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Children's Bookwatch

Volume 33, Number 4 April 2023 Home | CBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Health Shelf Pets/Wildlife Shelf
Multicultural Shelf Holiday Shelf Board Book Shelf
Picturebook Shelf Historical Fiction Shelf LGBT Fiction Shelf
Middle Grade Fiction Shelf Romantic Fiction Shelf Young Adult Fiction Shelf
Mystery/Suspense Shelf Fantasy/SciFi Shelf Graphic Novel Shelf
Audiobook Shelf Music CD Shelf Psychology Shelf
Folktale/Fairytale Shelf Christian Shelf Art Shelf

Reviewer's Choice

Gertie, the Darling Duck of WWII
Shari Swanson, author
Renee Graef, illustrator
Sleeping Bear Press
9781534111714, $18.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: In 1945, the attention of the United States, along with the rest of the world, was focused on World War II. After more than five years of fighting, a downcast and war-weary people were looking for signs of hope of a better future.

One April morning, a duck searching for a nesting spot lands on a tall post sticking out of the Milwaukee River. Situated near a busy drawbridge and the noisy city of Milwaukee, this was an unlikely, precarious spot for a soon-to-be-mama duck to build her nest. But that is exactly where Gertie (named by a local reporter) decides to make her home and lay her eggs.

Once local newspapers report the story, crowds begin visiting the bridge to watch Gertie and speculate how she will safely hatch her babies. Soon, news outlets around the world are carrying the hopeful tale of the plucky duck, raising spirits, and giving readers a shared sense of community.

Critique: A lovely and fun picture book based upon an actual historical event. Of special note is the section 'More to the Story' with actual historical photographs and commentary. "Gertie, the Darling Duck of WWII" by author/storyteller Shari Swanson and artist/illustrator Renee Graef is especially and unreservedly recommended for family, elementary school, and community library collections for young readers ages 6-9. For personal reading lists is should also be noted that "Gertie the Darling Duck of WWII" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $18.04).

Editorial Note #1: Shari Swanson ( earned her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She is an appellate lawyer, with many published cases, and a former middle school language arts teacher. Her books are Honey, the Dog Who Saved Abe Lincoln (HarperCollins 2020) and Gertie, the Darling Duck of WWII (SleepingBearPress 2023).

Editorial Note #2: Renee Graef ( has illustrated more than 80 books for children, including books for HarperCollins' My First Little House series. She splits her time between Wisconsin and California.

Wally Wants to Cuddle
Annette Rivlin-Gutman, author
Melissa Bailey, illustrator
Independently Published
9781088053539, $19.95, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: A new picture book by the team of author/storyteller Annette Rivlin-Gutman and artist/illustrator Melissa Bailey is "Wally Wants to Cuddle". A fun and original story in which Wally learns that there are many ways to connect with his friends and that separation from his Mama is only temporary.

Critique: Original, entertaining, and with a critically important message for children ages 2-6, "Wally Wants to Cuddle" is a delightful picture book that provides a gentle approach to help very young children cope with separation anxieties about leaving their mothers and other family members when first going to daycare, school, or a play date. While also available for personal reading lists in a paperback edition (9798848263046, $12.95), "Wally Wants to Cuddle" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to family, daycare center, preschool, and community library Life Lessons picture book collections.

Editorial Note #1: Annette Rivlin-Gutman is an award-winning author, trauma-informed yoga teacher. Annette drew upon her professional and personal experiences to write her children's books, "Mommy Has to Stay in Bed" and "Just Breathe". Annette is also a former special educator and seasoned video producer with a background in children's programming, including work with PBS, Mister Rogers, and "Sesame Street".

Editorial Note #2: Melissa Bailey ( is an impressively talented children's book illustrator, author, freelance artist and self-publishing mentor.

Link and the Shooting Stars
Susana Balan, author
Claudio Cano, author
Christian Zambruno, illustrator
International Psychoanalytic Books
9781956864410, $24.95, PB, 168pp

Synopsis: "Link and the Shooting Stars" explores the universal search for one's identity in a lively, original way through the experiences of Link, a young horse gifted in empathy but grappling with contradictory and confusing messages about life from those who love him.

The story interweaves Link's vibrant inner world of curiosity, confusion, and even despair with the many adventures and challenges he overcomes during his quest to find where the shooting stars land-a quest that is, at its core, a search for Home, for the place where he can feel at peace with his own self.

Critique: Co-authored by Susana Balan and Caludio Cano, and featuring charming illustrations by Christian Zambruno, "Link and the Shooting Stars" is recommended for children of all ages. Younger children will benefit from reading the book with their parents or primary caregivers, while older children will enjoy reading it on their own or with an adult. Reading the book together will help them to understand and be able to talk with each other about difficult family dynamics and the misinterpretations that often lead to strife between parent and child and to challenging, "acting out" behaviors. Highly recommended for personal, professional, community, and school library collections, adults working in education, mental health, child development, and related fields will find "Link and the Shooting Stars" quite useful in their work with young people, whether they are in private practice or in an educational and other institutional setting.

Editorial Note #1: Susana Balan ( is an Argentine psychotherapist with clients throughout the Americas. She holds a degree in psychology from the National University of Buenos Aires and was trained in clinical psychology, social psychology, and psychoanalysis with Enrique Pichon-Riviere, a founder of Argentine psychoanalysis. She continued her training in Brazil at the Sociedade de Psicanalise Iracy Doyle in Rio de Janeiro. Susana is widely recognized in Argentina and Brazil for her clinical work and publications, which include five books focused on female identity, couple s relationships, and the nature of love. Since 1998, she has have lived and worked in the New York area.

Editorial Note #2: Claudia Cano ( is, a Mexican corporate training and communication specialist currently based in the Netherlands, and is currently preparing a full-length book for psychologists, teachers and other professionals dealing with children and adults who, although often quite successful in school or work, feel deeply misunderstood in their search for an identity of their own.

Editorial Note #3: Christian Zambruno ( is a professional illustrator specialized in character design. A graphic designer, Christian graduated from the Buenos Aires University and works on packaging, brand identity and product design.

The Health Shelf

Nurse Florence, Why and How Do We Sneeze?
Michael Dow, author
Janel Halton, illustrator
Dow Creative Enterprises
9781387529742, $29.99, HC, 58pp

Synopsis: Sometimes it seems only a nurse can bring technical information down to an understanding that an ordinary person can grasp.

Illustrated throughout with drawings by Janel Halton, "Nurse Florence, Why and How Do We Sneeze?" by Michael Dow is the newest edition to 'The Nurse Florence' book series provides high quality medical information that even a very young child can grasp.

By introducing young kids to correct terminology and science concepts at an early age, we can help increase our children's health literacy level as well as help to prepare them for courses and jobs in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.

Critique: We need more scientists so the intent behind the publication of "Nurse Florence, Why and How Do We Sneeze?" is the hope that many children ages 1-6 will enjoy this book series and consider a job involving science. Fun, informative, and unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library Health/Medicine collections, "Nurse Florence, Why and How Do We Sneeze?" is also readily available for personal reading lists in a paperback edition (9781387529759, $11.99).

Editorial Note: Michael Dow is the Founder and Manager of Dow Creative Enterprises, LLC. His books have garnered the Silver Nautilus Book award in 2020 (Nurse Florence, Help I'm Bleeding) and an Award-Winning Finalist in the Religion category for the 2021 International Book Awards (A Prayer to Our Father in the Heavens: Possibly the Greatest Jewish Prayer of All.

The Pets/Wildlife Shelf

5-Minute Baby Animal Stories
National Geographic Kids
c/o National Geographic Press
101 West 104th Street, Suite 8, New York, NY 10025
9781426374791, $14.99, HC, 208pp

Synopsis: From inspiring tales of baby manatee and baby wombat rescues to irresistible stories of how panda cubs, penguin chicks, and more babies grow up, "5-Minute Baby Animal Stories" is an informative and entertaining nonfiction 5-minute storybook that will engage and enchant animal lovers of all ages. Illustrated with colorful photographs, these twelve true stories are heartwarming tales, each of which can be read in about five minutes.

Critique: Beautifully illustrated throughout with full color photography, each story is the ideal length to be read aloud in five minutes, making it perfect for bedtime, story time, or anytime. While also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99), "5-Minute Baby Animal Stories" is unreservedly recommended for family, elementary school, and community library Pets/Wildlife collections for children ages 6-8.

