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Children's Bookwatch

Volume 32, Number 8 August 2022 Home | CBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Environmental Studies Shelf Science Shelf
Pets/Wildlife Shelf Bilingual Shelf Picturebook Shelf
Board Book Shelf Activity Shelf Graphic Novel Shelf
Music CD Shelf DVD Shelf Multimedia Shelf
Gardening Shelf Middle Grade Fiction Shelf YA Fiction Shelf
Mystery/Suspense Shelf Fantasy/SciFi Shelf Christian Shelf
Biography Shelf Self-Help Shelf Books in Series
Story Monsters Ink Shelf    

Reviewer's Choice

Begin One Way: A Children's Book Of Road Signs
Ioana Stoian, author
Sophia Vincent Guy, illustrator
Busy Hands Books
9780957619227, $17.95, HC, 40pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "Begin One Way: A Children's Book Of Road Signs", parents, teachers, and caregivers of children ages 3-7 can teach them to enjoy safely walking through an urban neighborhood by being away of and heeding road signs. By the end of "Begin One Way: A Children's Book Of Road Signs" children will be familiar with many common road signs and their meanings.

"Begin One Way: A Children's Book Of Road Signs" also encourages children to be curious about the world they inhabit, inspires them to explore their own neighborhoods on foot, and empowers them to participate in daily activities like crossing the road safely. The rhyming text by Ioana Stoian and whimsical hand-drawn illustrations by Sophia Vincent Guy will engage and appeal to children and adults alike.

Critique: Exceptionally 'kid friendly' in content organization and presentation, "Begin One Way: A Children's Book Of Road Signs" is especially and unreservedly recommended as a critically important and essential addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library City Life & Transportation Safety collections.

Editorial Note: Ioana Stoian is a British-born paper artist currently residing in Minnesota with her husband and inquisitive son. She is also the author of "Origami For All: Elegant Designs from Simple Folds", "The Origami Garden" and "Always be You". Since becoming a mother in 2017, Ioana has developed a deep interest in respectful parenting philosophies, in particular the work of child specialist Magda Gerber. She dreams of a future where each and everyone of us can be our true selves. She has a dedicated website at

Ultimate Food Atlas
Nancy Castaldo and Christy Mihaly, authors
National Geographic Kids
c/o National Geographic Press
101 West 104th Street, Suite 8, New York, NY 10025
9781426338670, $12.99, PB, 160pp

Synopsis: Exploring the world has never been more yummy and fun! With the publication of "Ultimate Food Atlas: Maps, Games, Recipes, and More for Hours of Delicious Fun", young readers ages 8-12 will enjoy discovering how unique foods are grown, eaten, and celebrated by people all over the planet, get recipes for delicious dishes, and so much more!

The "Ultimate Food Atlas" is a bold and vibrant world atlas full of fun food facts, fascinating information about crops and farming, easy-to-read maps, recipes, and games from around the world. On the menu: vegetables, grains, meats, dairy products, and foods harvested from the water. It's highlights include appetizing attractions, cool places to eat, and food festivals, and sustainable eating is promoted throughout. It is a treat for kids who are interested in food and a valuable reference about geography, agriculture, and culture across the continents. Absolutely stuffed with mouthwatering tidbits for every reader! Kids are sure to come back to the table hungry for more!

Critique: Profusely and informatively illustrated throughout, "Ultimate Food Atlas: Maps, Games, Recipes, and More for Hours of Delicious Fun" is exceptionally 'kid friendly' in organization and presentation. Impressively informative and a delight to browse through one page at a time, "Ultimate Food Atlas: Maps, Games, Recipes, and More for Hours of Delicious Fun" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition for family, elementary school, middle school, and community library atlas collections.

Editorial Note #1: Nancy Castaldo has written books about our planet for over 20 years. She is a Nat Geo certified educator. Her previous National Geographic titles include Mission Polar Bear Rescue and This or That 3. Her 2016 title, The Story of Seeds, introduces readers to the importance of seeds, farming, and the agriculture challenges we currently face. It is listed on the National Agriculture Curriculum, received the Green Earth Book Award, and is a JLG Selection. She has conducted programs at the Boston Children's Museum, Atlanta Zoo, and Tennessee Aquarium, and has spoken at the Science Teachers Association of New York State, NCTE, Texas Library Association, and New England SCBWI.

Editorial Note #2: Christy Mihaly's book Diet for a Changing Climate: Food for Thought (co-written with Sue Heavenrich) explores this issue and offers pointers on preparing environmentally friendly (and tasty) meals using invasive plants, animals and insects. Diet for a Changing Climate was designated as recommended reading by the Green Earth Book Award. Mihaly also helped write National Geographic Kids' Junior Ranger Activity Book. She has published other nonfiction books on topics including nature, history, politics, and crafts.

Mermaid and the Water Magnifying Glass
Lois Wickstrom, author
Ada Konewki, illustrator
Look Under Rocks
c/o Gripper Products
787 N 24th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19130-2540
9781954519299, $21.99, HC, 26pp

Synopsis: Trezzie is a young mermaid who collects things people leave on the shore of the lake in which she lives. People think these things are trash, but Trezzie knows they are treasures. "Mermaid and the Water Magnifying Glass" is a picture book science adventure showing young readers how Trezzie makes good use of an empty fruit box.

When Trezzie has found rocks with patterns on them she shows them to her friends. Her friend Fig shows Trezzie how to make a magnifying glass with water and the plastic fruit box. Now they can all see that the pattern is a fossil. Trezzie has found trilobites!

Critique: With the publication of "Mermaid and the Water Magnifying Glass" by author/storyteller Lois Wickstrom and artist/illustrator Ada Konewki, Maia, Fig, and their mermaid friend, Trezzie once more delight children ages 5-8 with another underwater science adventure. Fun, informative, and inherently interesting, "Mermaid and the Water Magnifying Glass" is unreservedly recommended for family, elementary school, and community library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Mermaid and the Water Magnifying Glass" is also available in a paperback edition (9781954519312, $11.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99).

Editorial Note #1: As a children's book author, Lois Wickstrom has a dedicated web page at

Editorial Note #2: Ada Konewki has a dedicated website at

Freeda The Frog Says Farewell to Her Fish
Nadine Haruni
Mascot Books
620 Herndon Parkway, #320, Herndon, VA 20170
9781643072852, $14.95, HC, 38pp

Synopsis: Recipient of the Reader's Favorite 5-star Review and Winner of the Gold Mom's Choice Award!, "Freeda The Frog Says Farewell to Her Fish"is the fourth book of author Nadine Haruni's Freeda The Frog children's book series. This time Freeda and her family suffer the loss of their pet fish, Goldie. Children will enjoy following along with the family to see the special things they do to make sure Goldie is always remembered.

Critique: With the publication of "Freeda The Frog Says Farewell to Her Fish", children's book author Nadine Haruni helps kids ages 4-8 how to deal not only with the loss of a pet, but how to say goodbye to any beloved friend or family member. Thoroughly 'kid friendly' in text, illustration, organization and presentation, "Freeda The Frog Says Farewell to Her Fish" is unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections dealing with loss, grief, death and dying. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Freeda The Frog Says Farewell to Her Fish" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $6.99).

Editorial Note: Nadine Haruni is the author of the Gold Moms Choice Award winning Freeda the Frog Children's Book series, which focuses on different family situations and helping children cope with various life issues. Nadine is a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators and the Independent Book Publishers Association. She has a dedicated website at

The Environmental Studies Shelf

The Rodent, the Bee, and the Brazil Nut Tree
Sheri Amsel
Eifrig Publishing
PO Box 66, Lemont, PA 16851
9781632333230, $21.99, HC, 50pp

Synopsis: When living things work together, it can have spectacular results. With the publication of "The Rodent, the Bee, and the Brazil Nut Tree: How Living Things Work Together for Survival" by Sheri Amsel children can see this cooperation in the Amazon Rainforest between a shiny bee, a little rodent, a beautiful orchid, and a mighty Brazil nut tree. Because of their connection, tons of delicious Brazil nuts are enjoyed by people around the world. Yet, if just one of these living things disappears, Brazil nuts will not grow. Young readers will be fascinated as the learn about this amazing relationship between animals and plants and what makes this special ecosystem thrive.

Critque: An impressive example of how biological harmony is not an isolated example, That in natural wild habitats anywhere and everywhere in the world, these symbiotic partnerships exist and form a delicate balance which allows whole ecosystems to thrive. Highly recommended as a picture book resource for K-8 students offering material that can be used to fulfill several science standards at every level, "The Rodent, the Bee, and the Brazil Nut Tree: How Living Things Work Together for Survival" is especially and unreservedly recommended for elementary school, middle school, home schooling, and community library Environmental/Ecological Science collections for young readers ages 6-12. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Rodent, the Bee, and the Brazil Nut Tree: How Living Things Work Together for Survival" is also available in a paperback edition (9781632333223, $16.99).

Editorial Note: Writer, singer/songwriter and children's book author Sheri Amsel has a dedicated and informative web page at

The Science Shelf

A Child's Introduction to Space Exploration
Michael E. Bakich, author
David J. Eicher, author
Chelen Ecija, illustrator
Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers
1290 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10104
9780762478842, $19.99, HC, 96pp

Synopsis: We are living in a golden age of astronomy and space exploration, with more discoveries about the universe every day. With so many possibilities now open to us, science writers Michael E. Bakich and David J. Eicher, and artist/illustrator Chelen Ecija will take young readers on a journey to the throughout the universe in the pages of "A Child's Introduction to Space Exploration: An Explorer's Guide to Rockets, Astronauts, and Life in Zero Gravity".

Perfect for budding explorers aged 8-12, Bakich and Eicher explore the history of space exploration from the very first rocket in China, to the moon landing, to the latest missions to Mars (and beyond). They also include profiles of noteworthy scientists, engineers, and astronauts including Isaac Newton, Neil Armstrong, Mae Carol Jemison; fun sections on space food, UFOs, a timeline of space suits, and how to go to the bathroom in space; and STEM experiments like how to build your own rocket and how to tell time using the sun.

Packed with dozens of NASA photos and charming original illustrations, and a pull-out poster, "A Child's Introduction to Space Exploration: An Explorer's Guide to Rockets, Astronauts, and Life in Zero Gravity" is fascinating book reveals the wonders of space exploration -- past, present and future!

Critique: Fun, informative, and exceptionally 'kid friendly' in organization and presentation, "A Child's Introduction to Space Exploration: An Explorer's Guide to Rockets, Astronauts, and Life in Zero Gravity" is especially and unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, middle school, and community library Popular Science, Aeronautics, and Space Exploration collections for children ages 8-12. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "A Child's Introduction to Space Exploration: An Explorer's Guide to Rockets, Astronauts, and Life in Zero Gravity" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.99).

