ingenuity, creativity and ability to problem solve. With it's 100,000 combinations of story visualisations, children will have a different adventure each time they step through the portal of their imagination.

Critique: "Colour Me" is an impressively organized and presented DIY consumable coloring book that is specifically recommended for the families with children ages 5-8. It should be noted by parents that "Colour Me" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $5.99).

The Activity Shelf

Professor Figgy's Weather and Climate Science Lab for Kids
Jim Noonan
Quarry Books
c/o Quarto Publishing Group USA
400 First Avenue North, Suite 400, Minneapolis, MN 55401-1722
9780760370858, $22.99, PB, 144pp

Synopsis: As champion of educational fun Jim Noonan (aka Professor Figgy) guides children through the topics of weather and climate through fun and easy activities. He also teaches the importance of affecting change in the world, through the lens of our climate's uncertain future.

With a foreword by DIY trailblazer Martha Stewart, this comprehensive, hands-on weather and climate learning resource collects captivating activities covering various subjects including: The Atmosphere; Sun & Clouds; Wind & Rain; Severe Weather; Pollution & Climate Change.

Each individual and 'kid friendly' experiment includes: Easy-to-find Tools & Materials; Safety Tips & Tricks; Step-by-step How-To Instructions; The Science Behind the Fun; as well as a bit of a trivia featuring people of interest, historical events, and facts and figures that ground the ideas in the real world and diversify the learning experience

Critique: Helpfully illustrated in full color throughout, "Professor Figgy's Weather and Climate Science Lab for Kids: 52 Family-Friendly Activities Exploring Meteorology, Earth Systems, and Climate Change" is exceptionally well written, organized and presented, making it ideal as a classroom science curriculum textbook. While a highly recommended addition to family, elementary school, and community library Atmospheric & Weather Science Book collections for children ages 8- 12, it should be noted that "Professor Figgy's Weather and Climate Science Lab for Kids: 52 Family-Friendly Activities Exploring Meteorology, Earth Systems, and Climate Change" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99).

Editorial Note: This popular Lab for Kids series features a growing list of books that share hands-on activities and projects on a wide host of topics, including art, astronomy, clay, geology, math, and even how to create your own circus -- all authored by established experts in their various fields. Each lab contains a complete materials list, clear step-by-step photographs of the process, as well as finished samples. The labs can be used as singular projects or as part of a yearlong curriculum of experiential learning. The activities are open-ended, designed to be explored over and over, often with different results. Geared toward being taught or guided by adults, they are enriching for a range of ages and skill levels.

The Dream Machine
Marneta Viegas
Our Street Books
c/o John Hunt Publishing
9781789049985, $21.95, PB, 208pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "The Dream Machine: Create Your Own Magical Adventures", Marneta Viegas helps children preschool through highschool to open the door to the magic of their imagination and gives them the keys to new and exciting possibilities. By developing their imagination, children can increase their ingenuity, creativity and ability to problem solve. With its 100,000 combinations of story visualisations, children will have a different adventure each time they step through the portal of their imagination.

Critique: Offering untold hours of entertaining and imaginative 'choose your own adventure' style fun, "The Dream Machine: Create Your Own Magical Adventures" is especially and unreservedly recommended for family, elementary school, middle school, highschool, and community library DIY activities collections.

Editorial Note: Currently residing in Oxford, England, Marneta Viegas is founder of Relax Kids Ltd -- and is the UK's leading expert on children's relaxation. She is author of 10 books and has produced a range of relaxation CDs and has appeared on BBC Dragons' Den. Marneta has over 40 years' experience in meditation and relaxation and runs a training program where she has trained over 5,000 franchisees in her unique award-winning method of relaxation.

The Jigsaw Puzzle Shelf

Ridley's Plants 1000 Piece Jigsaw Puzzle
Ridley's Games
c/o Chronicle Books
680 Second Street, San Francisco, CA 94107
JIG058, $20.00, Jigsaw Puzzle

Synopsis: "Ridley's Plants 1000 Piece Jigsaw Puzzle" is a fun informative jigsaw puzzle about house plants. While solving this plant puzzle and referring to the poster guide to help the player along, children 12 years and older will learn about house plants ranging from a Peace Lily to a Bird of Paradise, to a Swiss Cheese Plant and a Zebra Succulent and so many more. This beautiful, hand-illustrated plant jigsaw puzzle features over 30 house plants and interesting facts and care instructions for them. It's fun for the whole family!

Each of the 1,000 puzzle pieces is composed of durable, lightweight cardboard with a gloss varnish finish. The finished plant puzzle can even be displayed, as it fits in a 22x28in frame!

Critique: A wonderfully entertaining and impressively educational, "Ridley's Plants 1000 Piece Jigsaw Puzzle" is unreservedly recommended for family, middle school, highschool, home school, and community library jigsaw puzzle collections for players of all ages.

Editorial Note: Ridley's invents exciting, original, and quality games, puzzles, and toys to spark imaginations, banish boredom and open up a world of immense fun. Their games offer players of all ages a truly unique experience, with innovative bespoke packaging and game play.

LEGO Space Stars 1000-Piece Puzzle
Chronicle Books
680 Second Street, San Francisco, CA 94107
9781797214207, $17.95, Jigsaw Puzzle

Synopsis: "LEGO Space Stars 1000-Piece Puzzle" is a jigsaw puzzle that will have immense appeal to all types and ages of LEGO enthusiasts ranging from longtime LEGO builders to casual fans to parents sharing their love of the brand with their children. "LEGO Space Stars 1000-Piece Puzzle" is puzzle will test the player's skills as it showcases the creative spirit integral to the LEGO brand. This puzzle image features a colorful array of classic LEGO spacemen - some of the most beloved minifigures in history.

Critique: The perfect and unreservedly recommended at-home, family, elementary school, middle school, gaming shelves and fully entertaining activity for LEGO fans, children ages 9 years and older will love putting this puzzle together during holidays and parties.

Editorial Note: "LEGO Space Stars 1000-Piece Puzzle" is comprised of 1000 puzzle pieces, 25 x 20 inch puzzle when built, 11 x 9 x 2 inch box, and full color printout of puzzle image.

Dog Day Out: A Sharing Puzzle
Laurence King, creator
Melissa Lee Johnson, illustrator
Laurence King Publishing
9781913947606, $16.99, Jigsaw Puzzle

Synopsis: An innovative new format in which puzzle pieces of two different sizes enable people of different ages or abilities to work collaboratively on the same jigsaw puzzle, "Dog Day Out: A Sharing Puzzle" is a unique and self-contained jigsaw puzzle with larger pieces slots alongside a bigger puzzle with smaller pieces. Parents or older siblings can enjoy the challenge of piecing the puzzle together while having the satisfaction of working together with a younger puzzler!

Critique: Unreservedly recommended, impressively entertaining, and wholesome fun for ages 14 to 84, "Dog Day Out: A Sharing Puzzle" will prove to be a unique, prized and appreciated addition to family and community library jigsaw collections.

Editorial Note: As one of the world's leading publishers of books and gifts on the creative arts. Laurence King Publishing works with some of the world's best illustrators, designers, artists, and photographers to create beautifully produced books and gifts which are acclaimed for their inventiveness, beautiful design, and authoritative texts.

The Graphic Novel Shelf

Love the Mastiff
Frederic Brremaud, author
Federico Bertolucci, illustrator
9781951719173, $17.99

Frederic Brremaud's Love the Mastiff receives engaging, colorful illustrations by Federico Bertolucci as it provides a picture book story of a loyal Australian hunting dog who is left alone in the outback when his master is bitten by a poisonous snake.