Editorial Note: National Geographic Kids ( inspires young adventurers to explore the world through award-winning magazines, books, website, apps, games, toys, television series, and events, and it is the only kids brand with a world-class scientific organization at its core.

Animal Pals That Prove That Love Is Real
Editorial Staff
Smith Street Books
c/o Rizzoli
300 Park Avenue South, 3rd floor, New York, NY 10010
9781922754165, $14.95, HC, 96pp

Synopsis: When all seems lost and we're certain that love is dead, the animal kingdom teaches us to hope again.

It's easy to let our differences divide us, but that hasn't stopped the animal pals in as displayed in the pages of "Animal Pals That Prove That Love Is Real" whose love for each other is pure and include a golden retriever and a cheetah, a badger and a fox, and a pair of guinea pigs sharing snacks. These friendships, between species and families across the animal kingdom, are impressively captured in this collection of over eighty photos featuring pure and adorable moments of animals playing, cuddling, and exploring the world together.

Whenever you might be in doubt, "Animal Pals That Prove That Love Is Real" is photo collection is that will remind you that love is real (and that pandas are cute!).

Critique: A pleasure to browse through one full color, inspiringly captioned, full color image-on-a-page, "Animal Pals That Prove That Love Is Real" is an extraordinary and highly recommended addition to personal, family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library collection that will have immense appeal (and value) for readers ages 3 to 103.

Elephants Remember
Jennifer O'Connell
Tilbury House Publishing
9780884489283, $19.95

Elephants Remember is a true story written for picture book readers interested in stories of animal intelligence and their connections with humans. The animals that move to Lawrence Anthony's South African reserve are traumatized and angry. Lawrence adapts new methods of reaching them, understanding their pain, and healing them, as well as introducing the idea of animal emotions to those who reject such a notion. His life, experiences, and efforts to save these elephants help audiences of all ages understand his life mission and its ultimate impact on the elephants and the world. Colorful illustrations enhance a story which reads with the drama and passion of fiction backed with real-world facts about Lawrence and his efforts, making Elephants Remember a powerful attraction for picture book audiences interested in animal rescue efforts.

The Multicultural Shelf

Kai's Tea Eggs
Karina Zhou, author/illustrator
Arsenal Pulp Press
9781551529097, $19.95, HC, 40pp

Synopsis: Multicultural Day is coming up at school, and Kai is nervous about sharing her family's Chinese food with her classmates. Kai's mother is excited about making special dishes, but Kai doesn't like feeling different from everyone else.

Upset, she runs off on her own and meets Ming the dragon, who takes her on a magical journey to explore different parts of Chinese culture -- especially all the different kinds of delicious food! With Ming's help, Kai learns about her family roots and how to celebrate all that makes her unique.

Critique: "Kai's Tea Eggs" by Karina Zhou is a wonderfully charming picture book story for children who, like Kai, have felt the frustration of trying to fit in before finally learning to appreciate who they are. With colorful illustrations in full support of an original and 'kid friendly' storyline, "Kai's Tea Eggs" is unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library Life Lesson picture book collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Kai's Tea Eggs" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Karina Zhou ( is a Chinese Canadian writer and artist who is currently studying animation at California College of the Arts in San Francisco. She enjoys creating adventurous, meaningful stories for both children and adults

Vivienne in Paris
Maria Castellucci Moore, author
Emanuela Mannello, illustrator
Mascot Kids!
c/o Mascot Books
620 Herndon Parkway, #320, Herndon, VA 20170
9781637551431, $19.95 Hardcover

The picture book story Vivienne in Paris follows the daily life of a young Parisian girl who experiences the delights of the famous city, bringing young readers along for a vicarious journey.

Emanuela Mannello illustrates Maria Castellucci Moore's story with an eye to translating Vivienne's observations in a way that all young readers can enjoy, whether or not they have any prior knowledge of or interest in Paris.

Vivienne's first-person story introduces a surprise: she has undertaken a journey through her familiar city home and discovered new aspects of it that she wants to share with her young audience.

One of these surprises lies in how Vivienne not only observes those around her, but interacts with them. An early example is the time she takes to visit with her grand-pere as he sits on a park bench reading his newspaper. His query to her invites readers to also partake of an emotional self-assessment and trip down memory lane: "Vivienne," my grandfather asked, "do you remember a time when you felt most alive, full of spirit, zestful, and sparkling with enthusiasm?"

Papy invites her to "...ride through Paris, go to your usual favorite places, but this time, take notice of what your heart and body tell you."

As this idea takes root and is reflected in especially rich experiences that connect emotions with environment, read-aloud adults receive the perfect opportunity to interact with the young to invite readers to consider their own connections to the world in different ways.

As Vivienne encounters shopkeepers and assembles gifts to bring back from her discoveries, readers also receive lessons in sharing, generosity, and living in the moment in more mindful ways.

The result is more than a travelogue about Paris. It explores a young girl's place in the world and how she can interact with and share it. Vivienne in Paris represents the perfect opening lines to an approach to life that adults will want to discuss and reinforce with kids ages 4-8.

The Holiday Shelf

The Hot Cross Bunny
Carys Bexington, author
Mark Chambers, illustrator
Happy Yak
c/o Quarto Publishing Group USA
100 Cummings Center, Suite 265D, Beverly, MA 01915
9780711283022, $18.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: Who needs cute bunnies when you have hot-cross Steve and a dragon baby who poops chocolate... but can they save Easter?

Steve is a rather-hot-cross bunny, who along with his more positive pal, Nugget, a cute chick, has failed to make any chocolate eggs for the Easter egg hunt. What is he going to do?

Egged on by Nugget he decides to make an egg his own way. Not only is Steve's attempt egg-normous but it hatches a dragon! Chaos and drama unfold as the baby dragon rampages though town, gobbling up Easter eggs as it goes with unegg-spected results!

Critique: A fun and rhyming text by author/storyteller Carys Bexington and charmingly illustrated by Mark Chambers deftly combine to make "The Hot Cross Bunny" a wonderfully fun Easter story with a twist! While highly 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 "The Hot Cross Bunny" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note #1: Carys Bexington was born and raised near the Jurassic Coast in Dorset, UK, and spent her childhood climbing every single tree in the fields around her family's farm house, filling jotter after jotter with illustrated stories of her adventures. Her drawing skills have not improved, however, she hopes that her rhyming tales capture the love she has for a good old fashioned quest, and her soft spot for characters who don't necessarily always make the best choices. Her debut picture book is 'The Night Before Christmas in Wonderland', Macmillan Children's Books. (

Editorial Note #2: Mark Chambers ( is an author and illustrator of children's picture books and young fiction. He studied Illustration at University and since graduating has been represented by the London and New York Illustration agency, Bright Group International. In 2017 Mark was shortlisted for the AOI World Illustration Awards and in 2013, The Roald Dahl Funny Prize. In the same year he went on to win the Sheffield Children's Picture Book Award and was also highly commended in the young fiction category. Some of Marks' clients include Hodder Children's, Bloomsbury, Macmillan, Simon & Schuster, Amazon, and Marks & Spencer.

The Board Book Shelf

We Are Earthlings
Rachel Qiuqi
Little Simon
c/o Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 4th floor, New York, NY 10020
9781665922401, $8.99, Board Book, 34pp

Synopsis: We are Earthlings!
We laugh. We play. We love.
We may not all look alike,
or breathe alike,
or sleep alike.
But we all live here, on Earth.

From the smallest ant to the largest whale, from a newborn baby to a grandparent, we are all Earthlings. And since we all live on Earth, we must take care of it, too. But how? We can help it grow. We can keep it clean. We can give it love.

Critique: A thoroughly charming, fun, die cut, and oval shaped board book for children ages 1-5, "We Are Earthlings" by storyteller and illustrator Rachel Qiuqi features a positive and environmentally supportive message making it a welcome and recommended addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library board book for very young children.

Editorial Note: Rachel Qiuqi ( is an illustrator and designer based in Canada. After six years studying in animation, she chose to focus on illustration for children. With over ten years' experience in drawing, Rachel loves telling unique stories through her work.