Editorial Note #1: Michael E. Bakich is Contributing Editor of Astronomy Magazine. He graduated with a B.S. in astronomy from the Ohio State University, and an M.A. in planetarium education (one of only six such degrees ever awarded) from Michigan State University. He is a popular lecturer and has given many print, online, radio, and TV interviews, and wrote, blogged, and starred in videos for Astronomy Magazine's popular website, In 2007, the International Astronomical Union's Minor Planet Center designated asteroid 131245 "Bakich" in his honor.

Editorial Note #2: David J. Eicher is Editor-in-Chief of Astronomy Magazine, which he's led for 18 years. He has author, coauthor, or editor of 25 on science and history, including The New Cosmos: Answering Astronomy's Big Questions, and most recently in 2020, published Galaxies: Inside the Universe's Star Cities and Cosmic Clouds 3-D with coauthor Brian May. Eicher is Editor-in-Chief of the Asteroid Day project, and has written film scripts for NASA and planetarium shows for Adler Planetarium. In 1990, the International Astronomical Union named the minor planet 3617 "Eicher" in his honor.

Editorial Note #3: Chelen Ecija is an illustrator and letterer based in sunny Spain. She studied Fine Arts in Madrid and Chicago, where she attended The School of the Art Institute and she was an art director in a boutique toy company for a while while living in the USA. Now she is back in Europe, working as a freelance illustrator where she has specialized in her true passion: hand lettering and children's illustration.

Cat Eyes and Dog Whistles
Cathy Evans, author
Becky Thorns, illustrator
Cicada Books Ltd.
9781800660137, $22.99

Libraries looking for an attractive oversized display book about animal and human senses will find that Cathy Evans's Cat Eyes and Dog Whistles: The Seven Senses of Humans and Other Animals will attract leisure readers as well as students. Becky Thorns provides engaging drawings that bring to life these explorations. The book's organization is designed to add capsules of information supplemented by attractive visual embellishments on each sense and how it works in human and animal kingdoms alike. The result is a fun survey that is both educational and appealing.

The Pets/Wildlife Shelf

Atlas of Cats
Helena Harastova, author
Jana Sedlackova, author
Giulia Lombardo, illustrator
Albatros Media
9788000063546, $17.95, HC, 108pp, Ages 6-9

Helena Harastova and Jana Sedlackova's "Atlas of Cats" features appealing and fun cat drawings by Giulia Lombardo that bring to life cat stories. These explore the natural history of felines in an attractive combination that enlivens the concept of the bedtime story with a cat-centric focus.

The study reveals different cat breeds that hold different temperaments and personalities, reviewing each cat's appearance, evolution over the centuries, and place in human affairs. The writing is notably evocative and lively, as in the description of the Ragdoll cat: "Despite my name, I'm a wild giant. No toy factor would produce a creature with such a silky coat and such dazzling blue eyes as mine!"

Kids learning about cats will relish this fun approach. Even lovelier is Radek Maly's Atlas of Extinct Animals, an oversized survey containing exceptionally beautiful illustrations by Jiri Grbavcic and Pavel Dvorsky.

Elementary-grade readers will relish the full-page science drawings that accompany facts about the Falkland Islands Wolf, the Huia bird, the Long-Tailed Hopping Mouse, and others. Both are exceptional books especially recommended for creating eye-catching library displays.

How Do Animals See?
Marie Kotasova Adamkova, author
Tomas Kopecky, illustrator
Albatros Media
9788000063560, $14.95, HC, 36pp

Synopsis: When it comes to animals, we know what we see but do we know what they see? For example: Did you know that most animals do not recognize red color?; Did you know that a bird that may only seem uninterestingly black to you can be painted in the most beautiful colours for members of its own species?; Is the vision of a fish is blurry underwater like ours?; Do dogs like to watch TV, or can cats really can see in the dark? "How Do Animals See?" holds the answers to these questions and many more.

Critique: A compendium of fascinating facts about the vision capabilities of all manner of animals, "How Do Animals See?" by the team of author Marie Kotasova Adamkova and artist/illustrator Tomas Kopecky will prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to family, elementary school, and community library Pets/Wildlife collections for children ages 9-12.

Editorial Note #1: Marie Kotasova Adamkova has always loved nature and literature. Having graduated from the Faculty of Science of Masaryk University in Brno, Czech Republic, she obtained a Master's degree in environmental and evolutionary biology and PhD in zoology. In her precious moments of free time, when she isn't working on specialist publications, she relaxes by writing children's books. She has a dedicated web page at

Editorial Note #2: As an artist/illustrator, Tomas Kopecky has a dedicated web page at

Chloe the Unfeathered Parrot
Regan W. H. Macaulay, author
Wei Lu, illustrator
Mirror Publishing
9781612254814, $12.99, PB, 28pp

Synopsis: The staff at the Parrot Sanctuary knew Chloe was a beautiful soul. They wondered how long it was going to take to find her perfect fit. Chloe had been at the Parrot Sanctuary for a long time. In her previous home, she had been so stressed, she'd plucked out most of her feathers. The staff thought it could be a long time before this sweet little parrot found her forever home. And then one day...

Critique: Based on a true story, and a real parrot, "Chloe the Unfeathered Parrot" by the team of author/storyteller Regan W. H. Macaulay and artist/illustrator Wei Lu is an charmingly engaging picture book that is especially and unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library collections for children ages 3-8. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Chloe the Unfeathered Parrot" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $6.99).

Editorial Note: A portion of proceeds from all "Chloe the Unfeathered Parrot" books sales will go to The Parrot Sanctuary located in Cabbagetown, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Teddy's Search
Clairmarie H. Field
Mirror Publishing
9781612254821, $9.99, PB, 28pp

Synopsis: Teddy was a curious little puppy with fur as brown as a piece of chocolate. He lived in a cage in a pet store and dreamed of having his very own home. One day, Teddy's dreams came true, and he was taken home by a real family. Soon, he realized that he was different from the other pets who lived there, and they ignored him. He felt sad, lonely, and unwanted. But an unexpected event changed Teddy's life.

Critique: "Teddy's Search" by Clairmarie H. Field is a charmingly picture book for children with its message about a path toward diversity, inclusion, and respect. Combining a fun read with a valuable 'life lesson', "Teddy's Search" is especially and unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library Pets and Life Skills picture book collections for children ages 4-7.

Editorial Note: Clairmarie Hanavan and her CM Bookworks has an informative website at

The Nocturnals Presents Nighttime Animals
Tracey Hecht
Fabled Films Press
c/o Simon & Schuster (distribution)
9781944020712, $13.99, HC, 64pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "The Nocturnals Presents Nighttime Animals: Awesome Features & Surprising Adaptations: Nonfiction Early Reader" children will enjoy exploring awesome nocturnal animal features and fun facts with The Nocturnals characters (Dawn the fox, Tobin the pangolin, and Bismark the sugar glider) as they are introduced to the nighttime world. They will be fascinated as they discover the awesome athletic abilities, sensational senses, powerful protections, nocturnal animals must have to survive and prosper. Featuring more than 60 full color photographs, the featured animals include: sugar gliders, kinkajous, foxes, bats, snakes, possums, wombats, chinchilla, pangolins. Of special note is the inclusion of: a Bonus Animal, a Word Glossary, and an At-Home Science Resources section.

Critique: Exceptionally informative and fun, "The Nocturnals Presents Nighttime Animals: Awesome Features & Surprising Adaptations: Nonfiction Early Reader" is especially recommended for family, elementary school, and community library Pets/Wildlife collections for children ages 6-8. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Nocturnals Presents Nighttime Animals: Awesome Features & Surprising Adaptations: Nonfiction Early Reader" is also available in a paperback edition (9781944020705, $6.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $6.99).

Editorial Note: Tracey Hecht is a writer and entrepreneur who created The Nocturnals, the critically acclaimed middle grade and early reader series. The American Booksellers Association chose her first book, The Nocturnals: The Mysterious Abductions, as a Kids' Indie Next List pick. In addition, her Grow & Read early reader book, The Chestnut Challenge, was given a Mom's Choice Gold Award. With the New York Public Library, she has also created a Read Aloud Writing Program that has since been conducted in hundreds of schools, libraries, and bookstores. Other books in the Nocturnals middle grade series include The Ominous Eye, The Fallen Star, and The Hidden Kingdom. She has a dedicated web page at

The Bilingual Shelf

Kashfi's Children
c/o Hoopoe Books

Two new bilingual titles published by Kasfhi's Children, and distributed by Hoopoe Books are bilingual picture book treasures for young readers.

In "The Bird's Relatives" (9781953292452, PB, 42pp) by author/storyteller Idries Shah and artist/illustrator Tanja Stevanovic a wealthy merchant's prize possession is a beautiful bird. Believing that he loves the exotic creature too much to set it free, the merchant discovers that animals are sometimes better at learning by example than humans.

This is one of a series of illustrated books for the young written by the Afghan philosopher and educator Idries Shah, whose collections of narratives and teaching stories have captivated the hearts and minds of people from all walks of life. It belongs to a rich storytelling tradition from Afghanistan, Central Asia and the Middle East that is more than 1,000 years old. These tales are more than entertaining; they are designed specifically to foster thinking skills and perception.

They suggest in their structure and in the movement of their characters ways of looking at difficulties that can help solve them. Children will learn that it is good to observe others in order to learn, and that sometimes the actions of others are not all that they first seem to be.

In "Oinkink" (9781953292506, $11.90,PB, 42pp) by Idries Shah and illustrated with the artwork of Laetitia Bermejo, a man greedily hopes to have the skills and senses of a different animal but is so impatient to have his wish granted that he finds himself limiting his abilities, rather than enhancing them. Among other things, this simple story shows children how a blind impulse to 'win' without considering the consequences can end in the opposite effect.

Both of these simply outstanding bilingual picture books are especially and unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library collections for children ages 3-8.

The Picturebook Shelf

The Depth of the Lake and the Height of the Sky
Kim Jihyun
Floris Books
9781782507420, $17.95

The Depth of the Lake and the Height of the Sky, a Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection, is a wordless black and white picture book story of a boy and his dog. They are leaving the busy city for his grandparents' home in the country for the summer. A path leads him to the forest, where he discovers something unexpected and magical.

Adults who choose this redolent story for its attractive tale will find it a fine opportunity to work with kids on the process of filling in the blanks to create a plot that supports the intriguing drawings.

Poopsie Gets Lost
Hannah E. Harrison
Dial Books for Young Readers
c/o Penguin Children's Books
9780593324172, $18.99

Poopsie Gets Lost will attract young picture book cat lovers with its engaging story of a pampered kitty whose venture into the world of adventure turns out to be a little too exciting.