This wordless picture book will delight young graphic novel readers and features numerous gorgeous illustration panels per page as the dog encounters many of Australia's creatures, from snakes and wild dogs to platypus and deer, and makes his way through the outback under harsh conditions.

Love the Mastiff is especially recommended for parents and teachers who will want to explore the natural history of Australia with young readers. A sketchbook at the end identifies these creatures, while additional pages about climate change and extinction provide further (written) details about Australia's many natural environments and threats to them.

Libraries looking for eye-catching color and graphic stories that embrace fiction and nonfiction elements will find the story involving and attractive to leisure readers and students of Australia's animals alike.

The Music CD Shelf

Magic Beans
Eric Herman & The Puppy Dogs
Butter-Dog Records
$13.00 CD / $10.00 digital

Magic Beans is an artsy rock album for the whole family. Inspired by classic greats like Pink Floyd, The Police, Kate Bush, and more, these original songs are delightfully trippy, emotionally creative, and encourage the listener to expand the horizons of their imagination. Highly recommended! The tracks are Googly Eyes, Merry-Go-Round, Stinker, Really Asleep, Mushroom Pizza, Go, My Brother, Remember, Side Scroller, Clocks and Watches, Magic Beans, Don't Worry, Alright? with the bonus track Who You Know.

Robots Don't Tell Jokes
Kelli Welli
Privately Published
$12.00 CD / $10.00 digital

Robots Don't Tell Jokes is a cheerful children's album mixing country, opera, Irish punk, and much more into a playful, lovably funny collection of original songs. Witty, goofy, and just plain fun, Robots Don't Tell Jokes is a choice pick for stay- at-home fun, car trips, and public library children's music collections. Highly recommended! The tracks are Rainbow Love Song, Ezra's Frickle Song, All Ways Together Always, Robots Don't Tell Jokes, Tree Song, Stinky Shoe, I'm a Mama Monkey, I Will Miss You, I Love You Echo Song, Five Little Frogs, Multiplication Song, Dognado, Five Little Ducks, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star - Kira Kira Boshi, and Stinky Shoe - Reprise.

The Christian Shelf

Brian Wildsmith's Illustrated Bible Stories
Maryanne O'Donnell, author
Brian Wildsmith, illustrator
Star Bright Books
13 Landsdowne Street, Cambridge, MA 02139
9781595723383. $24.99, HC, 119pp

Synopsis: "Brian Wildsmith's Illustrated Bible Stories" is a compendium of stories drawn from the Old and New Testaments. Each story is brought to life by Brian Wildsmith's splendid artwork, fully supporting an engaging text by Maryanne O'Donnell.

This new edition of "Brian Wildsmith's Illustrated Bible Stories" presents many favorite stories, including Adam and Eve, Noah's Ark, Samson, Moses, David and Goliath, the birth of Jesus, the Last Supper, and the Resurrection. Wildsmith's richly detailed depictions of beloved Bible stories are as captivating to children as ever, making this collection a classic for a new generation of young readers.

"Brian Wildsmith's Illustrated Bible Stories" will inspire spirit-filled and imagination-lifting story times for families, Sunday schools, and far beyond.

Critique: An ideal introduction to Biblical stories of faith and courage, "Brian Wildsmith's Illustrated Bible Stories" will prove to be an enduringly welcome and highly prized addition to family, church, elementary school, and community library collections for children ages 6-9. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Brian Wildsmith's Illustrated Bible Stories" is also available in a paperback edition (9781595723390, $15.99).

Editorial Note #1: Maryanne O'Donnell trained as a biochemist and has written and edited numerous publications in the field. She received her doctorate from Boston College. She believes the Bible is the underpinning of Western civilization and knowledge of its stories is an important component of education. Maryanne is the mother of six children and leads faith groups working on community outreach and social justice.

Editorial Note #2: Brian Lawrence Wildsmith (22 January 1930 - 31 August 2016) was a British painter and children's book illustrator. He won the 1962 Kate Greenaway Medal for British children's book illustration, for the wordless alphabet book ABC. In all his books, the illustrations are always as important as the text. For his contribution as a children's illustrator, Wildsmith was a runner-up for the Hans Christian Andersen Medal in 1966 and 1968. There is a website dedicated to Brian Wildsmith at

The Judaic Shelf

Matzah Means So Many Things
Faith Goldstein
Yorkshire Publishing
9781954095113, $14.99, PB, 34pp

Synopsis: What is matzah and why is it important during Passover? With the publication of "Matzah Means So Many Things", children will enjoy learning about how matzah is made and why it is a special symbol of freedom for Jewish families everywhere. Matzah means so many things - food; freedom; liberation and more!

Critique: All the more impressive when considering that "Matzah Means So Many Things" is author/illustrator Faith Goldstein's first picture book for young readers. Of special note is the inclusion of one page of Endnotes, a one page Homemade Matzah Recipe, three pages of Author Notes, and a one page Bibliography. Charming, informative and fun, "Matzah Means So Many Things" is especially and unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library Jewish Holy Day Celebration collections for young children.

The Candy Man Mystery
Rabbi Kerry Olitzky, author
Christina Mattison Ebert, illustrator
Kalaniot Books
c/o Endless Mountain Publishing
9781735087528, $19.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: In a synagogue, everyone plays an important role: the rabbi, the cantor, the teachers, and even the congregation. But some synagogues are lucky enough to have a candy man. Everyone loves the Candy Man at Temple Shalom, especially the kids. It's not just because of the delicious candy that he gives out after Shabbat services, either. Mr. Sharansky is always ready to help, whether it's reading a book during junior congregation, telling a silly joke, or just sharing a friendly smile. But when the Candy Man goes missing, Josh and Becky get to work to uncover the mystery. In the end, the kids find the Candy Man -- and so much more!

Critique: A thoroughly charming and Jewish themed picture book by the collaborative team of author/storyteller Rabbi Kerry Olitzky and artist/illustrator Christina Mattison Ebert, "The Candy Man Mystery" is especially and unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library collections for children ages 4-8.

Editorial Note: Rabbi Kerry Olitzky, named one of the 50 leading rabbis in North America by Newsweek, is well-known for his inspiring books that bring the Jewish wisdom and tradition into everyday life. He has written over 75 books and hundreds of articles in a variety of fields. The Littlest Candle, A Hanukkah Story, written with his son, Rabbi Jesse Olitzky, was published by Kalaniot Books in 2020.

The Islamic Shelf

Pizza in his Pocket: The Song Book
Zain Bhikha, author
Natalia Scabuso, illustrator
Kube Publishing
9780860378754, $11.95, HC, 28pp

Synopsis: "Pizza in his Pocket" takes the children on a journey across various places around the world, from Damascus to Sumatra to Malta to Bahrain. All the while depicting wonderfully different foods such as dates, tacos, gyros and samosas in different lands. As the little boy in the story fills his tummy, he also fills your heart; upon discovering a little girl who is hungry and eventually learning to be thankful to Allah for what he is given. He also learns the importance to not overeat nor overindulge and sharing what he has as well as to not be wasteful. This is a bright, colourful and fun songbook in hardback with a beautiful life lesson.

Author and musician Zain Bhikha has also recorded a singalong of the same title that is available across all major platforms.

Critique: An impressively entertaining, fun, and quiet novel picture book for children ages 2-7, "Pizza in His Pocket: The Song Book" is the latest in a series of children's books with Islamic themes that includes "Allah Made Everything" and "Cotton Candy Sky". Certain to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections, "Pizza in His Pocket: The Song Book" is a very special and highly recommended!

Editorial Note: Zain Bhikha has been an inspiration to people the world over since he first began singing in 1994. His uplifting songs aim to reconnect young people with the Creator and fill them with happiness. With more than a dozen albums to his name, Zain's songs have graced homes throughout the world and touched people's lives in uplifting and often profound ways. He has performed across most continents and remains amongst the most popular Islamic artists.