The Picturebook Shelf

Coney - A Trip to Luna Park
Jeffrey Lindberg
Unity Temple Restoration Foundation
9780578908786, $19.99, HC, 48pp

Synopsis: It is 1904, and a new amusement park is being built in Coney Island. Unfortunately, the construction is happening right on the dunes that Selena, a scrappy little rabbit, calls home! From her trolley car one day, Millie spots Selena, and the two become fast friends. Together, they discover and confront the men and the machines that are doing something extraordinary - building a modern, even futuristic, theme park - while also doing something destructive to the land and its inhabitants. Their mission to save Selena's home becomes quite an adventure!

Critique: With admirable historical accuracy backgrounding an inherently fascinating and entertaining picture book format, "Coney - A Trip to Luna Park" by Jeffrey Lindberg takes young readers ages 3-8 on a ride through the old Coney Island. They will enjoy following Selena and Millie as they explore the sights and thrills of Luna Park. Then there is the encounter the "mean" men with the bulldozers. Can Millie and Selena preserve the land and still reach for the stars? Original, fun, and beautifully illustrated throughout, "Coney - A Trip to Luna Park" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections.

Editorial Note: Jeffrey Lindberg ( is a professional illustrator and author who wanted to write and illustrate a book about Coney Island that was historically accurate, while still being a fictional story. Jeffrey did a lot of research for his book, finding historical facts and details of the park, as well as archival photographs, on which he based his story's paintings. In addition to his creative work, Jeffrey is an adjunct professor at Kean University, New Jersey, and has been teaching for 20 years.

Something About a Bear
Jackie Morris
Otter-Barry Books
c/o Trafalgar Square Publishing
c/o Independent Publishers Group
9781913074289, $29.95, HC, 40pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "Something About a Bear", artist/illustrator Jackie Morris showcases eight majestic wild bears, brought to life in breathtaking, museum quality, watercolor paintings.

Brown Bear, Black Bear, Polar Bear, Sloth Bear, Spectacled Bear, Sun Bear, Moon Bear. All are gloriously depicted, with lyrical descriptions of their lives in the wild. But of all the bears in the wild, wide world, which is the best bear of all? Your teddy bear, of course!

Critique: A Kate Greenaway medalist, Jackie Morris is the acclaimed illustrator of the i"The Lost Words", and with "Something About a Bear" has now created a spectacular gallery of bears to instill a love of wild places and a respect for all creatures. This large oversized hardcover (10.5 x 0.4 x 14.5 inches, 1.46 pounds) of "Something About a Bear" is a unique, extraordinary, and unreservedly recommended addition to family, elementary school, and community library Wildlife Picture Book collections.

Editorial Note: Jackie Morris ( is a fine arts specialist whose website offers a full introduction to her life and work. She can also be followed on Twitter @jackiemorrisart, Facebook /JackieMorrisPaints, and Instagram @jackiemorrisartist

The Umbrella
Beth Ferry, author
Tom Lichenheld, illustrator
Clarion Books
c/o Houghton Mifflin Company
9780358447726, $19.99, HC, 48pp

Synopsis: In a dreary town where it always rains, a little girl and her dog discover an unexpected way to spread the light. Told with surprise and humor, "The Umbrella" is a story of generosity, perseverance, and the way that happiness can be contagious -- all it takes is one person and a bright idea.

Critique: Charmingly illustrated by Tom Lichenheld, "The Umbrella" by author/storyteller Beth Ferry is a picture book story that will have a special appeal to young readers with an interest in friendship themes. An ideal choice bedtime and story time reading, "The Umbrella" is especially and unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for children ages 4-8.

Editorial Note #1: Beth Ferry ( is the author of several picture books, including Stick and Stone. She can also be followed on Twitter: @bethferry1

Editorial Note #2: Tom Lichetenheld ( makes books for children and people who used to be children. His New York Times bestsellers include I Wish You More and Duck! Rabbit!, created with Amy Krouse Rosenthal, Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site, created with Sherri Duskey Rinker, and Stick and Stone, created with Beth Ferry.

The Best Worst Day Ever
Mark Batterson & Summer Batterson Bailey, authors
Benedetta Capriotti, illustrator
c/o Random House Children's Books
9780525653899, $12.99, HC, 40pp

Synopsis: Bert's day starts with stubbing his toe on a toy. Ouch! His favorite shirt is in the wash, so he has to wear his second favorite. Ugh. Then his dog chews up his sneakers. And to make this Saturday even worse, Bert has to go to work with his dad all day. Bert is sure this is the WORST DAY EVER!

Then it starts raining as he and his dad take a quick walk. But his dad shows him that, while he can't control what happens to him, Bert can control how he responds. Every day is a gift, and a bad day doesn't have to end that way. Whether rain or shine, his dad assures him, Bert can always WIN THE DAY!

Critique: "The Best Worst Day Ever" is a charmingly entertaining collaboration between bestselling author Mark Batterson and his daughter, Summer Batterson Dailey. Enhanced with the lively illustrations by Benedetta Capriotti, "The Best Worst Day Ever" brings home for young readers the truth that they can take charge of their big emotions. While highly recommended, especially 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 that "The Best Worst Day Ever" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99).

Editorial Note #1: Mark Batterson ( is the author of numerous books for adults, including Whisper, Chase the Lion, and Win the Day, as well as several books for children, including God Speaks in Whispers and The Blessing of You. He is the lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington, D.C. One church in seven locations, NCC owns and operates Ebenezers Coffeehouse, The Miracle Theatre, and the DC Dream Center. Mark holds a doctor of ministry degree from Regent University.

Editorial Note #2: Summer Batterson Dailey has a master's degree in social work from the University of Kentucky and works as a licensed social worker in Washington, D.C. She previously collaborated with her dad on the children's books God Speaks in Whispers and The Blessing of You.

Editorial Note #3: Benedetta Capriotti ( also illustrated the Battersons' God Speaks in Whispers and The Blessing of You. She attended a school of fashion and technical drawing before joining the illustration class at the International School of Comics in Rome.

Traveling Tootsie
Karen and Kathy Honaker
Mascot Kids
c/o Mascot Books
620 Herndon Parkway, #320, Herndon, VA 20170
9781645435884, $18.95 Hardcover/$6.99 ebook

Traveling Tootsie is a picture book about young Katie and Steven, who have to stay home when their parents travel for work.

Why do they always have to stay home? Why can't they join their parents on a journey? The siblings decide to embark on their own travels, right in their own bedroom, when a talking teddy bear proposes an exciting alternative.

Traveling Tootsie offers many unexpected, fun moments as the kids send teddy Tootsie on an exciting journey filled with wonders.

This is the perfect book to choose for read-aloud for kids whose parents travel, and is also a fine opportunity for instilling in children the wonders of travel and encountering the unexpected.

Powered by Chiara Civati's engaging illustrations, the colorful and quirky journey through history and other lands represents the fun and adventure of travel while capturing the wonders of Washington, D.C.

Libraries and read-aloud parents seeking picture books pairing whimsical fun with travel insights will find Traveling Tootsie lively, delightful, and just the ticket for instilling a sense of wanderlust and discovery in young children.

Sterling and Nugget the Dragon
Judd B. Shaw, author
Marrieta Gal, illustrator
Morgan James Kids
c/o Morgan James Publishing
11815 Fountain Way, Suite 300, Newport News, VA 23606-4448
9781636980270, $18.95, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: In a land far away, many fear a dragon named Nugget -- including Sterling, a brave young boy, who dreams of becoming a knight. Sterling sets out to slay the dragon, until his quest presents him with a choice: fight or help. In choosing kindness and compassion, Sterling becomes a true knight.

Critique: "Sterling and Nugget the Dragon" by the team of author/storyteller Judd B. Shaw and artist/illustrator Marrieta Gal is a fun picture book with an underlying message of fostering growth in a child's social and emotional development. Sterling's story will encourage the knight in shining armor within any child! Highly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for children ages 3-6, "Sterling and Nugget the Dragon" is also available for personal reading lists in a paperback edition (9781631959356, $9.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99).

Editorial Note #1: Judd B. Shaw ( loves to bring out his inner knight in shining armor. He does that through his work as an attorney representing injury victims and by creative writing. Judd is Founder of Judd Shaw Injury Law and speaks nationally on the subject of client service. Judd shares his passion for helping others with his imaginary character, Sterling the Knight.