The narrator assumes an encouraging, observational voice in this story, which provides a unique view of Poopsie's choices, experiences, and dilemmas. The lovely color photos are a highlight in a tale which surveys a spoiled cat's exploration of a very different world, challenging her in many ways. Kids who love cats will find this narrative also holds a lesson for their own ventures into unfamiliar territory; especially when spiced by a read-aloud parent's involvement.

Ruby and the Itsy-Bitsy Icky Bug
Allison Wortche
Alfred Knopf
c/o Random House Children's Books
9780593174173, $17.99

Ruby and the Itsy-Bitsy Icky Bug features fun drawings by Sally Walker. It explores the dilemma faced by young Ruby when she's confronted with a particularly determined "Mr. Yuck-Bug" on her window. Ruby loves all animals - but she's not a fan of bugs. And this one is determined to ruin a perfect sunny Saturday morning by its mere presence. As Ruby and the bug butt heads, young picture book readers receive a fun encounter that leads Ruby not just to a time-out, but taking the time to learn more about her enemy.

Adult read-aloud participants will appreciate how Ruby resolves an impossible problem, as well as the opportunity to teach the very young about insects in a dynamic new way.

Hilda and Richie's Wizard
Max West
Different Mousetrap Press LLC
9780989069649, $2.99 Kindle

Hilda and Richie's Wizard is a fun picture book story of two foxes who find themselves in a tailspin when the gift of a family relic is lost in the river. Hilda trusted little Richie to take care of the pendant, but his brand of "fun is too much for the pendant" and its chain breaks in the midst of his active young life. Hilda will certainly be angry with him. That's when Mister Abra steps forth to offer a bit of magic to resolve his dilemma. The savvy, quick wizard can solve Richie's problem...but not without a cost.

Max West incorporates a valuable lesson about honesty and owning up to mistakes as Richie assesses his relationship with Hilda and whether it can withstand the truth. Simple yet inviting color illustrations add interest to the tale, which poses the dilemma of how difficult it can be to be honest. Does Richie dare to risk a wizard's wrath by forgetting his obligation? A fine story evolves, holding a message that read-aloud parents will find important and realistic.

The Elegant Emu
Karen M. Bobos
Bobos Babes, Ltd.
9798985982213, $17.99 Hardcover/$11.99 Paper/$2.99 Kindle

The Elegant Emu is a picture book story adding to the Adventures in Harmony series, presenting another magical adventure with the Bobos Babes. Here, the Babes have been deemed unmannerly and assigned to attend elegant Elizabeth the Emu's etiquette class to learn about proper behavior and public appearance. But Elizabeth has more lessons to impart than manners alone. At the head of the list is kindness and how to best reflect it into the world.

As Angel Scarlet, Princess Daphne, and Fairy Cora learn about personal hygiene and public appearances, a rollicking rhyme captures their snafus, lessons, and the broader appeal of adopting a different attitude about their role in life, their appearance, and their actions.

Once again, Karen M. Bobos has successfully created a story of spunky, sassy princess babes who aren't too rich, beautiful, or knowledgeable to absorb more information about the world and their impact on it. The wise Emu imparts many lessons. The Babes realize this schooling could take a while. Thankfully for young readers, the whimsical, fun adventure spins a fine yarn deserving of not one, but numerous nights of reading.

Ideally, The Elegant Emu will serve as both an entertaining foray into a fantasy world and an educational point for read-aloud parents who can use its lessons to discuss positive worldviews with the very young. The story's not just about proper manners. It's ultimately about love.

Building Our Main Street
Kristian James, author
Matea Anic, illustrator
AM Ink Publishing
9781943201778, $21.99 Hardcover/$14.99 Paper/$9.99 Kindle

Building Our Main Street gives picture book readers a different survey of death, stating that a beloved grandmother is now taking a trip "down her Main Street," a place identified here as "...a place all older adults go when their time on this earth has come to an end." By connecting the experience of loss to a familiar place that the young listener in the story associates with good times, Kristian James encourages a positive perspective in a discussion between mother and daughter which is very different than the usual discourse.

"Everyone has their own Main Street, my dear. It is a long stretch of road with beautiful bright colored buildings and filled with that person's favorite memories. It's a place of happiness and fun!" As mother and daughter take their own stroll down their absent grandmother's possible Main Street experiences, the very young receive lessons on not just life and death, but aging, family connections, and good memories of shared events. Nicole's mother tells stories that recall the grandmother's life and passions and loves, bringing her back to life in the eyes of her grieving granddaughter.

Lovely illustrations by Matea Anic enhance a story filled with fond memories and the notion that death is not a dead end, but an opportunity to recall the good times and reconnect in different ways. Within the tale are important lessons on how to live life more effectively. Adults seeking a different tone - one that embraces the notion of sharing good times and grief alike - will find that Building Our Main Street offers not just a different take, but a lesson in positivity as a mother and daughter cope, cry, and recall the good times together.

Gurty the Goose Leads the Flock
Berlando Drake
Hula Hoop Entertainment and Publishing
9781736362204, $27.99, HC, 34pp

Synopsis: Gurty is a fun-loving and fearless goose! He loves to dance and sing and believes he can do just about anything-as long as he's got his lucky socks! Even geese have dreams, and Gurty has a big one. When he is finally chosen to lead his flock in winter, he desperately wants to do a good job. Feeling doubtful and anxious, he sneaks away to practice by himself, where he faces many challenges that will test his skills. He almost loses hope but he never gives up! With a little help from his friends, Gurty might just lead his flock in a "perfect V" after all!

Critique: A charmingly entertaining picture book for children ages 2-8, "Gurty the Goose Leads the Flock" by author and storyteller Berlando Drake empowers its young readers (and their parents!) to dream big and never give up, no matter the challenges along the way. Gurty's adventure demonstrates the power of a positive mindset, and how working as a team makes it easier (and more fun!) to reach new goals. With an anticipated publishing date of September 25, 2022, "Gurty the Goose Leads the Flock" is especially and unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for young children.

The Beach
Sol Undurraga, author/illustrator
Kit Maude, translator
Tapioca Stories
9781734783940, $19.95, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: From the fishermen and women who head out to sea at five in the morning to the bathers packing the beach at four in the afternoon, to the night owls hanging in until the stroke of midnight, every page of "The Beach" by author/illustrator Sol Undurraga (and ably translated into English by Kit Maude) is a gorgeous new adventure full of fun creatures both real and imaginary.

Brief, evocative text takes young readers through the hours of the day, while multiple amusing story lines play out in Undurraga's striking illustrations. Children will delight in the antics of the seagulls, the skills of a water-skiing squirrel, and the misadventures of a pink elephant! The seek-and-find quality of the illustrations engages young readers beyond the text and makes every reading different.

Critique: Winner of the Opera Prima Award at the 2018 Bologna Children's Book Fair and the Green Island Award at the 2019 Nami International Picture Book Contest, "The Beach" is a delightful and fun picture book that is very highly recommended for the family, elementary school, and community library collections for children ages 6-9.

Editorial Note #1: Currently residing in Berlin, Germany, Sol Undurraga is a former architect from Santiago, Chile who has recently devoted her life to illustration. She has been selected twice for the Bologna children's book fair, twice for Latin American Illustration, and works internationally with publishers around the world.

Editorial Note #2: Tapioca Stories is a New York-based publishing house with a Latin American soul. Their goal is to introduce young English readers to the finest Latin American children's books which were originally written in Spanish and Portuguese.

It Starts with a Bee
QED, author
Jennie Webber, illustrator
QEB Publishing
c/o Quarto Publishing Group USA
100 Cummings Center, Suite 265D, Beverly, MA 01915
9780711270350, $22.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall, the bee tends to the flowers and plants. As the seasons change and the garden blooms into a wildlife wonderland, the bee is joined by well-loved minibeasts and creatures (worms, beetles, spiders and mice) who also make the wild garden their home.

A rhyming poem by QED builds page on page of "It Starts with a Bee", echoing the life the bee brings to the garden. Beautiful foldout illustrations by Jennie Webber will transport readers into the world of the bee as it navigates the flowers and plants of the garden.

Critique: With the publication of "It Starts with a Bee: Watch a tiny bee bring the world to bloom", parents, teachers and caregivers will enjoy teaching children ages 6-9 about the crucial role bees play in the beautiful cycle of life in this charming tale of the workings of the natural world. While highly recommended for family, elementary school, and community library Wildlife picture book collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "It Starts with a Bee" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99).

Editorial Note #1: Jennie Webber is a London-based visual artist and printmaker. Her etchings and drawings celebrate the diversity and complexity of nature, reflecting her incurable curiosity for the world. Themes of conservation underpin all her work; the idea being that if people are amazed by the natural world, then they will be less likely to destroy it.

Summer's Call: A Michigan Day
Amber Lynn Hellewell, author
Gretchen Ellen Powers, illustrator
Sleeping Bear Press
315 East Eisenhower Parkway, Suite 200, Ann Arbor, MI 48108
9781534111424, $17.99, HC, 40pp

Synopsis: Did you hear it too? Summer is calling. Summer has magic all its own. But Michigan summers? Those are something else. Told in sweet lyrical vignettes by Amber Lynn Hellewell, "Summer's Call: A Michigan Day" fully captures that timeless Michigan summer feeling as it follows a family of four from sunrise to sunset.

"Summer's Call: A Michigan Day" isn't just about a particular season of the year, it's also a call that must be answered. Of special note is the Back Matter that includes an art activity that invites the reader to display their summer memories.

Critique: Featuring the timeless illustrations by local Michigander artist Gretchen Ellen Powers (who resides in Pentwater, Michigan), "Summer's Call: A Michigan Day" is original and utterly charming picture book story by author/storyteller Amber Lynn Hellewell (who resides in South Haven, Michigan) is highly recommended as an addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for children ages 4-7. It should be noted that "Summer's Call: A Michigan Day" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $15.76).

Like Mother, Like Daughter
Natasha Yim, author
Steph Lew, illustrator
Disney Press
c/o Disney Publishing Worldwide
9781368075770, $16.99, HC, 40pp

Synopsis: Ming and Meilin are the perfect mother and daughter. They work as a team, and each always seems to know what the other is thinking. But one day, something shocking happens: Mei poofs into a red panda! Now this once perfect pair has a huge panda problem!

Critique: Inspired by the Disney and Pixar's film 'Turning Red', "Like Mother, Like Daughter" by author/storyteller Natasha Yim and artist/illustrator Steph Lew is colorful and fun picture book the will have a very special appeal daughters and their mothers! Simply stated, "Like Mother, Like Daughter" is a wholesome, fun and highly recommended addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for children 3-5.