The Art Shelf

Washed Ashore: Making Art from Ocean Plastic
Kelly Crull
Millbrook Press
c/o The Lerner Publishing Group
241 First Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55401-1607
9781728430300, $19.99, HC, 36pp

Synopsis: When artist Angela Haseltine Pozzi found plastic trash polluting the beach near her home, she took action. She formed an organization called Washed Ashore and started gathering trash from beaches and using it to create incredible sculptures of wildlife. These sculptures travel the country to teach people about the importance of these animals -- and the problems caused by plastic pollution.

An author, illustrator and photographer, with the publication of Kelly Crull showcases fourteen spectacular sculptures, along with hints to find common objects hidden among the debris. There is also information included about each ocean animal as well as practical tips for how children can reduce their plastic use, hold a beach cleanup, make their very own plastic art, and become inspired to get creative in protecting the world's oceans!

Critique: A unique, fun and inherently fascinating picture book that deftly combines an informative text with memorable full color photographs of finished sculptures, "Washed Ashore: Making Art from Ocean Plastic" is as inspiring and entertaining as it is an ideal DIY guide to creating art out of all manner of plastic trash. With its message of saving the oceans from plastic pollution, "Washed Ashore: Making Art from Ocean Plastic" is unreservedly recommended for family, elementary school, and community library Recycling & Sculpture picture book collections for children ages 6-10. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Washed Ashore: Making Art from Ocean Plastic" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Dorothy & Herbert
Jackie Azua Kramer, author
Julia Breckenreid, illustrator
Cameron Kids
c/o Harry N. Abrams
195 Broadway, 9th Floor, New York, NY 10007
9781951836214, $18.99, HC, 40pp

Synopsis: In the heart of Manhattan lived a librarian and a postal clerk, an ordinary married couple who loved art so much that they collected it. Over the years, Dorothy and Herbert Vogel brought home hundreds of works of art (ranging from little-known SoHo artists to luminaries such as Chuck Close and Christo and Jeanne-Claude) to their small, empty-walled apartment, much to the curiosity and delight of their eight cats and a tank of fish. Their passion for art and support of artists was so impressive, Dorothy and Herbert Vogel became famous themselves. And when they gifted their extraordinary collection to the National Gallery of Art, their art became ours, inspiring new generations of artists.

Critique: A unique picture book biography of a unique American couple and their passion for art, "Dorothy & Herbert: An Ordinary Couple and Their Extraordinary Collection of Art" by author/storyteller Jackie Azua Kramer and artist/illustrator Julia Breckenreid is an especially recommended addition to family, elementary school, and community library picture book biography collections for children ages 5-7. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Dorothy & Herbert: An Ordinary Couple and Their Extraordinary Collection of Art" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.05).

The Folktale/Fairytale Shelf

How the Birds Became Friends
Noa Baum, author
Zev Labinger, illustrator
9781641705615, $17.99, HC, 52pp

Synopsis: Little Quail feels lost in all the noise, but with each bird trying to outdo the others, Quail bravely takes an unexpected approach. In this delightful take on a Burmese folktale from award-winning author/storyteller Noa Baum and illustrated by the artwork of renowned ecologist and artist Zev Labinger, "How The Birds Became Friends" is a story of how the power of kindness changed the world.

Critique: With its impressive combination of superb illustrations and engaging storytelling, "How The Birds Became Friends" is very highly recommended, especially for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library Folklore/Fairytale picture book collections for children ages 4-8. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "How The Birds Became Friends" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note #1: Noa Baum is an internationally acclaimed and award-winning storyteller and author. Born and raised in Jerusalem, she presents internationally to diverse audiences, from the World Bank and universities to schools, festivals, and congregations.

Editorial Note #2: Zev Labinger is a visual artist, musician, and ecologist originally from the USA, but he has been living in Israel for the past 30 years. He became obsessed with nature and birds at age 11, and he has been studying and painting them ever since.

Laddy O'Luck
Mac Kennedy
Mascot Books
620 Herndon Parkway, #320, Herndon, VA 20170
9781637553190, $16.95, HC, 38pp

Mac Kennedy's Laddy O'Luck enjoys engaging drawings by Jack Cocker as it presents an Irish folk story of one of the first leprechauns in Ireland, telling how Laddy was tasked with bringing luck into the world.

Laddy doesn't just distribute luck willy-nilly. He "leaves his luck only in places it is meant to be found."

As a wise grandfather narrates a story that embraces shamrocks, pots of gold and rainbows, ladybugs, and horseshoes, young listeners and readers receive a vivid tale of many legends of good luck and how they came to be associated with the Irish.

Mac Kennedy spins a fine yarn. It's a winning folk story picture book that is perfect for read-aloud, highly recommended for anyone looking for a whimsical Irish tale about one man's desire to spread fortune and happiness throughout the world.

Libraries seeking more Irish picture book stories will find the whimsical survey of Irish concepts of luck to be appealing and colorful, both visually and in the course of a whimsical narrative.

Rapunzel: An Islamic Tale
Fawzia Gilani, author
Sarah Nesti Willard, illustrator
Kube Publishing Ltd
9780860377344, $13.99, HC, 44pp

Synopsis: When a woodcutter and his wife's baby daughter is taken away by a hard-hearted old women in payment for a few rapunzel leaves, they are heartbroken. Although the old woman is not cruel to the little girl, she does not want her parents to ever find her and names her Rapunzel after the rapunzel greens for which she was taken. In time, Rapunzel grows into a young lady with an inquisitive mind and a kind and generous heart but will she ever be re-united with her parents?

Critique: An Islamic folktale for children ages 5-8, "Rapunzel" by the team of author/storyteller Fawzia Gilani and artist/illustrator Sarah Nesti Willard will prove to be a prized and enduringly appreciated addition to family, elementary school, and community library Folktale/Fairytale picture book collections for young readers.

The Fairy Garden
Georgia Buckthorn, author
Isabella Mazzanti, illustrator
Ivy Kids
c/o Quarto Publishing Group USA
100 Cummings Center, Suite 265D, Beverly, MA 01915
9780711271777, $21.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: Mimi was a perfectly ordinary girl who lived a perfectly ordinary life. She had toys to play with, a little brother who wasn't too annoying, and cakes on her birthdays. Mimi didn't want many things. But there was one thing she wanted so very much, so very much indeed -- to see a fairy in her garden.

Poor Mimi spends hours and hours making her fairy garden completely perfect, but the fairies never come. Whatever could she be doing wrong? Just when she has given up all hope, some twinkling lights appear. They're here! And they are bringing an important message!

Of special note are the activity spreads at the back which tell children how to create their own, perfect fairy garden and, just maybe, attract fairies to their own gardens!

Critique: The brilliantly presented and collaborative work of author/storyteller Georgia Buckthorn (who is an editor and writer of children's books, based in Sussex, UK) and artist Isabella Mazzanti (who is an illustrator from Rome and has worked as an art director, concept artist, illustrator and comic book artist for clients in Italy, the USA and France), "The Fairy Garden" is a beautifully presented and unreservedly recommended addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library modern fairytale/folklore picture book collections for children aged 4-7.

The Pets/Wildlife Shelf

Do You Know?: Animals of Land, Sea, and Air
Stephanie Babin, et al.
c/o Chronicle Books
680 Second Street, San Francisco, CA 94107
9782408033569, $16.99, HC, 92pp

Synopsis: Informatively written by Stephanie Babin, and impressively illustrated by a skilled team of artists (Julie Mercier, Marion Billet, Helene Convert, Emmanuel Ristord), "Do You Know?: Animals of Land, Sea, and Air" is an oversized volume (7.9 x 0.75 x 9.75 inches) comprised of 92 pages of engaging and educational answers to many popular questions children have about the animals, both predator and prey, that are to be found in the natural world. Illustrated throughout on every page with hundreds of labeled and captioned full-color illustrations, "Do You Know?: Animals of Land, Sea, and Air" also featrues an index to key terms.