Editorial Note: Marrieta Gal (Marija Stojisavljevic) has been an art enthusiast from an early age. She has over twenty years of professional experience in illustrating and designing children's magazines and books. As a passionate advocate for the world of art and illustration, Marrieta has illustrated numerous picture books and magazines for domestic and foreign publishers, including Leslie Guzman's Lupita plush doll and bilingual English and Spanish storybook set and Barbara Leary's novel The Climbing Tree. She earned a bachelor's degree in book design and an MA in illustration at Faculty of Applied Arts in her hometown, Belgrade, Serbia, where she currently resides. (

How to Eat a Book
Mr. & Mrs. Macleod
Union Square Kids
9781454945444, $17.99

How to Eat a Book is a whimsical picture book story of three Grunion family members. Each is strange. Each harbors an unusual habit. As child Sheila sits down to eat her first book, the oddest thing happens. As the entire family becomes consumed by literature, young readers will enjoy a whimsical lesson in family oddities and impossible circumstances which reach out to involve kids and read-aloud adults in an adventure that grows into other worlds. The unexpected evolution of the story will please those of all ages looking for something delightfully surprising and easily digestible.

9 Kilometers
Claudio Aguilera and Gabriela Lyon
Wm. B. Eerdmans
9780802856005, $18.99

9 Kilometers is the perfect story of choice for picture book fiction readers who would receive an education in metric miles. Here, a young boy leaves home for school, which is nine kilometers through the mountains and rain forests of Chile. The boy uses the journey to observe the wonders around him and think. Chile's environment comes to life for readers, as does the notion of a daily journey which offers many opportunities for reflection. Lawrence Schimel translates the story, which is based on Claudio Aguilera's experiences and features lovely color illustrations by Gabriela Lyon, who brings this environment to life.

Penguin Random House

Four new picture books from Penguin/Random House offer diverse and interesting topics that will attract a range of elementary-level libraries and readers.

Max Greenfield's This Book is Not a Present (9780593462362, $18.99) receives fun drawings by Mike Lowery as it explores a gift book that is being disparaged by the narrator. A gift is 'anything other than a book.' Or, is it? The discourse on reading and books is lively and fun.

My Town/Mi Pueblo by Nicholas Solis (9780593109915, $17.99) enjoys inviting color by illustrator Luisa Uribe as it presents a bilingual exploration of a child's home town. Town activities, connections between residents, and holidays that lead the entire town to celebrate, result in a fine display of connections and observations.

Tameka Fryer Brown's Twelve Dinging Doorbells: An Ever-Holiday Carol (9781984815170, $17.99) includes illustrations by Ebony Glenn as it presents a family reunion that involves the entire household in preparations and joy. Parents looking for vivid read-alouds that reinforce Black family connections and interactions will find this modern take on the 'twelve' holiday theme attractive for year-round enjoyment: "At the third dinging doorbell/this holiday I see/three posh sibs,/two selfie queens/ and a sweet potato pie just for me."

Welcome to the Big Kids Club by Chelsea Clinton (9780593350737, $18.99) features pictures by Tania De Regil as it instructs siblings on understanding their younger charges, from what to do with babies to understanding their physical changes and differences, such as why a baby isn't born with teeth.

All are fine picks for discriminating elementary-grade libraries and home picture book collections alike.

Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas New York, NY 10020

Libraries and adults reading books to kids who look for evocative and lasting stories will find these five new arrivals from Simon & Schuster to be just the ticket for leisure reads that engage and attract.

Apryl Sottt's Find Your Brave (9781534499119, $18.99) is a Coco and Bear tale for ages 4-8 that provides a companion to their prior best-selling Share Some Kindness, Bring Some Light! Here, Coco and Bear are called upon to perform their special dance at a summer festival. But, Coco has lost her courage. How do you find it again? A fine message creates a lovely story about approaching life positively while tapping inner resources and friends.

Alison Lester's Noni the Pony Counts to a Million (9781665922289, $17.99) is a simple story about best friends Noni the pony, Dave the Dog, and Coco the Cat, who embark on a rhyming adventure that goes far beyond the usual one-to-ten counting story. As dozens, hundreds, thousands, and bigger examples of numbers enter the scene, a fun tale evolves that parents will find delightfully whimsical.

Alyssa Satin Capucilli's The Library Fish Learns to Read (9781534477070, $18.99) is illustrated by Gladys Jose and will reach ages 4-8 with another Library Fish adventure. As she observes the happiness of young readers who visit the library, Library Fish decides to learn to read, too. As she learns the alphabet, puts together words, and practices her newfound skills in the library, young readers will find her sense of wonder and achievement inviting, while read-aloud parents will relish the underlying lessons on perseverance and goal-setting.

Jane Yolen's The Giants' Farm (9781534488588, $17.99) enjoys fine and fun drawings by Tommie dePaola as it presents an addition to the 'Quix Fast Fun Reads' series for chapter book readers ages 5-8. Five very different giants are featured, along with their desire to live together on a farm. They know little about living rurally, however, and have much to learn about each other, as well. Black and white drawings throughout enhance the fun tale of discoveries.

Marla Frazee's In Every Life (9781665912488, $18.99) is a simple picture book about hope, blessings, achievement, and mixed emotions, including sadness and the comfort that responds to it. The promise and mystery of life and daily routines come to life in an evocative tale that is a fine study in positivity and understanding, particularly well suited for adult read-aloud and discussion with the very young.

All five picture books are inviting stories that promise to engage young readers.

Candlewick Press

Candlewick Press is a premium and award winning publisher of children's books. Here are three of their newest and best:

Patricia Toht's Together With You (9781536223514, $17.99) tells of a young boy and his grandmother who share changing seasonal delights together. While seasonal change is one topic in the story, the heart of the tale lies in the relationship between a child and his grandparent, and the different ways they share joy by exploring their worlds together. Fine illustrations by Jarvis capture the thread of happiness that runs through this relationship survey.

Dashka Slater's Wild Blue (9781536215670, $18.99) receives colorful embellishment by Laura Hughes as it tells of Kayla and her "pink pony" (a little bike with training wheels). She loves her bike, but it's time for her to get a bigger bike with just two wheels. As her previous bike-riding skills seem to fall by the wayside, Kayla wonders if she'll ever get used to the "wild" new blue bike, much less grow to love it. This fine story of growth and new experiences proves involving and inspirational.

Tony Piedra and Mackenzie Joy's One Tiny Treefrog: A Countdown to Survival (9781536219487, $18.99) offers a lovely blend of counting book and exploration of the Costa Rican rainforest frog as it counts down the cycle of a frog from tadpole to adulthood. Lovely color drawings accompany a countdown which is fun and educational on several different levels.

All are solid picks for picture book readers and libraries catering to them.

The Historical Fiction Shelf

Fields Apart
J.N. Kelly
Rowe Publishing
9781644460184, $14.95

Middle grade readers looking for stories about baseball that blend elements of history and women's issues into the mix will find Fields Apart a fine study in sports and social concerns. It brings to life the milieu of Millie Bauer, whose family has just received notice that her brother is missing in the war.

In 1941, enlisting in the Army seemed to be a good move in many ways. But for Millie's family, already suffering from the loss of their father in an accident, it's another challenge that could add to the increasing losses the family has experienced over the years.

Millie is an avid baseball fan whose own pursuit of the sport gives her a respite from the trials of the world around her. Will it be enough to give her strength, with her brother's status so uncertain?

J.N. Kelly takes baseball interests to a different level in Fields Apart, injecting the themes of a girl interested in sports with the vivid social and political currents of the 1940s.

From Millie's challenges in entering a male-dominated sport at a time when girls did not play baseball to threats to the distraction that was able to move her mind away from her brother George and his fate, middle grade readers receive a vivid portrait of the 1940s as seen through Millie's perceptions of the changing times.

Kelly's injection of just the right degree of social and political inspection as it influences a young girl's life and coming of age makes for an especially vivid coverage of the issues and challenges of this era.

Libraries and young readers seeking a memorable story rooted in baseball, war, and a girl's coming of age in different ways will find Fields Apart an exciting contrast between times then and now, as well as an inspiring portrait of courage that plays out on many different levels and fields of realization.

Kep Westguard Rebel Spy
Eileen Schnabel
Wonder Jumps Press
9781733868129, $7.99 Paper/$3.99 Kindle

Kep Westguard Rebel Spy is a historical time-travel piece that follows thirteen-year-old Kep Westguard's unexpected involvement in the Battle of Saratoga.