Editorial Note #1: Natasha Yim is a children's book author and freelance writer. She has published seven picture books and written for Highlights for Children, Appleseeds, Faces, and Muse magazines. Her book Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas (Charlesbridge Publishing, 2014) was a Junior Library Guild and Scholastic Book Club selection. She is also the author of Mulan's Lunar New Year (Disney Press, 2018). Her most recent book, Luna's Yum Yum Dim Sum, was released by Charlesbridge Publishing in December 2020. She has a dedicated website at

Editorial Note #2: Steph Lew is a Chinese American concept artist and illustrator from San Francisco. She received her BFA from San Jose State University. She has a dedicated website at

Rainbow Hands
Mamta Nainy, author
Jo Loring-Fisher, illustrator
9781913747749, $17.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: As the long late summer day stretches ahead of them, a young boy eagerly looks forward to his favorite time -- painting-your-nails time! He know that when he dips into those magical bottles of nail polish, he will discover a color to express his every mood and feeling.

Purple is the color of magic and mystery. White is the color of endless possibilities. At times, his papa frowns and says, "What have you done to your nails?" At other times, he says, "Why don't you paint on paper instead?" But the little boy knows that painting his nails makes his hands look beautiful.

Critique: A Lantana Global picture book, "Rainbow Hands" by author/storyteller Mamta Nainy and artist/illustrator Jo Loring-Fisher is delightfully color-filled story that celebrates the joy of finding out who you are and embracing the courage to be yourself. "Rainbow Hands" is especially and unreservedly recommended for family, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for children ages 5-8.

Editorial Note #1: Currently residing in New Delhi, India, Mamta Nainy is an award-winning author of over thirty books. She is inspired by the unfettered imagination of children and is passionate about stories that are inclusive and empowering. There is a website devoted to her at

Editorial Note: Jo Loring-Fisher is an artist, illustrator, and storyteller based in the United Kingdom. She holds an MA in Children's Book Illustration from the Cambridge School of Art. She is the author and illustrator of Taking Time and illustrator of Maisie's Scrapbook. She has a dedicated website at

Stop the Clock!
Pippa Goodhart, author
Maria Christania Winardi, illustrator
Tiny Owl Publishing
9781910328828, $16.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: When Mr. Khan asks the children to paint what they saw on their way to school, Joe notices his baby sister is crying in the picture. He stops the clocks and goes back to the street to find out why! This sweet and original picture book story by author/storyteller Pippa Goodhart and artist/illustrator Maria Christania Winardi reminds children to slow down, take a breath and notice the small details in their busy everyday life.

Critique: A fun read with an important underlying message about being observant and appreciative, "Stop the Clock!" is very highly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library City Life picture book collections for children ages 4-7. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Stop the Clock!" is also available in a paperback edition (Thames & Hudson, 9781910328811, $12.10, Amazon).

Editorial Note #1: Pippa Goodhart has written over a hundred books for children. Shortlisted for numerous awards, she won the Historical Association's Young Quills Award for best MG children's historical novel 2019, won Mumsnet's Book of the Year for 3-4 Year Olds, and York Libraries 'Best Picture Book Ever' awards with her picture book 'You Choose', illustrated by Nick Sharratt. She also writes under the name of Laura Owen when writing the Winnie the Witch storybooks. She enjoys working with primary school children on author visits. She has a dedicated website at: Her school visits can be booked direct or via Authors Aloud or by contacting her on Twitter: @pippagoodhart

Editorial Note #2: Maria Christania Winardi received a Bachelor of Art degree in Visual Communication Design from Bandung Institute of Technology. After graduation, she worked as a freelance graphic designer and spent a few years teaching in a kindergarten. In 2014, she moved to the UK. where she received a Master of Art degree in Children's Book Illustration from Cambridge School of Art in 2016. She has a dedicated website at

Blue Badger
Huw Lewis Jones, author
Ben Sanders, illustrator
Happy Yak
c/o Quarto Publishing Group USA
100 Cummings Center, Suite 265D, Beverly, MA 01915
9780711267527, $18.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: Badger is feeling sad. He can't sleep. He asks the other animals one by one: "Am I white and black, or black and white?" Can he find an answer? Is anyone listening? Does anyone care? Can he find a friend?

He speaks to several other animals, from zebra to panda to penguin to skunk, as he tries to find out who he is, but along his journey he discovers that it doesn't matter whether he is black or white, just as long as he is kind!

Critique: Featuring wry wit, deadpan humour and a heartwarming ending, "Blue Badger" by the team of author/storyteller Huw Lewis Jones and artist/illustrator Ben Sanders is a delightfully charming picture book that touches gently on themes of sadness and identity. While very highly recommended, especially for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library collections for children ages 4-6, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Blue Badger" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9780711267510, $11.23, Amazon) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.56).

Editorial Note #1: Dr Huw Lewis-Jones is a best-selling author of history and photography books, Huw's titles include 'The Writer's Map', 'The Sea Journal', 'Arctic', 'Ocean Portraits', 'In Search of the South Pole', 'The Lifeboat', 'Mountain Heroes' - which won Adventure Book of the Year at the World ITB Awards in Germany - and 'The Conquest of Everest', winner of the History Award at the Banff Festival. To date, his books have been published in 18 languages. He also has a dedicated web page at

Editorial Note #2: Ben Sanders is an award-winning Australian illustrator and children's book author. His first book, I've an Uncle Ivan, was short listed for the Crichton Award, 2013 and I Could Wear That Hat! was short listed for the Australian Book Industry Small Publishers' Children's Book of the Year, 2015. Ben's Lento & Fox books won the ABDA Award for best book design in 2020. Ben works as an illustrator for many well-known publications, companies and organizations in Australia and around the world, including Wall Street Journal, Harrods of London, and Cadbury. He also has a dedicated website at

Happenstance Farms: Catch That Pony
S. McMichael
EK-9 Solutions & Services
9798985032833, $18.99 HB, $11.99 PB, $4.99 Kindle

S. McMichael's Happenstance Farms: Catch That Pony receives large-size, colorful illustrations by Justo Borrero as it follows determined young horse-crazy girls and a new pony, Piper, who doesn't have a lot of experience with riders and is afraid of new things.

As picture book readers absorb this story of girl/horse relationships and overcoming fears, they receive side lessons about horse management and about "working smarter, not harder."

Catch That Pony is action-packed and takes the time to paint the back-and-forth of success and failure, offering no pat answers or easy solutions as the girls attempt to tame a nervous, frightened horse.

Issues of trust between rider and horse are explored, along with good intentions and the power of perseverance.

With these lessons serving as the background for an intriguing story about a horse that refuses to be tamed, read-aloud parents will welcome the opportunity to not only follows the uncertain relationship that grows between girls and horse, but the discussion that can come from opening the door to a variety of subjects about handling life challenges.

Happenstance Farms: Catch That Pony is ultimately much more than a story about catching or training a horse. Adults will find it a visually attractive and psychologically astute examination that draws on a child's attraction to horses to teach further lessons about success.

Bear Has a Belly
Jane Whittingham
Pajama Press
9781772782684, $17.95, HC, 24pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "Bear Has a Belly", children's writer Jane Whittingham asks her young readers: Do you have a nose like Fox, cheeks like Squirrel, and a tongue like Frog does?

In rhythmic text perfect for an energetic read-aloud, "Bear Has a Belly" points out Moose's legs, Otter's back, and Duck's feet, inviting little ones to chime in with every body part they share in common.

Bright photographs of the animal friends are paired with images of real children of diverse backgrounds and abilities who are joyfully engaging with that body part.

Jane Whittingham (author of Animals Move and A Good Day Ducks), channels her expertise as a children's librarian into yet another celebration of active preschooler fun. The chant-along text supports pattern recognition for language learning and reading readiness, and a closing spread of enriching age-appropriate activities invite further exploration and learning

Critique: A fun photographic juxtaposition of animals and kids, "Bear Has a Belly" will absolutely delight children ages 2- 5 and will prove to be an immediate and enduringly appreciated addition to family, daycare center, preschool, kindergarten, and community library collections.

Editorial Note: "Bear Has Belly" has a Toddler Tough format with a padded cover, rounded corners, and extra-heavy pages making it a sturdy choice for endless repetitions of foot-stomping, belly-laughing, body-positive story times.

Antoinette and the Story of the Invisible Giraffes
Alison McGregor, author
Saavi K, illustrator
9781039199996, $19.99, HC, 28pp

Synopsis: Little Antoinette is on an adventure of a lifetime to Africa. Lions and elephants are jolly to see but where could all the giraffes be? Will she see her favourite animal, the giraffe, or are they make-believe? A totally true tale takes place as she makes her way to her new home in Tanzania.

Critique: Especially and unreservedly recommended for family, family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library African Travel & Adventure picture book collections for young readers ages 4-8, "Antoinette and the Story of the Invisible Giraffes" by the creative team of storyteller Alison McGregor and illustrator Saavi K is also readily available for personal reading lists in a paperback edition (9781039129900, $12.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $2.99).

Thank You, Mama
Linda Meeker, author
Sandra Eide, illustrator
Thomas Nelson Kids
c/o Thomas Nelson Publishers
PO Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
9781400231454, $12.99 40pp

Synopsis: With colorful illustrations by Sandra Eide that capture a child's daily snacks and mealtimes, "Thank You, Mama" by author/storyteller Linda Meeker will delight parents and kids alike as it follows a little boy exploring different foods ranging from vegetables to sushi -- and trying to pick his favorite!

Critique: "Thank You, Mama" is a playful picture book for 3- to 7-year-olds that encourages children to try new foods and become happy, healthy eaters; honors the bond between parent and child; models respect, manners, and thankfulness; builds vocabulary and prereading skills with colorful food illustrations paired with words for each item. Exceptionally well written and presented, "Thank You, Mama" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Thank You, Mama" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99).

Editorial Note #1: Linda Meeker of @greyandmama stumbled upon social media popularity as she shared sweet videos of her son Grey learning to say "thank you." Expressing gratitude was a value instilled in Linda as a child raised in a Vietnamese family, so she was delighted that the simple act of her toddler saying "thank you" received such a reaction on TikTok and Instagram.

Editorial Note #2: Sandra Eide creates soft and sweet illustrations with an emphasis on characters and connections. As a child, Sandra either had her head in a book or was crafting and doodling her own stories. Endlessly inspired by animals, nature, and friendships, she has a dedicated website at

Tofu Takes Time
Helen H. Wu, author
Julie Jarema, illustrator
Beaming Books
PO Box 1209, Minneapolis, MN 55440
9781506480350, $18.99, HC, 40pp

Synopsis: A little girl named Lin and her grandma, NaiNai, are making tofu from scratch! When NaiNai goes through each step, from blending soybeans with water to molding curd into shape, Lin gradually becomes impatient. But she soon discovers that making tofu not only takes time, but also takes the whole universe!