Critique: An ideal, throughly 'kid friendly', and informatively entertaining introduction to the enormous variety of wildlife, "Do You Know?: Animals of Land, Sea, and Air" is especially and unreservedly recommended for family, elementary school, and community library Pets/Wildlife collections for children ages 5-9.

Editorial Note #1: Julie Mercier is the illustrator of numerous books for children. Her work can also be found in magazines and posters. She lives in Paris, France. Marion Billet graduated from the Ecole Emile Cohl and works as an illustrator and graphic designer in Paris. She has illustrated numerous works for children. Helene Convert was born in Nancy, France. She studied at the Ecole Nationale Superieure of Art and Design and has illustrated several titles for Editions Milan. After studying cartooning in Angoulˆme and children's illustration in Hamburg, Emmanuel Ristord now lives in Nantes, France. His work can be found in many newspapers and children's books.

Editorial Note #2: Also strongly recommended is another of Twirl's 'Do You Know' series -- "Do You Know: Earth and Nature" (9782408033576, $16.99, HC, 96pp, Ages 5-9) by Cecile Benoist and another impressive team of illustrators.

5 Butterflies
Carol Pasternak
Fitzhenry & Whiteside
9781554554331, $24.95, HC, 64pp

Synopsis: "5 Butterflies" by Carol Pasternak is a fascinating account of the life cycles of Monarch Butterflies, Eastern Black Swallowtails, American Ladies, Question Marks -- and the Cecropia moth!

You readers ages 7-10 will enjoy discover the amazing transformations of 5 worm-like caterpillars into stunning butterflies. They will read about what they eat, and what wants to eat them. The will learn where to find them in the world and how to attract them to your yard or school garden. They can also experience the thrill of the egg and caterpillar hunt, and the exhilaration of setting a butterfly free.

"5 Butterflies" will help all young naturalists explore such issues as insect conservation, monarch protection in Mexico, butterflies in captivity and butterfly symbolism around the world.

Critique: Beautifully and profusely illustrated in full color throughout, "5 Butterflies" deftly blends solid biological information with an entertaining style of presentation, making it an ideal and unreservedly recommended addition to family, elementary school, middle school, and community library Pets/Wildlife collections in general, and the personal reading lists of butterfly enthusiasts in particular.

Defending Orcas: No More Captivity
Captain Paul Watson, author
Tiffany Humphrey, author
GroundSwell Books
9781939053367, $14.95, PB, 48pp

Synopsis: "Defending Orcas: No More Captivity" by the team of Captain Paul Watson and Tiffany Humprehy provides an educational and sobering look at the conditions orcas face by being captured or born into captivity. Young people will learn how orcas (who are part of the same biological order as whales) thrive at sea and have highly evolved forms of communication that are unique to each orca family.

"Defending Orcas: No More Captivity" also delves into the history of capturing orcas for sale to marine parks that then attempt to tame and train the orcas to provide entertainment to park visitors. Young readers will find stories about individual orcas (some of them world famous) and discover how difficult it is for them to adapt to captivity.

Critique: Beautifully illustrated with full color photography throughout, "Defending Orcas: No More Captivity" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, family, elementary school, middle school, and community library Pet/Wildlife collections for children ages 9-12.

Editorial Note #1: Captain Paul Watson is a Canadian-American marine conservation activist, founded the direct-action group Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in 1977. Watson's other recent releases include Defending Orcas (2022), Urgent! (2021), Death of a Whale (2021), and Orcapedia (2020).

Editorial Note #2: Tiffany Humphrey has been working with marine wildlife since 2003 in South Carolina, Washington and Hawaii. From 2009 to 2013, she worked as Captain Paul Watson's executive assistant at Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

A Family for Riley
Tammy Knutson
Mascot Books
620 Herndon Parkway, #320, Herndon, VA 20170
9781637550571, $17.95 HC, $6.99 Kindle, 38pp

Dog lovers, Welsh corgi enthusiasts, and picture book readers and read-aloud parents will all appreciate Tammy Knutson's A Family for Riley. It features realistic, fun illustrations by Robert Sauber as it explores a puppy and his family, who live a idyllic lives playing on the farm.

Knutson's full page, lovely paintings capture the farm, the puppies, and the activity that surrounds them, and will delight parents who look for artistic renditions.

Different kinds of families arrive to adopt the litter of puppies, until Riley finds himself alone with his mother.

Young readers learn about love, separation, adoption, and different family personalities and makeups as they pursue Riley's story.

The connections between all these themes are kindness and love, as each puppy goes to a loving home and a supportive puppy mother reminds them that she will always love them no matter how far they travel.

There are many important lessons here that read-aloud parents can discuss with a young picture book reader, making A Family for Riley both educational and engaging on levels beyond its choice as a leisure read for young dog lovers.

The lovely illustrations deserve repeated mention for their ability to highlight the story in an artistic, engaging manner. Both story and illustrations make A Family for Riley a top recommendation over most books about animal adoption, kindness, puppies, or love.

The Science Shelf

What the Dinosaurs Saw
Fatti Burke, author/illustrator
Bloomsbury Children's Books
9781547606894, $23.99, HC, 64pp

Synopsis: Our whole universe began as a tiny dot, filled with so much hot, dense energy that it burst. This event is called the Big Bang, and from the remnants of that explosion, our whole universe was born.

From those earliest beginnings 3.5 billion years ago to the mighty dinosaurs who roamed Earth 250 million years ago, "What the Dinosaurs Saw: Life on Earth Before Humans" by author/illustrator Fatti Burke is the picture book story of how life adapted, evolved, and survived exploding stars, flying meteoroids, and natural disasters.

Young readers will fully enjoy learning about how our world come to life amid bubbling volcanoes and electrical storms in this vibrantly illustrated account of life on Earth before humans.

Critique: Fun and informative, and especially impressive that this is author/illustrator Fatti Burke's first picture book for children, "What the Dinosaurs Saw: Life on Earth Before Humans" will have a very special appeal to young readers ages 6- 8. While very strongly recommended for family, elementary school, and community library dinosaur picture book collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of all dedicated young dinosaur fans that "What the Dinosaurs Saw: Life on Earth Before Humans" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

What Things Come From Nature?
Radka Piro, author
Anastasiia Moshina, illustrator
Albatros Media
9788000063607, $15.99, Novelty Book, 16pp

Synopsis: A combination of picture book and board book in format, "What Things Come From Nature?" is meant for children who have wondered how many of the things around us come from nature? There are so many things, including wooden furniture, metal utensils, beeswax, and bread. We rarely (if ever!) think about how difficult all this was to make. How long did a tree grow before it became the chair you're now sitting on? How did a cow's milk turn into the ice cream that cools you off in summertime? "What Things Come From Nature?" will show children which materials go into making the stuff we use in our everyday lives as they look beneath the flaps and find out what we're sourcing from the natural world around us!

Critique: From the team of author Radka Piro and illustrator Anastasiia Moshina, "What Things Come From Nature?" takes a unique and thoroughly kid friendly 'Life the Flap' approach to science that is a deftly mixed blend of science and entertainment. As fun as it is informative, "What Things Come From Nature?" is especially and unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library science book collections for children ages 3-6.

Editorial Note #1: Radka Piro is a bookworm, keen traveler, and lover of original stories. She studied foreign languages and then journeyed to distant corners of the world to find out what to do next in life. Currently she is a writer and an editor who resides in the Czech Republic.