He arrives in 1777 just days before the battle takes place, infiltrates the British camp, and discovers that his grandfather is part of a scheme to assure that the battle win goes to the British.

Prior readers of Kep Wesguard's time-travel history encounters in 1775 (One If By Land, Two If By Submarine) will find the same attention to bringing American history to life is present here, as Kep comes to realize his involvement in a mystery will prove the pivot point of a battle to preserve American democracy ... if he can escape being discovered and hung for spying.

Eileen Schnabel utilizes a vivid storyteller's eye to flavor her story with adventure and action, bringing history to life and adding a delightful specter of a timeline gone awry as Kep tries his best and considers the impact of failure:

"He'd entered Burgoyne's tent planning to confirm nothing had changed, confident he had been right to come alone, confident that history was on track and Fox had done nothing to change the time-stream. Instead, as he left the tent, he was sure something big had changed. But he was clueless what that something was. Or the best way to figure that key information out. It was like a test question and Kep had gotten a fat, red checkmark: wrong answer."

At stake is his future and American liberty itself.

Readers will absorb historical facts about this key battle and its times without even realizing their education, because the key components of the action lie in the unfolding choices all characters make that will determine the state and future of America. This adds an educational component to the tale that is effortlessly inviting as kids move through the story of a boy on a mission and an outcome gone awry. From mission notes and mysteries to clashes between loyalists and rebels, history comes to life as Kep struggles to keep his future world intact.

Adults seeking time-travel stories that lure the young leisure reader, yet educate them with real historical facts flavored with intrigue and action, will find Kep Westguard Rebel Spy strong in characterization, plot, and facts.

Kep Westguard's choices and impact will bring not only the Battle of Saratoga to life, but give rise to classroom and book club discussions about the relevance of American history to modern life.

The LGBT Fiction Shelf

The Wicked Bargain
Cabe Cole Novao
Random House Children's Books
9780593378014, $18.99, HC, 368pp

Synopsis: On Mar Leon de la Rosa's sixteenth birthday, el Diablo comes calling. Mar is a transmasculine nonbinary teen pirate hiding a magical ability to manipulate fire and ice. But their magic isn't enough to reverse a wicked bargain made by their father, and now el Diablo has come to collect his payment: the soul of Mar's father and the entire crew of their ship.

When Mar is miraculously rescued by the sole remaining pirate crew in the Caribbean, el Diablo returns to give them a choice: give up their soul to save their father by the harvest moon, or never see him again. The task is impossible -- Mar refuses to make a bargain, and there's no way their magic is a match for el Diablo. Then Mar finds the most unlikely allies: Bas, an infuriatingly arrogant and handsome pirate -- and the captain's son; and Dami, a gender-fluid demonio whose motives are never quite clear.

For the first time in their life, Mar may have the courage to use their magic. It could be their only redemption -- or it could mean certain death!

Critique: Of special appeal to teenage and young adult fans of Sword & Sorcery action/adventure fantasy novels and LGBTQ Fiction, "The Wicked Bargain" is a deftly scripted, clever, original, and fully entertaining read from first page to last. While highly recommended for highschool and community library YA Fantasy Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Wicked Bargain" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99).

Editorial Note: Gabe Cole Novoa ( is a Latinx transmasculine author with an MFA in Writing for Children who writes speculative fiction featuring marginalized characters grappling with identity. Gabe is also the author of the Beyond the Red trilogy, written under a former pseudonym. He also runs a popular writing-focused YouTube channel, bookishpixie, and is active on Twitter. @thegabecole

The Middle Grade Fiction Shelf

Michelle Kadarusman
Pajama Press
9781772782608, $18.95

Berani will reach advanced elementary to middle grade readers with the story of Malia, who has experienced a privileged life in Indonesia until her father dies and her Canadian mother proposes moving back to Canada. Invested in her home and already involved in the fight to preserve Indonesia's rainforests, Malia resists the uprooting.

Ari, in contrast, works hard for his privileges, and while he is luckier than his village peers, he is worried about his uncle's pet orangutan, who lives in a small cage far from her rainforest home. Two lives and seemingly disparate experiences coalesce as the kids explore their word, values, and revised options in a moving story that will especially appeal to elementary-level libraries looking for stories set in other countries that explore environmental issues.

Benji and Iggie: The Magic of Friendship
Ben Kohler, author
Sandy Rummel, illustrator
Beaver's Pond Press
9781643437200, $17.99, HC, 104pp

Synopsis: While walking with his grandpa, Benji comes across a little eagle. They become friends. Together they do magic and take readers along with Benji's finger puppet friends on adventures. They put out a fire, dream of hot dogs, solve mysteries, play games with friends who eat cupcakes without using their hands, fly everywhere, get the foot fairy to bring a funny gift to grandpa, meet the ticklebug, rescue Iggie from being sick and even help Santa solve a big problem, and much more in these fifteen short stories.

Critique: Original, entertaining, and with a positive message embedded in each story, this edition of "Benji and Iggie: The Magic of Friendship" by author/storyteller Ben Kohler and artist/illustrator Sandy Rummel is very highly recommended for family, elementary school, and community library short story anthology collections for young readers ages 6-8.

Editorial Note: Ben Kohler went on his own adventure when he started writing and then reading on Facetime one hundred Iggie stories to grandson Benji during the difficult two years of the Covid pandemic. (

The Romantic Fiction Shelf

A Country Of Their Own
Hope Bolinger
End Game Press
9781637970430, $18.99, PB, 256pp

Synopsis: Priscilla is an old soul. Carter can't wait to leave Florida -- a haven for the elderly. Together they're forced to do community service at a retirement home. But all the residents look like teenagers. Are they meant to bring together the lovable residents Scarlett and Paul (who are actually 80 years old) or is it too late for them to find love?

Critique: An original, entertaining, and deftly crafted novel that will have a very special appeal to teenage and young adult readers with an interest in Ageism and Generational Gaps, Romance for Every Generation, Reflecting on the Past and Looking forward to the Future, The Death of a Friend; Reconciliation and Forgiveness; Generational Curses and Trauma, "A Country Of Their Own" by Hope Linger is especially and unreservedly recommended for highschool and community library YA Romance Fiction collections for ages 16 and up.

Editorial Note: Hope Bolinger ( is a Managing & Acquisitions Editor at End Game Press. While she is also the author of 14 traditionally published books, more than 1200 of her works have been featured in various publications from to HOOKED.

The Young Adult Fiction Shelf

The Stallion and His Peculiar Boy
M.J. Evans
Dancing Horse Press
9781737361862, $12.95

Young readers won't expect The Stallion and His Peculiar Boy to be more than a horse story, but its setting during World War II (and the lesser-known fact that the Nazis relied on a horse breeding program to supply them with the mounts they used to carry out their European campaigns) lends it the value of a historical novel and the allure of a story that leisure reading horse fans will relish.

The tale centers on the life of Witez, a Polish horse stolen by the Nazis and brought to Czechoslovakia for their breeding program. A local non-communicative, autistic village boy, twelve-year-old Teodor, is assigned to be the horse's groom. And then the magic begins. M.J. Evans portrays not just an unusual piece of World War II history, but probes the sentiments about autism and mental conditions during an era where little was understood about either.

Evans carefully portrays the sentiments and perceptions of the autistic boy who becomes tasked with an extraordinary job: "Teodor watched the tiny world go by, a world into which he had been born but had experienced very little. He neither desired, nor was given the opportunity, to interact with it." Much as Teodor finds himself unexpectedly responsible for and fostering a large animal's re-entry into a different world, so he himself is carried, by this relationship, into new territory in a world which is transforming and reinventing itself around him.

The post-war milieu which emerges is one in which Teodor and Witez both find an extraordinary place as they are rescued, sent to America, and become part of a bigger picture than either could have dreamed. The reflections on this relationship are very nicely presented and specific: "No one knew how hard the boy struggled to control his emotions with all the changes and upheaval he was facing. His very survival depended upon order and routine... of which little was to be found. He lost himself, or perhaps it would be better to say that he saved himself, in caring for Witez."

The result is a powerful evolution that moves from Nazi-occupied Europe to America; from captive breeding programs to the show horse circuit; and from the confined, repressed world that Teodor is familiar with to a winning relationship that changes horse and boy alike. The exquisite blend of historical fact and intricate details about autism are wound into a novel replete with much attraction, making for a highly recommended pick that libraries should profile for any young reader interested in horses and the remarkable impact they can make in therapeutic situations.