It takes the seed from soil and sunshine, the cloth from thread and fiber, weight and space, books of words and pictures. And most of all, it takes spending lovely time with her beloved grandmother.

In this charming tale by author/storyteller Helen H. Wu, and illustrated with the artistry of Julie Jarema, young readers will marvel at how patience brings a whole universe together in a simple dish made by a modern Chinese American family.

Critique: A fun and original read from cover to cover, "Tofu Takes Time" is especially and unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for children ages 5-7. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Tofu Takes Time" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99).

Editorial Note #1: Helen H. Wu is a children's book author, illustrator, and translator. She was born and raised in Hefei, China, and now lives in San Diego, California. As a proud first-generation immigrant, Helen loves to share inspiring stories from her own immigrant experience. She has a dedicated website at

Editorial Note #2: Julie Jarema is an illustrator, writer, and bookseller. She graduated from Bard College with a degree in Written Arts. She has a dedicated website at

Letters to Ammi
Aftab Yusuf Shikh, author
Adrija Ghosh, photographer
Soumitra Ranade, photographer
Karadi Tales Picturebooks
9788193388938, $13.95, HC, 40pp

Synopsis: "Letters to Ammi" is a very special picture book in which a young girl traces her mother's journey through the city of Delhi, writing letters to her along the way. Every monument holds a memory; every letter tells a story. "Letters to Ammi" by author/storyteller Aftab Yusuf Shaikh is combined with truly stunning photographs by Adrija ghosh and Soumitra Ranade, in a true celebration of timeless human relationships.

Critique: An original, unique, inherently fascinating, and memorable story for children ages 9-12, "Letters to Ammi" is an especially and unreservedly recommended for family, elementary school, and community library picture book collections.

Editorial Note #1: Mohammed Aftab Yusuf Shaikh is a poet, writer, and teacher based in Mumbai. His writing has been published in a large number of anthologies and journals. He has also published five collections of poetry, the most recent being Tehzeeb Talkies, and a novel The Library Girl. Aftab has always had a strong connection with Delhi and its history - he believes that every part of the city tells the stories of thousands of people, and that its many layers will always intrigue and excite him. He has a website at

Editorial Note #2: Adrija Ghosh is a literature graduate from Calcutta who is passionate about illustration. She has been freelancing on illustration and design projects related to book covers, children's books and graphic narratives. She loves to travel and work with children when she is not illustrating. Her short graphic narrative is now published in Longform Annual (a graphic narrative anthology by Harper Collins India).

Editorial Note #3: Soumitra Ranade is an art director, photographer, illustrator, and filmmaker whose films have been screened internationally, including at Cannes. He works in the animation industry. He has written two books for children, both of which take inspiration from his sons' overactive imaginations.

Family Day
Emma Diaz Bradley, author
Terry Diaz-Bradley, author
Ana K. Quintero Villafraz, illustrator
Creations by Me LLC
9781737741213, $19.99, HC, 26pp

Synopsis: Young readers will enjoy joining the citizens of Broodtown in "Family Day", a picture book written by Emma & Terry Diaze Bradley, and illustrated the artistry of Ana K. Quintero Villafraz that provides a fun look at a wide variety of families, each one special in their own way.

Critique: Exceptionally well written and illustrated with an engaging, simple, eloquent commentary text that is splendidly supported with thematically visual story telling. While especially and unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school and community library Family Life picture book collections for children ages 4-7, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Family Day" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9781737741206, $12.99).

Time Capsule
Lauren Redniss
Random House
9780593425930, $18.99

Time Capsule is a picture book story about family keepsakes, preservation, and creating buried time capsules that bring the past to the attention of present-day residents. It encourages young readers to think about their world and the key messages they would send to future generations. As the young protagonist uses an empty jar to create her personal time capsule, readers will appreciate the focus on what's important, what's unusual, and what is representative about their worlds. Adults can use this primer as the opener to a discussion about what is valuable in this world, and what future generations should receive to understand the present day experience as seen through the eyes of young readers.

Rob Kearney & Eric Rosswood
Little, Brown
9780316292900, $17.99

Strong is a picture book story illustrated by Nidhi Chanani. It tells of Rob, who wants to become a champion strongman with nearly superhuman abilities. But, can a strongman also harbor affection for colorful attire and rainbow hair? The story of Rob's training to be a strongman is nicely juxtaposed with the dilemma of his wanting to wear "fun and expressive" clothing that is more him than the usual trappings of a sports champion. The result is an engaging story that offers young readers not only insights into the strongman sport, but the process of integrating one's unique life focus into a demanding physical sport.

Candlewick Press
99 Dover Street, Somerville, MA 02144

Six new picture books from Candlewick are highly recommended choices for elementary-grade readers, offering winning combinations of lovely images and inviting stories.

A Rose Named Peace: How Francis Meilland Created a Flower of Hope for a World At War by Barbara Carroll Roberts (9781536208436, $18.99) tells of Frances, who always wanted to follow in his family's footsteps of growing his own roses. He also wants to create a new rose, and works hard to make a hybrid nobody has ever seen before. World War II changes his passion, however, as rose beds become vegetable gardens for the war cause. Frances perseveres against all odds, waiting for things to change. When they do, his passion and pursuits creates something truly meaningful for the post-war world. Gorgeous, full-page illustrations by Bagram Ibatoulline enhance a lovely biography picture book that young readers will find educational and encouraging, with a strong story and example of pursuing passion against all odds.

Phyllis Root and Gary D. Schmidt's Celia Planted a Garden: The Story of Celia Thaxter and Her Island Garden (9781536204292, $18.99) tells of an island girl who moves to a new home, facing the different challenge of planting a garden in an environment which would seem inhospitable to flowers and color. Writer, painter, and gardener Celia Thaxter's life and world (as well as her achievements) are profiled in a biography of her influences and life. The story draws kids into an account of perseverance and art with lovely illustrations by Melissa Sweet.

Lily Leads The Way by Margi Preus (9781536214031, $17.99) is not about a person, but about a small sailboat that is surrounded by cargo ships, fishing vessels, and "bossy tugboats." All of them seem to hold more importance than Lily. And they command more respect. Lily is determined to make an impact on her world despite her diminutive size, so when she faces a dilemma with old ships that are sailing to their doom, she steps up in an unusual way. Kids will appreciate the lovely drawings by Matt Myers which brings Lily's nautical world to life.

Nina LaCour's Mama and Mommy and Me in the Middle (9781536211511, $17.99) captures the feelings of a young child who misses a parent. She actually has two parents: Mommy and Mama. As the story moves through a mother's absence on a trip and a classroom of kids who miss siblings, parents, and pets, different losses are assessed and discussed. Kaylani Juanita provides colorful illustrations that are inclusive, and which portray a range of different people and concerns.

Leda Schubert's Firsts & Lasts: The Changing Seasons (9781536211023, $18.99) focuses on signs of changing seasons and the new opportunities involved in differences in environment and weather. Each season concludes with something to celebrate and something to miss as Leda Schubert discusses seasonal rituals and activities. These are paired with colorful illustrations by Clover Robin that capture the various nuances of changing seasons and their pros and cons.

Ted Kooser and Connie Wanek's Marshmallow Clouds: Two Poets at Play Among Figures of Speech (9781536203035, $19.99) receives notable illustrations by Richard Jones as it profiles evocative poems with lovely descriptions both fanciful and factual. The combination provides eye-catching images backed by equally evocative written words about nature and human activity that give food for thought wrapped in an overlay of attractive, imaginative free verse. All are fine choices for elementary-level libraries seeking evocative picture book additions that will appeal to a wide audience.

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

Three new picture books, a young adult book, and an elementary-grade story for ages 7-10 provide new opportunities to attract and encourage young readers, with their vivid subjects and fun drawings.

The 7-10-year-old age range will appreciate Bella Swift's The Pug Who Wanted to Be a Mermaid (9781534486881, $17.99). The tale features a dog who would be something other than his true form in order to satisfy his young mistress, who hopes to see a mermaid during the family seaside vacation. Peggy the pug is determined to become a mermaid, even though she doesn't know how to swim. Her quest to conquer her fears and become something greater than she was born to makes for a whimsical, fun story.

Jennifer Wagh's Eggasaurus (9781534450066, $17.99) will reach ages 4-8 with the picture book tale of a boy fixated on having a pet dinosaur. Max's wish is about to come true when he receives an order of dinosaur eggs from Eggasaurus -- but his father insists he return them. Unfortunately, his efforts to do so backfire in a way that both pleases and stymies Max. The unusual style of a story told entirely in back-and-forth letters lends fun and unexpected pleasure to this whimsical dilemma.

Matthew Forsythe's Mina (9781481480413, $17.99) is a story about trust and love. Mina the mouse lives in a safe world with a zany father who develops schemes based on things he finds and brings home from the world. Mina loves her father, and his eccentric behaviors don't bother her ... until he brings home something uncommon and frightening. A fine story evolves, containing a gentle message for kids that read-aloud parents will find unusual and fun.

Gone Dark by Amanda Panitch (9781534466319, $19.99) is especially recommended for readers of dystopian and survival stories. It tells of teen Zara, an escapee from her father's backwoods survivalist compound. She'd thoroughly immersed herself in the pleasures of technology until a malware attack stops the nation's power. Now Zara is faced with utilizing the lessons from the world she escaped from and has avoided ever since -- lessons about survival that lead her back to a place she never thought she'd re-enter. This different survivalist story's take on coming full circle presents a satisfyingly unique approach to the subject that will delight YA readers looking for something different.

All are top recommendations for discriminating library collections.

Sleeping Bear Press

These new arrivals from Sleeping Bear Press provide winning stories suitable for picture book library acquisition, recommended above many other choices.

Lynn Becker's Monsters in the Briny (9781534111493, $17.99) receives vivid, colorful drawings by Scott Brundage as it explores monsters that are grumpy, sickly, or sad. What to do with such a menagerie of woes? Sing their worries away, of course. Adults who choose this story for its read-aloud appeal will find it a fun tale of mythical monsters that just need a little comfort and understanding from sailors who both rescue their ship and work together with these formidable beasts to solve problems via song. Information about the creatures and the sea shanties which soothe them accompany lyrics and music for adults who would translate this book into an entertainment device.