Editorial Note #2: Anastasia Moshiina was born in St. Petersburg, Russia. She studied Graphic Design and Arts at the University of Technology and Design. Since then, has been making illustrations for children's books, magazines and independent publications.

Mermaid and the Rainbow
Lois Wickstrom, author
Ada Konewki, illustrator
Look Under Rocks
c/o Gripper Products
9781954519268, $19.99, HC, 24pp

Synopsis: Trezzie, Maia, and Fig swap science tricks using treasures from the mermaid's secret box. Best of all, they make a rainbow with a mirror, a piece of paper, and a glass of water. Trezzie is Maia's imaginary playmate. Fig is her human friend. Together, they make a great team!

Critique: Another entertaining and informative blend of science, activities, and entertaining story by children's author Lois Wickstrom, "Mermaid and the Rainbow" is a picture book featuring the illustrations and artwork of Ada Konewki. Fun and informative for young readers, "Mermaid and the Rainbow" is especially appropriate and recommended for family, elementary school, community library Marine Life science collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of children and home-schooling parents that "Mermaid and the Rainbow" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99).

Editorial Note: A prolific author of children's books, a publisher, a playwright and a scriptwriter, Lois Wickstrom has an informative entry listing all her books on Wikipedia at

The Aviation Shelf

Astra the Lonely Airplane
Julie Whitney, author
Michelle Simpson, illustrator
Brandylane Publishers
5 South 1st Street, Richmond, VA 23219
9781953021410, $24.95, HC, 44pp

Synopsis: Astra is a sleek, shiny airplane who loves to go flying with her best friend, Captain Dan. But when Astra and Dan suddenly find themselves out of a job, Astra must wait in her lonely hangar for a new owner to come along and give them somewhere to go! As the weeks turn into months and the right buyer still doesn't appear, Astra begins to wonder: Will she ever get to fly again?

"Astra the Lonely Airplane", is the first rhyming picture book in the Astra series and is appropriate for young K-5 readers and also for preschoolers, who will enjoy memorizing the rhyming verse. The charming picture book also includes an educational glossary of plane terminologies and interesting facts, as well as a three-minute video via a QR Code in the book that children can scan to see a tour of the real Astra given by the real Captain Dan.

"Astra the Lonely Airplane" teaches children about planes, math and geography, and about overcoming adversity in challenging times and embracing new circumstances that may occur in their lives, such as a move to a new city. "Astra the Lonely Airplane" will children wondering what will happen to Astra after she lands in her new home and eagerly look forward to the forthcoming second installment in the Astra series!

Critique: A wonderfully original and thoroughly 'kid friendly' picture book story told in verse for children ages 4-8, "Astra the Lonely Airplane" by the team of children's author Julie Whitney and artist/illustrator Michelle Simpson is especially and unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Astra the Lonely Airplane" is also readily available in a paperback edition (978-1953021427, $14.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $2.99).

Editorial Note: Author/storyteller Julie Whitney wrote "Astra the Lonely Airplane", after her husband's job as Chief Pilot of a corporate jet came to a grinding halt during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Hunting Shelf

A Hunting I Will Go...
Tony Frizzell
Dorrance Publishing Company
585 Alpha Drive, Suite 103, Pittsburgh, PA 15238
9781649134592, $23.00, HC, 30pp

Synopsis: "A Hunting I Will Go..." by author and illustrator Tony Frizzell is the delightful and charming tale about a young boy who is excited thinking about the time when he is going to get to go hunting with his dad in hopes of killing a deer. However, he also understands it is just not about killing the deer; it is about getting to spend quality time with his father in the outdoors and nature.

Critique: Original, entertaining, and with a valued underlying message, "A Hunting I Will Go..." is an appealing and unique picture book about the importance of parents and children spending quality time together and making memories that will last them a lifetime. While also available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99), "A Hunting I Will Go..." is especially and unreservedly recommended for family, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for children ages 6-8.

The Egyptology Shelf

The Magnificent Book of Treasures: Ancient Egypt
Philip Steele, author
Eugenia Nobati, illustrator
Weldon Owen, Inc.
c/o Insight Editions
PO Box 3088, San Rafael, CA 94912
9781681885582, $18.99, HC, 80pp

Synopsis: "The Magnificent Book of Treasures: Ancient Egypt" by the collaborative team of author Philip Steele and artist Eugenia Nobati is a beautifully illustrated picture book comprised of ancient secrets, glittering gold, priceless treasures, and Egyptian stories from more than 3,000 years ago. Stunning artworks and intriguing facts combine to mesmerize, inform and entertain.

This truly stunning book will lead young readers ages 8-12 on a thrilling and informative journey back in time to the land of the ancient Egyptians. In its illustrated pages, children will be introduced to Ancient Egypt's mighty pharaohs and powerful queens, awaken their mythical gods and magical goddesses, and learn about everyday life along the River Nile.

Every page spread reveals a fabulous treasure and its unique story. Young readers will unwrap a pharaoh's mummy, decipher hieroglyphics, discover why an amulet is lucky, and what gruesomeness hides inside a canopic jar.

Critique: Visually gorgeous, factually informative, inherently fascinating, and thoroughly 'kid friendly' in organization and presentation, "The Magnificent Book of Treasures: Ancient Egypt" is an ideal and unreservedly recommended addition to family, elementary school, and community library Egyptology picture book collections for children.

Editorial Note #1: Philip Steele has been a successful writer of information books for children over many years. He loves bringing history back to life and enjoys writing books that encourage children to explore the world.

Editorial Note #2: Based in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Eugenia Nobati's artwork has been published in nine countries and more than forty books. She was selected among 16 illustrators, representing Argentina in the 2012 Biennial of Illustration Bratislava. In 2014, she was recognized by ALIJA, Argentina's section of IBBY, for the best illustrated book.

The LGBT Shelf

Seeing Gender
Iris Gottlieb
Chronicle Books
680 Second Street, San Francisco, CA 94107
9781797211978, $19.99, PB, 208pp

Synopsis: Gender is an intensely personal, yet universal, facet of humanity. This new paperback edition of "Seeing Gender: An Illustrated Guide to Identity and Expression" is a vibrant book in which queer author and artist Iris Gottlieb visually explores gender in all of its complexities, answering questions and providing guidance while also mining history and pop culture for the stories and people who have shaped the conversation on gender.

Informed by Gottlieb's personal experiences, this deeply researched and brilliantly rendered book demystifies this fluid topic at a critical time. For LGBTQIA+ people, Seeing Gender offers a space for self-exploration, giving comfort, advice, and reassurance in the sometimes confusing process of navigating one's identity.

For allies, "Seeing Gender" is an essential tool for understanding and thoughtfully participating in this necessary cultural conversation. Whatever one's position,

Critique: When there is a wave of intolerance seeking to remove LGBTQ information from school curriculums, "Seeing Gender: An Illustrated Guide to Identity and Expression" provides young adult students with gender information as a part of highschool human sexuality curriculums. "Seeing Gender" is impressively informative, exceptionally well written, effectively illustrated, and thoroughly 'kid friendly' in organization and presentation. "Seeing Gender" is an essential, informative, and highly recommended book for young people (and their parents) who are passionate about changing the way we see and talk about gender and sexuality in the twenty-first century as a way of bringing about equality, understanding, tolerance. A recommended and core addition to family, highschool, and community library LGBTQ collections for young readers ages 14-18, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Seeing Gender" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Iris Gottlieb is a Durham, North Carolina-based illustrator and author of Seeing Science (Chronicle Books, 2018) and Natural Attraction (Sasquatch Books, 2017). Her work aims to educate, humor, and provide accessible information through visual storytelling. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Smithsonian Magazine, The Exploratorium, and beyond.