Topanga Canyon: Fire Season
Barbara Bryan
Atmosphere Press
9781639887286, $18.99

Teen Matt has a lot on his plate in Topanga Canyon: Fire Season. His mother is an alcoholic, he's been sent from Chicago to his grandfather's ranch in California, and his urban roots preclude any familiarity with horses or ranching life. What he wants is to get back to his familiar world, where he knows its struggles and has developed strategies to handle them. What he gets is not just an unfamiliar environment, but new challenges that come from the men and horses he is ill-equipped to handle.

Nearly fifteen, Matt finds himself facing too many adult situations in which he is forced to determine the intentions of unscrupulous characters, consider how to help his grandfather save his ranch from repossession by the bank, and how to handle a nefarious character that is capable of wrecking a revenge that destroys everything his grandfather has worked for. All these issues and more permeate a story that is filled with new connections and possibilities as Matt learns new techniques for handling horses, men, and life.

Young adult readers who choose Topanga Canyon: Fire Season for its exciting-sounding promise of fiery results won't be disappointed. Barbara Bryan builds the boy's character with a series of intriguing dilemmas that add to the action and adventure embedded in this horse-centric tale. While adults, too, will find Matt's learning process revealing, it's the young adult reader already interested in horses and coming-of-age plots that will best appreciate the vivid scenes and dilemmas Matt faces as he grows into his boots and confronts too many adult conundrums.

Libraries seeking crossover titles capable of reaching from young adult to adult audiences will find Topanga Canyon: Fire Season a rich blend of insights that lend to thought-provoking reading, book club discussion, and leisure enjoyment alike.

Your Dream For Me
Alison Schaffir
Level Elevate
9781685122140, $16.95, PB, 244pp

Synopsis: Seventeen-year-old Scarlett, unlike her theatrically gifted parents, is not one to spend time near a spotlight. Scarlett dreams of becoming a renowned fashion designer, where she can flex her creative talents away from a crowd. So it's no surprise when she sneaks into her school's costume shop to explore the racks. Unexpected, however, is coming face-to-face with Nathaniel Wilder, a talented theater student who piques a new interest.

With fashion still as her main priority, Scarlett vows to learn how to make a 50s-inspired dress for her best friend, Macie. After all, she needs a strong portfolio of work to help her get into her dream school, the Fashion Institute of Technology. The one problem? She has no idea how to operate a sewing machine. Thanks to Nathaniel's encouragement, Scarlett decides to shadow the school's drama teacher to practice her skills, hoping to fuse her passion for fashion with theater...and be closer to him for the spring play.

Scarlett's designs are unfolding, but a distressing event involving Macie shakes everyone in Scarlett's world-causing their friendship to falter and Nathaniel to unexpectedly pull away. With building stressors threatening the rest of the year, including a rival who wants to tarnish Scarlett's reputation, Scarlett must rely on her determined spirit and newfound sewing skills to keep her fashion dreams -- and her most important relationships-from unraveling!

Critique: With a special appeal to teenage and young adult readers with an interest in theatre, fashion, coming of age stories and novels involving issues common to adolescent girls and young women, "Your Dream For Me" by author Alison Schaffir is a fun, original, memorable, and unreservedly recommended addition to highschool and community library YA Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Your Dream For Me" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $5.99).

Editorial Note: Alison Schaffir ( is a social media strategist and young adult author living in New York City. She graduated from University of Richmond with a major in business marketing and a minor in psychology.

The Mystery/Suspense Shelf

Sherlock Bones and the Curse of the Pharaoh's Mask
Tim Collins, author
John Bigwood, illustrator
Buster Books
9781780557519, $9.99, PB, 192pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "Sherlock Bones and the Curse of the Pharaoh's Mask" by the team of author/storyteller Tim Collins and artist/illustrator John Bigwood, Sherlock Bones, the world's greatest dog detective, and his trusty sidekick Dr. Catson are back for yet another crime-solving adventure.

This time, the pair are visiting the tombs of the ancient feline kings in Egypt when they discover that a precious mask has been stolen. They have to interview tourists from around the world (including a cowardly lion, a spoiled hippo and two secretive pandas) to discover who is guilty. But the mystery is not as straightforward as it first seems.

It will take the pair on a thrilling adventure deep inside the Egyptian tombs and require all of Bones and Catson's skills to solve the crime.

Critique: The second book in the Sherlock Bones fiction series, "Sherlock Bones and the Curse of the Pharaoh's Mask" features puzzles (including search games, logical conundrums and shadow matches) that are deftly woven into the action, so that young readers will feels immersed in the exciting detective plot. With a special appeal to young readers with an interest in anthropomorphic interactive mysteries, "Sherlock Bones and the Curse of the Pharaoh's Mask" is highly recommended for family, elementary school, and community library collections for children ages 7-9.

Editorial Note #1: Tim Collins ( is the author of over thirty books including Wimpy Vampire, Cosmic Colin and Dorkius Maximus. His books have been translated into over thirty languages and he has won awards in the UK and Germany, including the Manchester Fiction City award (2011 Winner) and the Lincolnshire Young People's Book Award (2012 Winner).

Editorial Note #2: An illustrator and graphic designer based in London, John Bigwood ( has worked across a range of books for children and adults, including the best-selling Sherlock Bones series and How to Draw People for the Artistically Anxious.

The Fantasy/SciFi Shelf

Children of the Black Glass
Anthony Peckham
Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books
c/o Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 4th floor, New York, NY 10020
Blackstone Audiobooks
9781665913133, $17.99, HC, 368pp

Synopsis: In an unkind alternate past, somewhere between the Stone Age and a Metal Age, Tell and his sister Wren live in a small mountain village that makes its living off black glass mines and runs on brutal laws. When their father is blinded in a mining accident, the law dictates he has thirty days to regain his sight and be capable of working at the same level as before or be put to death.

Faced with this dire future, Tell and Wren make the forbidden treacherous journey to the legendary city of Halfway, halfway down the mountain, to trade their father's haul of the valuable black glass for the medicine to cure him. The city, ruled by five powerful female sorcerers, at first dazzles the siblings. But beneath Halfway's glittery surface seethes ambition, violence, prejudice, blackmail, and impending chaos.

Without knowing it, Tell and Wren have walked straight into a sorcerers' coup. Over the next twelve days they must scramble first to save themselves, then their new friends, as allegiances shift and prejudices crack open to show who has true power.

Critique: Original, entertaining, "Children of the Black Glass" is all the more impressive when considering that is the debut of author Anthony Peckham as a novelist. With great appeal for young readers with an interest in action/adventure fantasy, "Children of the Black Glass" is especially and unreservedly recommended for elementary, middle school, and community library Science Fiction & Fantasy collections for ages 8-14. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Children of the Black Glass" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Blackstone Audio, 9781797158624, $39.99, CD).

Editorial Note: Anthony Peckham is a South African-born screenwriter, surfer, and farmer who now lives on an island in the Pacific. Decades ago, while exploring a remote, high-altitude landscape with his children, he came upon a mountain made of black glass which inspired this novel. His other work includes Clint Eastwood's Invictus and Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes. He is a Writers Guild of America Award winner and an NAACP Image Award nominee. (

Armadas in the Mist
Christian Klaver
CamCat Books
9780744305159, $19.99, HC, 332pp

Synopsis: Captain Justice Kasric knows how complicated family can be. The escalating Human-Faerie war has scattered and wounded her siblings and transformed her parents beyond recognition. After narrowly escaping yet another dangerous clash, fifteen-year-old Justice has had enough. She's determined to defeat the Black Shuck, the mysterious leader controlling the Faerie invasion of London, but if Justice hopes to stand a chance at victory, she'll have to do the impossible: reunite her family and lead them against the looming Faerie Armada.

With her mother and brother at the helm of the enemy fleet, and the prophesied Seven Virtues slipping out of reach, Justice more than has her work cut out for her. Even if she can save England, the cost may be higher than she's willing to pay.