Sophia Gholz's Bug on the Rug (9781534111479, $17.99) receives fun drawings by Susan Batori, whose whimsical depictions of bugs brings to life the rhyming story of a rug's appeal to a disparate duo. The rhymes and sound effects will especially please adults who choose this book for read-aloud, lending fun to a story which promotes working together, phonics, and understanding cooperative compromise and problem-solving.

Meeg Pincus offers So Much More to Helen! The Passions and Pursuits of Helen Keller (9781534111516, $17.99), a different kind of Helen Keller exploration that benefits from Caroline Bonne-Muller's appealing illustrations. Helen Keller's story has been more than explored in numerous books for all ages, but other facets of her activist interests, her performances, and her romantic inclinations are lesser known. Pincus provides a winning focus on these atypical facts about Helen Keller, rounding out other biographies with information that picture book libraries will find essential to include in their collections.

Adam Lehrhaupt's There Was a Hole (9781534111226, $17.99) reaches ages 4-8 with its picture book story about strong emotions and how to handle them. Lily finds herself depressed and sad. It's like she has a joy-eating hole in her chest. It takes a friend who has had a similar experience and knows how to heal it to change her trajectory. Parents who wish to start the conversation about handling emotions with the very young will find There Was a Hole the perfect place to begin. All are excellent choices for leisure and educational pursuits alike.

The Board Book Shelf

My First Learn-to-Talk Book
Stephanie Cohen
Sourcebooks Inc.
1935 Brookdale Road, #139, Naperville, IL 60563
9781728248103, $9.99, Board Books, 20pp

Synopsis: Each page comprising "My First Learn-to-Talk Book: Written by an Early Speech Expert!" features: Simple, exciting sounds that are easy for little ones to imitate, and can be used to build bigger words; Rhythm and rhyme to encourage repetition and help keep babies engaged, even before they can understand the text; Real photographs that model correct mouth positions and support social emotional learning.

Created by speech-language pathologist Stephanie Cohen, "My First Learn-to-Talk Book" is a board book specifically designed to help babies and toddlers master the skills they need as they learn to talk. Reading the board book aloud helps parents and caregivers to easily model important aspects of communication for little ones -- not only through sounds and words, but also with gestures, facial expressions and more!

Critique: Truly impressive, fun and effective, "My First Learn-to-Talk Book: Written by an Early Speech Expert!" by Stephanie Cohen is especially and unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, and community library board book collections for children ages Infancy - 4 years. It should be noted for parents and caregivers that "My First Learn-to-Talk Book: Written by an Early Speech Expert!" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.61).

Editorial Note: Stephanie Cohen, M.A., CCC-SLP, CLC is a licensed and certified speech-language pathologist, lactation counselor, and mother who has been working with infants and toddlers for more than 20 years. Her mission is to empower each parent to be his or her child's best teacher by supporting emotional connection and early language learning. Stephanie's work is featured on and, professional continuing education sites with international audiences.

The Activity Shelf

Follow That Line!: Magic at Your Fingertips
JaNay Brown-Wood, author
Rob Justus, illustrator
Running Press Kids
c/o Running Press
9780762475025, $15.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "Follow That Line!: Magic at Your Fingertips", children ages 4-8 will enjoy using their fingers to follow a line and help it burst into color. They will make colorful magic with blooming flowers, tall mountain tops, splashing waves, and more by tracing lines with all four fingers and their thumb.

Critique: Celebrating the power of creating artwork with Crayola products in a delightfully fun and brightly interactive, kid-friendly, and creative interactive picture book, "Follow That Line!: Magic at Your Fingertips" is very highly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library collections. It should be noted that "Follow That Line!: Magic at Your Fingertips" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note #1: JaNay Brown-Wood's first children's book Imani's Moon won the NAESP Children's Book of the Year Award and her second book Grandma's Tiny House: A Counting Story! won the CELI Read Aloud Book Award. She also has several poems published in Highlights for Kids, Highlights High Five, and the poetry anthology Thanku: Poems of Gratitude (Lerner/Millbrook, 2019).

Editorial Note #2: Rob Justus is a former market researcher turned picture book author/illustrator and graphic novelist.

Editorial Note #3: Crayola LLC, based in Easton, Pa. and a business of Hallmark Cards, Inc., is the worldwide leader in children's creative expression products. Known for the iconic Crayola Crayon first introduced in 1903, the Crayola brand has grown into a portfolio of innovative art tools, crafting activities, and creativity toys that offer children innovative new ways to use color to create everything imaginable.

The Graphic Novel Shelf

A Visit to Moscow
Rabbi Rafel Grossman, author
Anna Olswanger, adaptor
Yevgenia Nayberg, illustrator
West Margin Press
9781513128733, $19.99, HC, 72pp

Synopsis: In 1965, an American rabbi travels to the Soviet Union to investigate reports of persecution of the Jewish community. Moscow welcomes him as a guest -- but provides a strict schedule he and the rest of his group must follow.

One afternoon, the rabbi slips away. With an address in hand and almost no knowledge of the Russian language, he embarks on a secret journey that will change his life forever.

Inspired by the true experience of Rabbi Rafael Grossman, "A Visit to Moscow" captures the formidable perseverance and strength of the Jewish people during the Russian "Let My People Go" movement, a modern exodus that is often overlooked in 20th Century Jewish history.

Critique: Impressively adapted to a graphic novel format in collaboration with artist/illustrator Yevgenia Nayberg, "A Visit To Moscow" is both entertaining and informative -- making it an ideal and unreservedly recommended addition to family, elementary school, middle school, and highschool, and community library Graphic Novel collections for readers ages 12-18. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "A Visit To Moscow" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note #1: The late Rabbi Rafael Grossman (23 November 1933 - 12 April 2018) was a respected leader at some of the nation's most distinguished Jewish organizations, including Baron Hirsch Synagogue, the Beth Din of America, the Rabbinical Council of America, and more. He received several honors and awards for his leadership and work in the Jewish community, and was also a recognized orator and writer whose work was published in The Jewish Press.

Editorial Note #2: Anna Olswanger first began interviewing Rabbi Rafael Grossman and writing down his stories in the early 1980s. She is the author of the middle grade novel Greenhorn, based on an incident in Rabbi Grossman's childhood and set against the backdrop of the Holocaust. She is also the author of Shlemiel Crooks, a Sydney Taylor Honor Book and PJ Library Book, which she wrote after discovering a 1919 Yiddish newspaper article about the attempted robbery of her great-grandparents' kosher liquor store in St. Louis. She has a website at

Editorial Note #3: Yevgenia Nayberg is an award-winning illustrator, painter, and set and costume designer. As a designer, she has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the National Endowment for the Arts/TCG Fellowship for Theatre Designers, the Independent Theatre Award, and the Arlin Meyer Award. She has received multiple awards for her picture book illustrations, including three Sydney Taylor Medals. Her debut author/illustrator picture book, Anya's Secret Society, received a Junior Library Guild Gold Selection Award. Her artwork can be found in magazines and on posters and music albums. She has a dedicated website at

The Music CD Shelf

Let's Move
Katie Dwyer
Katie Dwyer Music
$15.00 CD / $10.00 digital

Let's Move is Katie Dwyer's second album for children and families, featuring songs that encourage listeners of all ages to get up and move. Instructions for simple dance movements are included with the lyrics, and the songs themselves feature exciting rhythms that entice exercise! Let's Move lives up to its title and is highly recommended especially for families and public library children's music collections. The tracks are Dance Dance Dance, Gillie The Grasshopper, Let's Move, Ahoy There Matey!, Art Is Cool, Jazzy Fingers, I Am Me, The Jamboree Song, Dino Stomp And Chomp, Pop Go The bubbles, Keepin' The Beat, Hello Rainbow, Dream, Got a New Canoe, Big Bear Poe, Here We Go, Hoot Like Me, Let's Rock, Little Black Spider, Roly Poly Oly, Sing Low Sing High, Sit Still, Trooper the Turtle and Up Up And Away.

Tell Everybody
Alexei the Rock O' Clock band
Privately Published
$12.00 CD / $12.00 digital

Tell Everybody is a folk rock album of children's songs with lively, original lyrics that connect with children's everyday lives. Tell Everybody is just plain fun for kids to listen to, or sing along to, and is a choice pick for school or public library children's music collections. The tracks are Big Bad Werewolf, Good Morning, I'm So Bored with the ABCs, Rules for Good Listening, Hot Dog Cold Dog, Meow Meow Kitty Power, I Can Do It All By Myself, Mom Says No, You Don't Have To Spank Me Twice, Great To Be Me, and Solidarity Forever.

Your Voice is Magic
Again Again
Privately Published
$9.99 CD / $9.99 download

Your Voice is Magic is a family-friendly album by award-winning duo Jennifer Cook and Anne Montone, who delight in performing progressive political music for kids. The songs span a medley of genres from folk and pop to world dance music, and emphasize positive themes such as anti-bullying, female empowerment, showing respect to other people by using their preferred pronouns, peaceful protest, not letting "fear of missing out" dominate one's thoughts, and much more. An uplifting music collection with strong moral messages, Your Voice is Magic is highly recommended for both personal and public library children's music collections. The tracks are Signs Up High, Pronoun Party, Girls Included, Be Your Body's Boss, Better Way to Play, FOMO, Captain Bubble Beard, Wash Your Hands March (in English and Spanish), Chosen, and Monsters aren't Real.

Space Cadet
Justin Roberts
Privately Published
$15.00 CD

The 16th album of four-time GRAMMY nominee Justin Roberts, Space Cadet is an all-ages music collection brimming with out-of-this-world excitement and adventure. The catchy pop tunes feature lively vocals, keen percussive rhythms, rockin' electric guitar, piano, strings, horns, and more from the Not Ready for Naptime Players and their friends. Space Cadet is a wonderful listening experience the whole family can enjoy together, highly recommended. The tracks are When February Comes, I Have Been a Unicorn, Truman Was a Tornado, If You Should Dig, Space Cadet, Little Red Wagon, Gimme A Fire Truck, I'm Not Just Am I, Dance Party, Seven Billion Billion Billion Atmos in Me, Whole Lotta Love in This World, and Everybody Get on Board.

Young Folk
Privately Published

The third release by Young Folk, Moonwalking is a family-friendly album blending pop and Americana into a celebration of family ties. The heartwarming songs speak to everyday activities and connections. A delightful, gentle celebration of family bonds, Moonwalking is highly recommended for both personal and public library children's collections. The tracks are Moonwalking, Cool Dad in a Minivan, Perfect Day, Rosie Cat, Margo Mermaid Intro, Mommy's A Mermaid, Silly Time!, Wash Your Hands, Flowers & Rainbows, I Believe In You, and Goodnight My Dear.