Books in Series

We Ask Permission
Lydia Bowers, author
Isabel Munoz, illustrator
Free Spirit Publishing
6325 Sandburg Road, Suite 100, Minneapolis, MN 55427-3674
9781631986758, $15.99, HC, 36pp

Synopsis: Asking for permission is a key foundation of consent. "We Ask Permission" by author Lydia Bowers and illustrator Isabel Munoz builds children's social and emotional skills and helps with teaching boundaries by encouraging children to look for body language cues and by asking before hugging or touching others.

The third book in the 'We Say What's Okay' series from Free Spirit Publishing, "We Ask Permission" follows Jovan as he learns to ask permission and become a body language detective. Using this picture book as a read-aloud, educators and parents can model the language Jovan's teachers use to support children as they learn to look for body language cues and respect the personal boundaries of others. Of special note is the inclusion of additional activities in the back of the book. Digital content includes a song from Peaceful Schools with downloadable audio files and sheet music.

Critique: Thoroughly 'kid friendly' in organization and presentation, "We Ask Permission" is especially appropriate and effective for children ages 3-5 and includes a bibliography of recommended books and web sites -- making it highly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, kindergarten, and community library Life Skills collections.

Editorial Note #1: After spending almost two decades of working directly with children as a classroom teacher and a parent, speaker, consultant, and trainer Lydia Bowers is passionate about reframing sexuality conversations. Lydia now teaches families and educators how to talk to children about subjects like gender, reproduction, and abuse. She can be followed on TikTok @lydiatalksconsent and Instagram @lydiambowers

Editorial Note #2: Isabel Munoz's dream was to paint for a living, and now she's proud to be the illustrator of several children's books. She works from a tiny and colorful studio in the north of Spain and maintains a website at

The Math Kids: The Triangle Secret
David Cole
Common Deer Press
9781988761626, $11.95 Paper/$8.99 Kindle, 184pp, Ages 10-12

The Math Kids: The Triangle Secret is the sixth book in the Math Kids series. It tells of fifth grader Jordan Waters, who is just starting to feel that the school year may not be a complete disaster after his posse of friends find themselves divided into different classrooms.

The Math Kids have used math to solve many cases, in the past. When an FBI investigation of a plane crash leads to a kidnapping, they are once again called upon to demonstrate their problem-solving skills.

Intrigue and adventure spice a story which outlines and uses mathematical patterns to solve mysteries. Examples of math problems and solutions both inside and outside the classroom spice a story that sprinkles math throughout, whether it's counting ice cream scoops, considering a sports coach's formula for success, or tackling a puzzling will.

Illustrations by Shannon O'Toole pepper David Cole's engrossing tale, building a sense of adventure and excitement that pairs math concepts with problem-solving mysteries.

The intrigue is nicely developed, the characters are enthusiastic and interesting, and the math formulas and concepts are clearly explained - but it's the mystery that drives the story and holds reader interest throughout.

No prior familiarity with the Math Kids series is needed in order to appreciate this latest adventure. Adults seeking to strengthen math concepts and applied learning skills in the young will find The Triangle Secret a great way of reinforcing mathematics through an appealing adventure that asks questions of readers to test their own problem-solving abilities.

Officer Jack: Baby's Breath
James Burd Brewster, author
Mary Barrows, illustrator
J2B Publishing
9781954682146, $10.99, PB, 36pp

Synopsis: Police officer Jack and his partner, police officer Kate are in the airport terminal waiting to fly to Washington, DC, when a woman screams, "Help Me! My baby's not breathing! Somebody, help me!"

Officer Kate knows how to help her, but a scanner conveyor belt blocks her path to the frantic mother. Can she get there in time to save the baby?

"Baby's Breath" is fifth book in the Officer Jack series of children's picture books, each of which emphasizes service to others and devotion to duty and end with a "Glad to do it!" statement that children can repeat along with the story's characters.

Critique: With its very positive message for children 4-8, "Officer Jack: Baby's Breath" by author/storyteller James Burd Brewster and artist/illustrator Mary Barrows is especially and unreservedly for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections.

Editorial Note: The "Glad To Do It!" collection thanks and honors the commitment, courage, and bravery of millions of police officers, fire fighters, and EMTs who go to work every day fully prepared to place themselves between their neighbors and danger. Children can go to the website at to view the entire "Glad To Do It!" series -- as well as download a free picture book and coloring pages.

Land of Lots
Christian Carl, author
Joyce Fan, illustrator
Chuck & Sue Willis, illustrators
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781665525763, $14.99, PB, 64pp

Synopsis: Welcome to the Children's book series Land of Lots! In this first book of author/storyteller's new picture book series, Lovelot, a young girl wandering through space, lands in a strange and magical place called Land of Lots where she meets and gets to know an adorable band of animals called Oomlots. Question is, will she choose to stay or will she go?

Children ages 4-7 will enjoy asking such questions of themselves as: Do you see a lot of yourself in one of the Oomlots?; Or a little of yourself in all of them?; Which Oomlot are you?

Critique: Charmingly illustrated throughout by collaborative artists Joyce Fan, Chuck Willis, and Sue Willis, "Land of Lots" by Christian Carl is a unique action/adventure picture book that, along with the other two titles in this simply outstanding picture book action/adventure oriented series, "Land of Lots: Plan Gill" (9781665525794, $14.95, 64pp) and "Land of Lots: Plan Paige" (978-1665525848, $14.95, 64pp) are especially and unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library collections for children.

Editorial Note: It should be noted for young readers, parents and teachers that this outstanding and original series is supported by a dedicated website:

Little Owl Rescue
Rachel Delahaye, author
Suzie Mason, illustrator
Artful Doodlers, illustrator
Tiger Tales
9781664340114, $5.99, PB, 128pp

Synopsis: One night at the carnival, Callie and her friend Gabriel decide to go on the flying swings. As they spin higher and higher in the air, Callie suddenly feels huge gusts of wind, and she can't see anything in front of her. When the ride stops, she finds herself alone on an expanse of farmland. She knows that she has been brought there to help an animal, and soon, she discovers a barn owl family. Then the mother disappears and leaves an owlet behind! Knowing she must do something to help the baby bird. Callie leaps into action. But with night closing in and dangerous animals all around, Callie will need her tiny friend's help as much as it needs hers!

Critique: The third volume in the Tiger Tales series 'The Little Animal Rescue', children ages 6-9 will fully enjoy joining Callie in "Little Owl Rescue -- a magical adventures to rescue wild animals in danger all around the world! A fun read from first page to last, "Little Owl Rescue" is perfect for family, elementary school, and community library chap book collections for young readers.

Over and Under the Canyon
Kate Messner, author
Christopher Silas Neal, illustrator
Chronicle Books
680 Second Street, San Francisco, CA 94107
9781452169392, $18.99, HC, 56pp

Synopsis: The latest book in the acclaimed Over and Under series, "Over and Under the Canyon" takes young readers on a thrilling tour of a desert canyon ecosystem. Over the canyon, the sun scalds the air, baking desert mud to stone. But under the shade of the cliffs hides another world, where bighorn sheep bound from rock to rock on the hillside, roadrunners make their nests in sturdy cacti, and banded geckos tuck themselves into the shelter of the sand. Young readers will enjoy discovering the wonders concealed in the curves of the canyon, the magic of a desert wildflower bloom, and all the unexpected creatures that bring the desert to life.

Critique: Noting that the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) emphasize learning about animal habitats/biomes in K-2 curriculums, while later grades address topics like food chains, conservation, and endangered species, and with its depth of research and an engaging, highly visual narrative, "Over and Under the Canyon" is a simply excellent curriculum resource for primary school educators and home schooling parents."Over and Under the Canyon" provides an ideal resource for classroom and family discussions of the importance and wonder of our world's natural habitats and ecosystems. While also available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.51), "Over and Under the Canyon" is unreservedly recommended for family, elementary school, and community library picture book Environmental, Ecology, Zoology and Wildlife picture book collections.