Critique: A fun read for teenage and young adult fans of action/adventure fantasy, "Armadas in the Mist" by Christian Klaver is solid entertainment from first page to last. Original, compelling, and available for personal reading lists in a paperback edition (9780744305166, $16.99) and a digital book format ($4.99), "Armadas in the Mist" is a very highly recommended pick for middle school, highschool, and community library Science Fiction & Fantasy collections for young readers ages 13-18.

Editorial Note: Christian Klaver ( has been writing for over twenty years and is the author of The Supernatural Case Files of Sherlock Holmes, Shadows Over London and the Nightwalker Series, among many other fantasy and sci-fi projects, often with a Noir bent.

Clash of Fate and Fury
Rachel Menard
c/o North Star Editions, Inc.
2297 Waters Drive, Mendota Heights, MN 55125
9781635830828, $14.99, PB, 416pp

Synopsis: Seventeen-year-old Gen may have rescued her beloved father from prison, but she hasn't saved him yet. If she fails her end of a bargain with the Olympian Empresses, they will send him right back to his cell.

To keep the Empresses happy, Gen must bring them the legendary golden apples of Hesperides and the monstrous Cerberus. But both are rumored to be in the neighboring Elysium Empire, which has a long history of war with Olympia.

Making matters worse, Gen's former enemy and newly designated heir to the isle of Arcadia Castor invites herself on the journey, hoping a golden apple could end Arcadia's reliance on Illumium for storm vials. And Castor's twin brother, Gen's StormMaker boyfriend Pollux, has been pulling away from Gen due to troubles stemming from her mind magic.

With Castor's pirate-thief girlfriend and Pollux's servant companion in tow, the unlikely team embarks on its voyage. But war is only an insult away in Elysium, and more than the Emperor has their eyes on Gen's mission. The quest has caught the attention of one of Elysium's Oracles, and trouble is sure to brew with Prophecy on the rise.

Critique: With a strong appeal to epic fantasy and mythology fans, "Clash of Fate and Fury" by Rachel Menard is a fun and riveting read with more unexpected plot twists and turns than a Disneyland roller-coaster. Drawing upon Greco-Roman legends, "Clash of Fate and Fury" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal reading lists and Middle School, Highschool, and Community library young adult fantasy collections for readers ages 14-18. It should be noted that "Clash of Fate and Fury" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.99).

Editorial Note: Rachel Menard ( is an author of strange and fantastical stories for teens that feature unapologetic young women. Her work has been featured in Writer's Digest and on Cast of Wonders, and her short story, "Blame it on the Bees," was chosen as a "Best of 2019" by Diabolical Plots. Her novels also include Game of Strength and Storm, a Junior Library Guild Selection.

Tim Rayborn
Thousand Acres Press
9781956450606, $7.99 ebook

One minute, everything is ordinary and fine. A rock concert featuring the Mystic Wedding Weasels engrosses twelve-year-old witch Jilly Pleeth and her friend Lluck in a fun event. The next minute, reality changes in another fantasy addition to a series that returns Lluck and fellow characters to a new magical adventure.

Jilly notes that everything changes, for an instant, and band singer Chantz may have something to do with it. Her enchanting voice is a spell that draws Jilly beyond fandom and into a scenario that awakens her sense of danger. She knows something is wrong -- but even the savvy friends around her don't seem to sense anything awry: "Something from that fantastical world she'd just been dragged through seemed to have hitched a ride back and was keeping a keen and unwelcome eye on her."

Singer Chantz becomes the focal point in a new fantasy encounter which continues to test Jilly, Lluck, Qwyrk, and others who have been profiled in previous books in the series. While newcomers can easily delve into this world via smooth reflections and introductions that refer to past events while focusing on evolving dilemmas, prior fans will find especially inviting the ways in which these disparate lives dovetail to face new challenges and growth processes.

Tim Rayborn adds humor into the discoveries. This will delight readers used to the staid approaches of fantasy quests and adventures. All magic leaves a trail. As a team of magic-wielding, savvy kids uncover clues about their latest adversary and consider the forces that can breach enchanted barriers, pre-teens, teens, and many an adult reader receive a vivid adventure notable for its ongoing character development and connections both to past books and growth processes that test these young peoples' evolving powers and perceptions.

Chantz, Jilly, and Lluck aren't the only characters receiving feature and focus here. A host of others (including Moirin, who faces a stolen life, illusions, and a lost brother) bring their own special concerns into the fold to share center stage with the kids. Libraries seeking fantasy stories that either expand their series origins or stand nicely on their own will find Chantz a compelling adventure that embraces magical realism as well as fantasy. It neatly juxtaposes real-world concerns (such as rock concerts) with the concurrent presence of magical forces underlying them for a rich read in fantasy and social ideals alike.

Eudora Space Kid: Do the Robot!
David Horn
Independently Published
9781736677452, $2.99 Kindle/$4.99 Paper

The third book in the Eudora Space Kid chapter book series provides young readers with another space-based adventure. Do the Robot! presents the dilemma faced by third-grader Eudora, a technology and math kid whiz who has been adopted by aliens and lives in space on a ship. She aspires to become the spacecraft's chief engineer someday, though her proclivity for disaster and trouble thwart her ambitions.

When she inadvertently breaks Lootenant Commander Walter (the AstroFleet's only robot officer on board, and her friend), Eudora is charged with fixing her mistake ... or tricking the entire space ship into thinking Walter is actually okay and is not broken. Eudora excels in making "big plans" that often go awry, with hilarious results.

Chapter book readers absorbing her latest conundrum's odd twists and turns will be entertained by her dilemmas and the peppering of black-and-white drawings that accompanies them. David Horn adopts a chatty tone as Eudora explains and explores her life: "Engineering is just using math and science to make cool machines and things. Like the ship's engines. And to make cool things, I also needed to learn about computer coding. So I taught myself that stuff too. You can't believe the fun you can have when you can do all these things. Like the time . . . oh, I'll tell you about that tomorrow."

This lends further attraction as readers absorb an action- and technology-packed space adventure that tests Eudora's abilities in different ways. Libraries either seeing popularity with the prior Eudora books or new to her space-faring conundrums will find Book 3, Eudora Space Kid: Do the Robot!, a fine blend of humor, problem-solving approaches, and action and adventure.

The Graphic Novel Shelf

The Snowcat Prince
Dina Norlund
Oni Press
9781637151983 $14.99 pbk / $10.99 Kindle

Synopsis: To break the curse on the kingdom, Syv, the youngest snowcat prince sets out on a dangerous quest to find the long-lost magical crown of his ancestor and learn the true meaning of courage and responsibility.

Syv is a snowcat and the youngest in a family of princes. When his father dies, Syv and his brothers are all in line for the throne. Eager to become kings themselves and wary of how well-liked Syv has become by the citizens, Syv's brothers send him on a dangerous quest to find the long-lost magical crown that once belonged to their royal ancestor, the Eldking. Legend says that the snowcat who finds the crown will break the curse on their land and bring great honor to the family. But failure could mark Syv with three black stripes, and he'd be banished forever.

Along his journey, Syv will face dangerous beasts, dark powers, and the ever-lurking sand foxes - sworn enemies to the snowcats. But when Syv discovers the truth about the legend of the Eldking and his magical crown, he'll have to learn the new meaning of honor and find another way to break the curse.

From Norwegian author Dina Norlund comes The Snowcat Prince, a beautifully illustrated tale of bravery and honor.

Critique: Although The Snowcat Prince is accessible to young readers in grades 3-6, graphic novel connoisseurs of all ages will enjoy this beautifully illustrated, full-color fairytale saga of Syv, a young snowcat prince who embarks on a quest to retrieve the lost crown of his ancestor. During his journey, Syv learns of a terrible curse that threatens to consume humans and magical creatures alike. The red-haired girl Kit invites herself along; together, Syv and Kit travel to the homeland of the snowcats' sworn enemies, the sandfoxes. Hidden dangerous abound and not everything is as it seems in this adventure about friendship, bravery, and learning to think critically for oneself! Highly recommended, especially as a gift for young adults or a contribution to school and public library graphic novel collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that The Snowcat Prince is also available in a Kindle edition ($10.99).

Link + Hud: Heroes by a Hair
Jarrett Pumphrey and Jerome Pumphrey
Norton Young Readers
c/o W. W. Norton & Company
500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110
9781324016090, $16.95, HC, 240pp

Synopsis: Lincoln and Hudson Dupre are brothers with what grown-ups call "active imaginations". Link and Hud hunt for yetis in the Himalayas and battle orcs on epic quests. Unfortunately, their imaginary adventures wreak havoc in their real world. Dr. and Mrs. Dupre have tried every babysitter in the neighborhood and are at their wits' end.