The DVD Shelf

Super Wiggles
The Wiggles
Privately Published

Super Wiggles is the energetic DVD presentation of 22 brand new, original songs for children and families. Wiggle Town comes alive in a celebration of everyday community heroes. Not all heroes are colorful comic book characters; Super Wiggles celebrates the heroism of teachers, dancers, and garbage truck drivers. The lively cast give a grand musical performance in this excellent, positive-minded video, highly recommended especially for public library DVD collections. The lively songs are also available on CD ($9.98) or in MP3 format ($9.49).

The Multimedia Shelf

The Big Blue Lake
Robert Armstrong, author
Janet Broxon, illustrator
All About Kids Publishing
9780980146837, $13.95, HC, 32p

Synopsis: Frog, beavers, turtles, and fish families prepare to go to sleep in "The Big Blue Lake", a unique picture book by author/storyteller Robert W. Armstrong and artist/illustrator Janet Broxon. Young children will be delighted meet all of them as they get ready in this engaging bedtime story. Of special note is the inclusion of a QR code that can be scanned to play the audio as the pages are turned. The audio is comprised of original music, narration and SFX.

Critique: Unique, fun, and thoroughly 'kid friendly', "The Big Blue Lake" is the perfect bedtime story book for children ages 5-6 -- making is an ideal and unreservedly recommended addition to family, daycare center (think nap time), preschool, elementary school, and community library Wildlife picture book collections.

Rooftop Garden
Danna Smith, author
Pati Aguilera, illustrator
Holly Turton, singer/narrator
Barefoot Books
2067 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02140
9781646864959, $16.99, HC, 24pp

Synopsis: "Rooftop Garden" is about a group of city friends who work diligently together to grow herbs and vegetables in a rooftop garden. Set to a foot-tappin' original tune, "Rooftop Garden" rhythmic, rhyming picture book story by author Danna Smith and illustrator Pati Aguilera that will have kids singing enthusiastically along with singer/narrator Holly Turton about the six stages of plant growth. "Rooftop Garden" finally concludes with a summer harvest and feast that celebrates the gardeners' commitment!

Critique: With the inclusion of an audio and video online access link, "Rooftop Garden" will have a unique and very special appeal to young readers and aspiring gardeners ages 4-7 -- making it an ideal and unreservedly recommended addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library Gardening, City Life, and Recycling/Green Living collections.

Editorial Note #1: Danna Smith is a poet and an award-winning author of numerous books for children. Her nonfiction picture book, The Hawk of the Castle: A Story of Medieval Falconry, received two starred reviews, is a Junior Library Guild Selection, and the recipient of Bank Street College of Education Best Children's Books of the year. She has a dedicated website at

Editorial Note #2: Pati Aguilera is Chilean, and has lived a large part of her life in the city of Santiago, where she studied design and became a book illustrator. Pati creates her artwork digitally so she can change the composition and palette until she achieves the desired balance and harmony. She has a Spanish language website at

Editorial Note #3: Holly Turton has a dedicated website at

The Gardening Shelf

I LOVE Strawberries
Shannon Anderson, author
Jaclyn Singuett, illustrator
Feeding Minds Press
9781948898065, $17.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: Through Jolie's comical scrapbook-style journal entries, young readers will learn how she convinces the "old people" (aka her parents) to let her grow her own strawberries. Growing strawberries is a lot of work and responsibility, but Jolie is ready with the help of her faithful rabbit Munchy! Together they find out just how delicious, rewarding, and sometimes complicated it can be to grow your own food.

Creating a garden calendar and notebook, how strawberries grow, what pests to look out for in a garden, why ladybugs are helpful, and how a good gardener takes care of strawberry plants are all explained in this fun and educational story. Informational backmatter includes tips on growing strawberries, an explanation of integrated pest management for greener, safer gardening - and even tips for how to find a pick your own strawberry patch near you.

Critique: "I LOVE Strawberries" is a picture book story about where food comes from and the importance of eating healthy -- even growing your own food! Fun and informative, "I LOVE Strawberries" 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: Shannon Anderson is an award-winning children's book author and has served as the Indiana Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators Regional Advisor for many years and lives in Indiana with her husband, daughter, many pets, and a cute little strawberry patch. She has a dedicated website at

Editorial Note #2: Jaclyn Sinquett grew up playing in her dad's garden, feeding worms to box turtles, and tossing French fries to seagulls at the Jersey shore. She still lives in New Jersey and spends her time picking clover flowers with her little one, perusing the local farmer's market and illustrating books for children. She has a dedicated artwork web site at

Editorial Note #3: Feeding Minds Press is a project of the American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture whose mission is to build awareness and understanding of agriculture through education. They focus on helping young readers understand where their food comes from, who grows it, and how it gets to them and believe in cultivating curiosity about food and farming and how agriculture plays a role in our daily lives. All books from Feeding Minds Press have accompanying lessons, activities, and videos to further learning available on their website at

The Middle Grade Fiction Shelf

Pippa Park: Crush at First Sight
Erin Yun
Fabled Films Press
c/o Simon & Schuster (distribution)
9781944020804, $16.99, HC, 288pp

Synopsis: In "Pippa Park: Crush at First Sight" by Erin Yun, Pippa picks up right where she left off -- trying to balance basketball, school, friends, working at the struggling family laundromat, and fitting in.

Eliot, her math tutor (and the cutest boy at school) is finally paying attention to her. And Marvel (her childhood friend) is making her required volunteering much more interesting. But things with the Royals, her new friends and teammates who rule the school, still feel a bit rocky. Especially because Caroline, a head Royal, would like nothing more than to see Pippa fail.

So when Pippa is faced with hosting the annual Christmas Eve party that could make or break her social life, how can she say no? Will Pippa make enough money to cover the costs while juggling crushes and everything else? With courage and determination, Pippa sets out to host the party, find the perfect dress, pick the right boy, and stay true to her real self.

Critique: A fun read for young girls ages 9-12, "Pippa Park: Crush at First Sight" will have a special appeal to young readers with an interest in peer pressure and friendship. Of special note is the inclusion of Author Q&A, Book Club Questions, and a Glossary of Korean Words. While very highly recommended for elementary school, middle school, and community library general fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Pippa Park: Crush at First Sight" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Erin Yun received her BA in English from New York University and is currently pursuing her Masters in Creative Writing at Cambridge. Erin is a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. She developed the Pippa Park Author Program, an interactive writing workshop, which she has conducted in person and virtually at schools, libraries, and bookstores. She has a website at

The YA Fiction Shelf

Percy St. John and the Chronicle of Secrets
E. A. Allen
Histeria Kids
c/o Histria Books
9781592110841, $29.99, HC, 212pp

Synopsis: An unbreakable cipher, a dead priest with expensive shoes, a hermit who has conversations with saints, an angry French girl, a guardian angel with attitude, a murderous master criminal, and a gaggle of angry demons might stop an ordinary fifteen-year-old safe-cracking genius, but not Percy St. John. He's out to prove he did not steal a mysterious ancient book that may hold the key to mankind's greatest hope and greatest danger.

Critique: With a deft blending of fantasy, mystery, suspense, and adventure, "Percy St. John and the Chronicle of Secrets" by E. Al Allen is a fully fun read from cover to cover for ages 12-18. Original and exceptionally well written, "Percy St. John and the Chronicle of Secrets" is certain to be a favorite addition to middle school, highschool, and community library YA Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Percy St. John and the Chronicle of Secrets" is also available in a paperback edition (9781592111480, $19.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.36).

Editorial Note: E.A. Allen is a History Professor, cattle farmer, and retired C.I.A. intelligence officer. When he's not out chasing straying cows that have no respect for fences, or tracking-down undergraduates who have no respect for assignment deadlines, he's at his desk, writing mysteries in the great tradition of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, and Dorothy L. Sayers.

That Summer Night on Frenchmen Street
Chris Clarkson
Tu Books
c/o Lee & Low Books
95 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
9781643795010, $21.95, HC, 400pp

Synopsis: Being there for her family is the most important thing to Jessamine Monet. And her family is complicated. Her twin brother Joel has a secret boyfriend, and her transgender cousin Solange is flourishing, despite the disapproval of Solange's dying mother. Yet Jessamine doesn't mind being caught up in family drama. When Tennessee Williams (a rich white boy named after the writer) asks her out, she hesitantly says yes. He'll be like a library book, she figures, something to read and return. Falling for him is another burden she can't afford to carry.

Tennessee has always lived his life at the mercy of his mom's destructive creativity and his dad's hypermasculine expectations. Jessamine's caring and aloof nature is a surprisingly welcome distraction. While she fights her attraction to him, Tennessee is pulled into her inner family circle and develops a friendship with Joel's boyfriend, Saint Baptiste. Together Saint and Tennessee bond over the difficulty of loving the emotionally unavailable Monet twins.

As senior year progresses, old traumas and familial pressures rise higher than hurricane waves. Can this group of friends make peace with each other, their families, and most importantly, with themselves?

Critique: "That Summer Night on Frenchmen Street" by Chris Clarkson is a modern-day young adult take on Breakfast at Tiffany's as two teens from vastly different worlds discover that sharing their strengths, including the love of their friends and family, may just be the path to finding wholeness within themselves. A fun read from cover to cover, "That Summer Night on Frenchmen Street" is especially recommended for middle school, highschool, and community library YA Fiction collections for young readers ages 13-17. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "That Summer Night on Frenchmen Street" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Chris Clarkson studied English literature at the University of Maryland, where he earned his bachelor's degree. He currently resides in New Orleans with his dog Avery and a collection of notebooks filled with words for stories waiting to be brought to life. He can be found on Twitter at @ChrisWrites3434

Spindrift Love
Jocelyn Holst Bolster
Atmosphere Press
9781639883844, $15.99 PB, $7.99 Kindle, 210pp

Spindrift Love is a young adult novel that centers on fifteen-year-old Jesse, whose first-person story captures the feel of being trapped in the restrictive world of Bourbon County, Kansas.

Jesse longs for adventure, new experiences, and a different environment, but when a vagabond enters her life to offer her an escape into the outside world she covets and dreams of, Jesse discovers that sometimes dreams are illusions and invitations are better left unaccepted.

Her upbringing in a "house filled with love" has failed to prepare her for a world that doesn't operate in the same way.

Evocative moments are captured in a moving manner that brings Jesse's conundrums to life: "To someone from a city I guess it would have been easy to feel lonely out there, but it never occurred to me. Sometimes I felt sad and I didn't know for what. Maybe the empty space around me crept in a bit too close. Maybe I wasn't paying close enough attention to notice that it wasn't really empty."