The Story Monsters Ink Shelf

Story Monsters LLC is dedicated to helping authors of all genres strive for excellence through our marketing and publicity services, Dragonfly Book Awards contests, Story Monsters Approved! awards program, opportunities for connecting with schools, and the award-winning Story Monsters Ink(R) magazine.

The Love Book
Jemima Neal
Canephora Press
9781737624752, $8.99

Deb Greenberg

If there ever was a warm and cozy tale for you and your little one, The Love Book is it. Using farm and forest animals to captivate and delight kids of all ages, this rhyming story is one you'll want to share with someone you love. Adorable illustrations and amusing text present a simple yet super important message in a silly and sweet way. Definitely a book to add to your collection and read often to a special someone. (Ages baby-6)

The Adventures of Kodi and Bella
Sylvie R. Bordzuk, author
Alex Crump, illustrator
Red Penguin Books
9781637771648, $12.95

Deb Greenberg

Play along with Kodie the curious kitten and his new friend Bella the friendly squirrel. Their playday teaches them some important lessons when they stray too far from Kodi's yard, then head in different directions while looking for each other. If it wasn't for having learned his address and phone number, Kodi might still be scampering around in search of his parents. This rhyming tale is the perfect avenue to educate kids about safety, friendship, and responsibility. (Ages 2-6)

Apple Grumble
Huw Lewis Jones, author
Ben Sanders, illustrator
Thames & Hudson
9780500652442, $16.95

Christine Irvin

Every young child can identify with a grumpy bad apple. In this book (the second in the Bad Apple series), as the title suggests, Apple is grumpy - very, very grumpy. When Granny Smith and the other apples try to teach Apple a lesson, Apple makes an apple crumble and seals them inside. The sparse text makes this a great selection for beginning readers. (Ages 3-5)

Bob Graham
9781536217704, $17.99

Christine Irvin

Max's baby sister arrives with two little strands of red hair at exactly the stroke of midnight. Maxine receives a superhero's welcome. Then, just as everyone expects her to, she flies! But not all superheroes wear masks and capes, and Maxine is determined to be herself, dream big, and fly high on her own terms. This is a delightful story about just being who you are. (Ages 3-7)

Big Truck Little Island
Chris Van Dusen
9781536203936, $17.99

Christine Irvin

When a big truck blocks the narrow road on a little island, traffic comes to a standstill. Some vehicles need to go one way and some need to go the other, but none can get through. What will the people do who live on this little island? The story is told in rhyming verse and is accompanied by colorful, expressive illustrations. The tale is based on a true story with a clever solution to a recurring problem. (Ages 3-7)

How to Pick a Pet
Brooke Vitale, author
Rimma Mukhamaieva, illustrator
Charge Mommy Books
9781955947152, $6.99

Deb Greenberg

With so many pets to pick from, is there one that's a perfect fit for Tom? Tag along to the pet store in this Early Reader (from the Charge into Reading series) with seven pages of reading activities designed to build your child's' reading confidence. The bird is way too loud, the snake squeezes way too tight, the dog is way too big - none of them are right for Tom - continue on to see the pet that he prefers. Activities tied to each page can be downloaded for free at (Ages 3-7)

Bug Hunt
Brooke Vitale, author
Rimma Mukhamaieva, illustrator
Charge Mommy Books
9781955947114, $6.99

Deb Greenberg

An educational and entertaining book to strengthen your child's reading and comprehension while also teaching about "true" bugs. Follow the little boy around his backyard as his bug hunt turns up many interesting insects and bugs, from spiders and bees to crickets and beetles, but no "true" bugs. Is it really true that worms have no eyes and worker bees are all girls? Offers easy vocabulary, simple content, and seven activity pages at the back of the book. (Ages 3-7)

Stuck Duck
Brooke Vitale, author
John and Wendy, illustrator
Charge Mommy Books
9781955947091, $6.99

Deb Greenberg

Duck is cruising about his day when a horn falls out of a tree and gets stuck on his head! Kids can follow along the simple repetitive text and inviting illustrations to see if anyone is able to get Duck "unstuck." This sweet story about overcoming obstacles is part of the Charge into Reading series and offers seven pages of literacy activities, including comprehension and spelling. Activities tied to each page of the story can be downloaded for free at (Ages 3-7)

The Swan Lake Surprise
Lindsay DeRollo, author and illustrator
Lauri Fortino, editor
Two Girls and a Reading Corner
9781952879227 $TBA

Deb Greenberg

When Pinky's best friend Emma lands the lead role in the Swan Lake ballet recital and spends her days practicing with Bella who also has a major role, she feels left out and sad. And when Emma calls on her birthday and doesn't even mention her birthday, Pinky is even more disappointed. See what's in store for this little ballerina and learn a lesson about friendship as you read this sweet story. A wonderful picture book for all kids, especially the tiny dancers out there. (Ages 3-8)

ABCs of Racing
Andy Amendola, author
Wei Ren, illustrator
Red Racer Books LLC
B09V6PCPR9, $19.99 print / $9.99 Kindle

Deb Greenberg

Cruise along with Red Racer and learn about the world of Formula 1 car racing. The story follows the alphabet, teaching a new word on each page, and 34 illustrations include actual racetracks and racing situations that'll entertain kids and adults too. From DRS (Drag Reduction System) to Monaco to Yellow Flag, it's all in this informative board book. Grab your little reader and start your engines. Available in English and Spanish. (Ages 3-8)

Remember to Dream, Ebere
Cynthia Erivo, author
Charnelle Pinkney Barlow, illustrator
Little, Brown
9780316496155, $18.99

Christine Irvin

When Ebere's mother tucks her into bed, she says, "Remember to dream, Ebere." And dream she does. She has a wonderful dream about a rocket ship. After a short time, she wakes up and tells her mom about her dream. Her mom asks her a question about the dream. When Ebere doesn't know the answer, her mom tells her to go back and dream some more. This process continues as the dream gets bigger and bolder. A delightful story. (Ages 4-8)

Tell Me a Lion Story
Kara Kramer
9781536218015, $17.99

Christine Irvin

The book starts out with a little girl trying to get her dad to tell her a story about a lion. Every time he says something new about the lion, she corrects him and sends the story in a new direction. This continues until about two thirds of the way through the book until the dad finally suggests they tell the story together. Then, the format changes to a fill-in-the-blank story about a lion. Kids can fill in the blanks with the lion's name, where he lives, and what he does. This is such a creative and innovative book. It is interactive - as it makes the reader the storyteller - which kids will love. (Ages 4-8)

Lily Leads the Way
Margi Preus, author
Matt Myers, illustrator
9781536214031, $17.99

Christine Irvin

Lily is a tugboat. She might be small, but she is determined. When she sees a problem on the river, she figures out a way to help. Wonderful illustrations and repetitive text make this a fun to read book. The author includes extra information about bridges and boats in the back of the book. (Ages 4-8)

The Legend of Lop-Eared Larry
Hester Applebee, author
Brittany David, illustrator
Natasha Wing, creator
Wing Books
9780975871966, $7.99

Deb Greenberg

Let Larry the lop-eared rabbit be part of your Easter festivities. Born with droopy ears, Larry is an outcast until he uses his lop ears to outwit the farmer, bring back a bundle of carrots, and win over the entire village. Lop-Eared Larry teaches that your differences can be your strengths. A sweet story with adorable illustrations to read to the little ones or one that elementary-schoolers can read on their own. Also includes a carrot cake recipe to top off your Easter celebration. (Ages 5-8)