Enter Ms. Joyce. Strict and old-fashioned, she proves to be a formidable adversary. The boys don't like her or her rules and decide she's got to go. Through a series of escalating events (told as high-action comic panel sequences) the two brothers conspire to undermine Ms. Joyce and get her fired. When they go so big that even Ms. Joyce can't fix it, suddenly she's out. Finally, success! Or is it?

Critique: With warm and authentic humor, in their graphic novel for young readers ages 9-12, co-authors and illustrators Jarrett and Jerome Pumphrey have blended prose and graphic novel-style black/white illustrations to craft a unique and subversive new series full of brotherly mischief and mayhem. There latest story about Lincoln and Hudson Dupre, "Link + Hud: Heroes by a Hair" is a highly recommended addition for family, elementary school, middle school, and community library graphic novel collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Link + Hud: Heroes by a Hair" is also available in a paperback edition (9781324053040, $18.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $16.10).

Editorial Note: Jarrett Pumphrey is an author/illustrator and the former cofounder and CEO of a tech startup. He lives in Austin, Texas. Jerome Pumphrey is an author/illustrator and a graphic designer at the Walt Disney Company. He lives in Clearwater, Florida. They have a website at

Ced, Waltch and Gorobei
Magnetic Press, LLC
9781951719517, $24.99

Graphic novel libraries interested in appealing full-color stories for young people will find Loonicorns just the ticket for a wild ride through the mythical creatures that inhabit this fantasy world. The adventure holds many unexpected twists, high-octane action, and realizations about beauty and ugliness as a little girl from the real world encounters Looniland and its strange inhabitants, with its social divisions between the Pretties, who have it easy, and the Uglies, who do all the work. There are also lessons suitable for classroom and peer discussion, couched in the magnetic attraction of a vivid story and the exploration of a very different world.

The Audiobook Shelf

The Adventures of Little Stubby
Sukey Molloy
PlayMove&Sing Inc.
$9.99 CD or digital download

Ideal for children ages 2-5 and their families, The Adventures of Little Stubby combines storytelling, music, and sound effects into an idyllic experience. The delightful music enhances Sukey Molloy's original tales about a young miniature donkey with a strong will. Little Stubby must contend with moving to a new home, a doctor visit, searching for his friend Willow, learning how to swim, hearing a strange sound, and going on an important errand. The Adventures of Little Stubby is a choice pick for storytime, rainy-day fun, and children's library collections, highly recommended. The tracks are Stubby Moves to His New Home, Stubby Hides from the Doctor, Stubby Searches for Willow, Stubby Learns to Swim, Stubby Hears a Sound, and Stubby Has an Important Job. 41 min.

The Music CD Shelf

Songs For You and Me
Allegra Levy
Little Moon Records
$TBA CD / $9.49 MP3

Award-winning jazz singer and songwriter Allegra Levy presents Songs For You and Me, an original album for children and families. The upbeat songs with playful lyrics dip into a variety of styles, including jazz and swing to folk. Songs For You and Me is a delight for both personal and public library children's music collections, highly recommended. The tracks are Hello Song, Noodles!, It's So Hard To Be You, Los Animales, Clap Your Hands, In the Tub, Hip Hip Hooray!, I Got a Boo- Boo, Toodaloo Kangaroo!, The Way of the World, Imagination, Stella for Star, and A Quiet Song. 34 min.

The Psychology Shelf

Grateful to be Grace
Maggy Williams
Loving Healing Press
5145 Pontiac Trail, Ann Arbor, MI 48105
9781615997114, $29.95, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: Grace is a little girl who complains about "having to" clean her room, wash her hands and do her chores. She doesn't realize that, by learning to think differently, she can change her perspective from negative to positive.

"Grateful to be Grace: Developing A Practice of Positive Thinking" is an illustrated story by author/artist Maggy Williams in which Grace discovers that her attitude has the power to determine her thoughts and emotions. Can Grace go from feeling burdened to being grateful?

Critique: Original, fun, thoroughly 'kid friendly', and charmingly illustrated, "Grateful to be Grace: Developing A Practice of Positive Thinking" with its important 'Life Lesson' message is unreservedly recommended for 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 "Grateful to be Grace" is also available in a paperback edition (9781615997107, $16.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.95).

Editorial Note: Maggy Williams ( started writing at five years old and hasn't stopped since. She loves creating stories for young readers because they have the best imaginations and because she never wants to grow up. When she's not writing, she enjoys acting and comedy improv, which is basically just make-believe for grown-ups.

The Folktale/Fairytale Shelf

Yasuko and the Dream Eater
A. Kidd
Quiet Storm Publishing, LLC
9781733899246, Hardcover $19.99/Paperback $12.99/eBook $3.99

Marcia Misawa illustrates A. Kidd's picture book story, which is inspired by a Japanese legend about a dream eater. Misawa's delicate art brings to life Yasuko, her grandmother, and the hungry dream eater that has its eyes on her most precious dreams. Yasuko taps the dream eater for help in consuming her nightmares.

There's only one problem: the dream eater doesn't discriminate about which dreams it will consume. In Yasuko and the Dream Eater, the creature is not satisfied by consuming just what Yasuko wants it to eat. When its appetite remains unsatisfied, it threatens to continue consuming everything she likes to dream about, too. But the tale is more than one of a young girl who finds a way to combat bad dreams and preserve good ones.

The contrast between Yasuko's life visiting her grandmother in Japan and her home in America, her discovery that "different" is not necessarily bad, and her redefinitions of bad and good as a whole provide underlying themes that will appeal to adults seeking picture book stories that reinforce multicultural experiences and the process of adopting new life perspectives and skills.

From origami to the different loving rituals a Japanese grandmother has for her granddaughter, Yasuko and the Dream Eater explores problem-solving at its best, in which a young girl must identify the real problem and the best way to resolve it to preserve all her dreams.

Another powerful note to this story: Marcia Misawa makes her dream eater interesting, not frightening. This attention to detail allows access by the very young and parents who seek to educate kids, not scare them.

Libraries and adults looking for multicultural stories that explore being part of two different cultures will find that Yasuko and the Dream Eater gives rise to many discussion points and insights.

The Christian Shelf

The Really Radical Book for Kids
Champ Thornton
New Growth Press
1301 Carolina Street, #L101, Greensboro, NC 27401
9781645070818, $20.99, HC, 224pp

Synopsis: "The Really Radical Book for Kids: More Truth. More Fun" by Champ Thornton is comprised of short chapters on a variety of topics will grab the interest of young Christian readers of all ages! Kids will learn about ancient kings, legendary battles, and fierce snakes and dragons. They will discover unusual food to make, secret codes to break, fun crafts to try, and strange planes to fly. They will also uncover exciting ways to read the Bible, factual reasons to believe, stunning truths about God, and incredible examples of "radical" men and women who have gone before them and trusted Jesus in challenging times.

Critique: "The Really Radical Book for Kids" is packed from cover to cover with fun, captivating, and age-appropriate content to help kids ages 5-11 learn more about how to read God's powerful Word. With its rich biblical content of church history, apologetics, and more, "The Really Radical Book for Kids" is a welcome and unreservedly recommended addition to family, Sunday School, and community library Christian Studies collections.

Editorial Note: Champ Thornton ( is an acquisitions editor at Crossway. He is the author of numbers of books for kids and families, including The Serpent Slayer and the Scroll of Riddles, and Why Do We Say Thank You? Learning to Be Grateful.

The Art Shelf

Cultured Donuts
Chloe Tyler
Flowerpot Press
9781486718719, $19.95

Cultured Donuts: Take a Bite Out of Art History explores the art styles of various master artists via an unusual display of donuts created to celebrate their techniques. Each donut example is paired with details about the artist and their style, bringing delicious insights to young readers who need a draw beyond artwork itself. Picture book readers receive a full-page donut representation, a smaller example of the artist's work, and a biographical sketch that identifies the artist's significant creations and contributions. What better way to present young readers with a connection to art than via one of their most beloved and familiar foods?

James A. Cox, Editor-in-Chief
Diane C. Donovan, Editor
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575-1129
phone: 1-608-835-7937

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