Hope Is an Arrow
Cory McCarthy, author
Ekua Holmes, illustrator
9781536200324, $18.99

Christine Irvin

This is a biography of Lebanese American poet Kahlil Gibran. The text includes several quotes from his poems. Expressive illustrations and interesting text make this a great addition to a child's nonfiction library. The author includes source notes and additional stories from Kahlil Gibran's life in the back of the book. (Ages 6-9)

Bei Bei Goes Home: A Panda Story
Cheryl Bardoe
9781536217636, $17.99

Christine Irvin

Who doesn't love pandas? This is the real life story of Bei Bei, a Panda born in the Smithsonian's National Zoo as he grows and then goes to live in China when he is four. It is filled with glorious full-color photographs, and packed with tons of facts and trivia, sure to become a favorite in any child's library. (Ages 6-9)

Northbound: A Train Ride Out of Segregation
Michael S. Bandy and Eric Stein, authors
James E. Ransome, illustrator
9780763696504, $17.99

Christine Irvin

A first-person story like this, especially one that is in picture book form, really shows what life was like during the Jim Crow era, when trains were segregated in the South, as Michael, a white boy in Alabama travels to Ohio on a train. This book would make a great addition to a home library or elementary school history class. (Ages 6-9)

Annette Roberts-Murray
Independently Published
9780578319414, $19.99

Deb Greenberg

Pandemonium details what the Covid pandemic has been like for Carson, a 13-year-old who is affected in similar ways to kids around the globe. He watches it change everything, causing businesses and schools to close and creating economic hardships for many. He struggles to focus during online classes, is overwhelmed by all the restrictions, and longs to see his friends. But through it all, Carson realizes the importance of family, as he becomes so much closer to his own. A book that we can all relate to, and one you'll want in your child's collection. (Ages 7+)

Brand New Boy
David Almond
Walker Books
9781536222708, $18.99

Diana Perry

When a new boy joins the class, everyone thinks he's a bit strange, but he's brilliant at football and loves crisps, and that's all that matters to Dan and Maxie. However, the truth about George is stranger than anyone could have imagined... and more sinister, too. Can his new pals help him to become truly free? Young readers will not be able to keep up with all the twists and turns and will not expect the very surprising ending. This is a book you can't put down until the end.
(Ages 8-12)

I Know Your Secret
Daphne Benedis-Grab
9781338746334, $7.99

Diana Perry

On Monday morning, seventh graders Owen, Gemma, Ally, and Todd, who have nothing in common and barely know each other, must work together and follow the instructions of an anonymous blackmailer. None of them wants to go along with the blackmailer's strange instructions, but each of them has a secret they must protect at all costs. What a great mystery! I hope to read more stories like this one. It's the best bedtime book of all, unless it keeps you up all night trying to solve the mystery! (Ages 8-12)

The Lucky Ones
Linda Williams Jackson
9781536222555, $18.99

Diana Perry

Around the historical touchstone of Robert Kennedy's southern "poverty tour," Linda Williams Jackson pulls from her own childhood in the Mississippi Delta to tell a detail-rich and poignant story with memorable characters, sure to resonate with readers who have ever felt constricted by their circumstances. Young readers will be impressed with young Ellis as they learn about segregation and the terrible struggles Black Americans had to suffer through not that long ago. (Ages 8-12)

Lucy and Dee: The Silk Road
Kirsten Marion
Common Deer Press
9781988761640, $12.95

Darleen Wohlfeil

Lucy and Dee couldn't be more different, and yet they possess a friendship deep and unique. Opposite in backgrounds and interests, these two friends embark on a quest they would never have imagined. Lucy is bold and daring, seeking adventure to distract her unambitious homelife, where Dee is prudent, cautious, having a keen mental discernment and practical sense. In a land of magic and difficulty, they discover hidden depths within themselves. Blending strengths and easing weaknesses, they find determination, curiosity, and an open-mindedness that lets them see themselves and the world they live in, with a whole new insight. The journey, with its excitement and pace and colorful characters met along the way is sure to engage middle grade readers. (Ages 9-12)

Meant to Be
Jo Knowles
9781536210323, $18.99

Diana Perry

In a companion to Where the Heart Is, the lens turns to younger sister Ivy as she fields the joys and pitfalls of new friendship, honest her passion for baking, and resists the idea of change. Young readers will relate to Ivy as she faces an unknown future and learns that, no matter what happens, she will face it bravely. A good lesson book, this story helps young readers learn how to face life's problems head on and, with a little bravery and determination, how to handle anything that comes their way. (Ages 9-12)

Loki: A Bad God's Guide to Being Good
Louie Stowell
Walker Books
9781536223279, $14.99

Diana Perry

After one prank too many, trickster god Loki has been banished to live as a kid on Earth. If he can show moral improvement within one month, he can return to Asgard. Packed with doodles and cartoons, here is the graphic novel diary of Loki as he's trapped on earth as a petulant 11-year-old - and even worse - annoying thunder god Thor is there, too. Young readers will laugh out loud at how everything works out and will find a surprise at the very end. (Ages 9-12)

Birdie's Bargain
Katherine Paterson
9781536215595, $17.99

Diana Perry

Birdie has questions for God. For starters, why couldn't God roll history back to September 10, 2001, and fix things - so the next day was an ordinary sunny day and not the devastating lead-in to two wars? Daddy has already been to Iraq twice. Now he's going again, and Birdie is sure he'll die. At the very least, she won't see him again for a year, and everything will not be OK. (Why do grown-ups lie?) This book gives a peek into what it's like for children in military families. I hope young readers will be extra kind and welcoming to any children in military families and appreciate how their lives are disrupted every time they must pull up roots and move again. (Ages 9-12)

As Fast As Her
Kendall Coyne
9780310771135, $24.99

Diana Perry

The world told Kendall Coyne to slow down. They said "not so fast" when she picked up hockey skates instead of figure skates. They said "just a minute" when she tried out for the boy's team. They told her "you're not enough" so often that she started to believe it. But Kendall had a passion and a dream, so instead of slowing down, she sped up, going on to win Olympic gold and a spot in the Fastest Skater Competition at the 2019 NHL All-Star Weekend. This book will encourage all young readers, especially girls and encourage them to listen to their own mind and not the harsh words of others. I hope it makes them feel empowered and have an undying urge to show everyone just how great they are. This is a great book for all schools, libraries, and any young girl who needs a confidence boost. (Ages 10+)

Diana Farid
Cameron Kids
9781951836580, $18.99

Diana Perry

Thirteen-year-old Ava loves to surf and to sing. Singing and reading Rumi poems settle her mild OCD, and catching waves with her best friend, Phoenix, lets her fit in - her olive skin looks tan, not foreign. But then Ava has to spend the summer before ninth grade volunteering at the hospital, to follow in her single mother's footsteps to become a doctor. With ocean-like rhythm and lyricism, Wave is about a girl who rides the waves, tumbles, and finds her way back to the shore. This is the perfect book to curl up with on a lazy rainy evening. (Ages 10-14)

The Eyes of the Leopard
Brian D. Hayden
Granville Island Publishing
9780985104603, $14.95

Darleen Wohlfeil

A YA novel filled with adventure and realism. Written and inspired by the author's life experience as an archaeologist and anthropologist, he provides us a peek into the lives of an early society of hunters and gatherers of the ice age. This exciting coming-of-age story provides a bridge between times with such relatability. Every reader will identify with Sev, a 13-year-old boy who is learning to navigate the ageless battles of life. Curiosity, social pressure, and survival force him to challenge and survive his environment, and emerge a man. (Ages 12+)

James A. Cox, Editor-in-Chief
Diane C. Donovan, Editor
Midwest Book Review
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