Jocelyn Holst Bolster takes the time to capture the nature of Jesse's life experiences: "Now, I'm not trying to say that we lived so far out in the country that we didn't even have a CD player. My uncle gave my parents one for Christmas before I was even born. But we only listened to music that was written to praise God or glorify His love. There's some real good stuff that was written for the glory of God, but I just knew Sandy wasn't talking about listening to that kind of music when she whispered that to me; I just knew Sandy was talking about the kind of music I was not supposed to listen to, the kind that, in my parent's opinion, nobody was supposed to listen to, especially not good people like Sandy. The kind of music that may or may not have been written by the Devil himself. The kind of music I'd been straining to overhear since I found out it existed."

As she encounters other family relationships and begins to more deeply inspect her own life, Jesse's assessment of love and her place in the world changes. This doesn't differ from the typical coming-of-age story; but what does give added flavor is Bolster's capture of adult dilemmas that force Jesse to change not only herself, but the nature of her communications with her elders.

From circumstances of luck to choices that challenge her life, Jesse receives the support and backdrop of a family she also struggles to find a place in. The religious and psychological mixes are especially satisfyingly depicted: "Therefore consider whether the light in you is not darkness," I quoted. "What about the evil in me? How does God decide who suffers and who doesn't? Why was that poor lady made to be beaten by that horrible man? How could that happen ten miles away while I'm here eating pie?"

Young adults seeking coming-of-age stories centered on changing family relationships and the intersection of real-world issues with intergenerational struggles will find Spindrift Love a compelling, attractive choice.

Bolster's creation of a young protagonist on the cusp of abandoning some (but not all) of her teachings shows how Jesse bridges past precedent with present-day evolution to not only forge ahead, but maintain the close connections that helped sculpt her psyche.

Libraries looking for coming-of-age sagas rooted in changing family relationships and life experiences will find Spindrift Love is suitable not just for leisure reading, but young adult book discussion groups interested in transformative and inclusive experiences that ultimately embrace love and connection.

The Mystery/Suspense Shelf

The M. Goose Chronicles
M. Goose, author
Curt Simons, illustrator
E n' S Publishing
9781737698616, $9.99, PB, 188pp

Synopsis: Dark and sinister things are afoot when a young woman goes missing and eleven-year-old Mary is pulled into the mystery. But a worse fate seems to await Mary when she gets hold of a mysterious journal and dangerous people begin following her!

When an old photograph surfaces that provides clues to Mary's own family mystery, it isn't long before it's revealed that the two cases are intertwined and the young girl must solve the case before she becomes a missing person herself.

Critique: Thoroughly age appropriate for young readers in grades 5-8, "The M. Goose Chronicles: There He Kept Her Very Well" launches author Mother Goose's promising new series 'The M. Goose Chronicles'. The series is laid out with the classic feel of a contemporary mystery story, while using an artful language that is steeped in serious humor and crafty storytelling. "The M. Goose Chronicles: There He Kept Her Very Well" will have a very special and direct appeal to readers ages 9-15 who enjoy a fun and inventive twists to the characters and places drawn from some of their most beloved nursery tales. While especially and unreservedly recommended to family, middle school, and community library Mystery/Suspense collection for young readers, it should be noted that "The M. Goose Chronicles: There He Kept Her Very Well" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99).

The Fantasy/SciFi Shelf

The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy: The Oni's Shamisen
Claire Youmans
American I
9781733902076, $24.99 Paper/$6.49 Kindle

The Oni's Shamisen is the ninth book in the Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy series for young adults interested in Asian historical fiction and fantasy alike, and continues the saga set in early Japan.

It's 1877, and Toki-Girl Azuki is experiencing newfound freedom and success as her fabric patterns expand and attract new business. When the Oni, Kukanko, calls upon Azuki and her brother, Sparrow-Boy Shota, for help, they are again drawn into political conflict that tests not only their lives and mettle, but the forces working to change Japan forever.

Readers need not have prior familiarity with either the books in this series of Japan's Meiji Era of history, although both will lend a fuller flavor and understanding to the events that transpire in Book 9, which weave through both to expand Azuki and Shota's lives and futures. The magical realism which weaves through the story feels like more a part of Japanese reality and daily life than an oddity, blended so seamlessly into evolving conflicts and affairs that one could easily come to believe in its actual presence in and influence on Japanese history.

From family relationships and the process of giving birth to new generations, to dragons who love and live alongside humans and harbor their own special interests, Claire Youmans crafts a lovely intersection between history and fantasy that will draw readers in all age groups, from middle school well into adulthood.

The tension is well developed, yet time is taken to explore and describe the physical and political environments of Japan that form the foundations of not just Azuki and Shota's lives, but a host of other characters whose interests and purposes flesh out the story.

Black and white art from collections around the world add visual embellishment to bring to life this latest incarnation of Toki-Girl and Sparrow-Boy's world, while prose captures the milieu in equally vivid ways: "Among Western dragons, he knew was considered good-looking, with his deep earthen browns studded with the tones of the minerals in his lands, mostly black and yellow, though there were others here and there. He gave that little credence, because he was a prince and a powerful one. Those attributes might improve anybody's looks. His muzzle was pointed and his upper fangs slightly overlapped his lower lip. When he opened his mouth, it was possible to glimpse the fire within, which he could direct in anything from a focused jet to a wide blast or use to emit a finger or a pillar or a cloud of smoke."

While younger readers will be attracted by vivid scenes involving Dragon Kings and conflicts, to call this book (and the series) a children's read would be to do it a grave injustice. It's replete with social and political observation, as well as history, which adults also will find equally compelling. Whether you deem it a story of magical realism or a Japanese social and political history, The Oni's Shamisen defies pat categorization. It represents a powerful, multifaceted read highly recommended for any collection with fiction steeped in Japanese culture and magical realism alike.

Dawn of the Watchers
Winn Taylor
Independently Published
9798986053714, $14.99 Paper/$4.99 ebook, 286pp

Young adult and adult sci-fi readers who enjoy metaphysical elements of magical realism in their stories will find these and more in Dawn of the Watchers. It's a tale that began in Rise of the Protector, which introduced Jinx and her attempt to free Laris from a simulated world that attracted and entrapped those seeking enlightenment.

The story continues in this second book, where Jinx and her team faces the challenge of traversing galaxies in order to fulfill a prophecy that, ironically, initially holds little attraction to her.

Some heroes aren't trying to save the world. And some don't even aim to be heroes. The subtitle of this adventure reflects its mercurial nature as Jinx moves away from any definition of safety and into an endeavor marked by hard science and difficult decisions.

Winn Taylor embeds Jinx's revelations and world with this hard science. This will delight readers looking for edgy stories that operate on the cutting edges of enlightenment and scientific process.

The sense of discovery and opportunity are thus presented on two different levels that juxtapose variables unique to metaphysical and scientific realms alike.

A sense of humor also adds an undercurrent of fun to the serious adventure, creating references that readers will find unexpected and attractive: "Jinx regarded the creature for a moment, deciding to keep it jovial. Pressing through the bodies, she squeezed up to the bar. Thumbing towards her new pest, she yelled, "Can I get two of these hallucination cocktails?"

The story line is marked by fast-paced action that makes for an engrossing story readers will find fun and thought-provoking, as well has hard to put down: "Hey, hold up." Jinx threw out her arm, bringing Jacob to a pause. "I think I saw something near the opening of the pyramid."

"What? What do you mean, something?" Jacob stammered.

"Dunno. I'm gonna check it out. Wait here."

"What?" Jacob jerked his attention to follow Jinx's line of sight. "You expect me to just sit here like bait?"

The result is a top recommendation for readers who like their sci-fi unpredictable, fast-paced, and science-based. The metaphysical elements and changing interpersonal relationships create a compelling saga driven by a spunky, memorable young woman who captures the irony in making thinking nerds the centerpiece of a proactive adventure: "Standing around chewing on concepts was excruciating. But she knew that heading out, guns blazing, in an effort to track down Sartillias wasn't going to get results."

Young adult to adult sci-fi adventure enthusiasts will find plenty to relish in Dawn of the Watchers, a story that stands out from the crowd and ends with more than a hint of ongoing adventure from future books expanding Jinx's saga.

Discovery of the Five Senses
K.N. Smith
Two Petals Publishing
9780989474757, $12.95 Paper/$2.99 Kindle

What do you get when you combine sci-fi, mystery, and suspense in a story for teens? You receive a compelling adventure that is hard to put down, inviting young adults to partake of a high-octane drama.

The story opens at midnight, where Ross Dawson is confronting his friend Joaquin, maintaining that he is "not the same." A search for youthful adventure brought them to these woods and this dark place, but a quest for power is dividing them. A forbidden preserve is the focal point for conflict and change as the group of friends test their newfound sensory powers and explore new relationships with themselves and each other.

K. N. Smith evolves the story on different levels that include the psychological changes and interactions of friends who are coming into special abilities and the different choices they portend, and the new issues these gifts bring to their families and futures. Smith's story not only tackles the evil outside, but the inner uncertainty and explorations of boys who stand on the cusp of making adult decisions.

A quote by Jackie Robinson presented within the story perfectly captures its theme: 'A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.' Smith's ability to capture this impact and consider the options and choices these characters make as they mature and face various demons lends to an attractive read.

Its ability to present as an adventure story of extraordinary abilities but then move young adults into more thought-provoking scenarios of growth and revelation makes Discovery of the Five Senses an especially recommended pick for libraries seeking the draw of action coupled with the attraction of experiences that introduce new growth to each of its young characters.

KyRose Takes A Leap
Cicek Bricault
KyRose Press LLC
9780578382326, $TBA Paperback/Ebook

Readers in grades 5-8 who look for STEAM novels encouraging literacy and presenting problem-solving viewpoints will welcome the blend of magical realism and struggles with acceptance and unusual talents explored by KyRose, whose special ability to talk to animals alienates her from her peers.

KyRose's life in 2030 is filled with high-tech wonders and accompanying challenges that spice the typical dilemma of a different child who just wants to fit in.

Her special knowledge allows her to communicate with all creatures, from insects to mammals, but also charges her with helping them survive the human world: A tickle runs over my ankle. Time slows. I bend down, staring into the grasshopper's eyes. "What are you doing on this field? There's no food." I brush my hand over the prickly blades of plastic grass.

"Huh? I must have taken a wrong turn," the grasshopper says. She lifts her wings. That's how grasshoppers hear - through a tiny organ near the base of their hind legs.

Coach Hartley shouts orders for us, seventh-grade girls, to line up for jumping jacks.

I lean against the goal post. "You can't stay here. We're in the middle of P.E. You'll get crushed!" I look over, past the school building, onto the street where self-driving cars swerve around each other like synchronized swimmers. My eyes keep combing. "There!" I point to the cluster of oak trees opposite the bleachers. "Come on." I cup the grasshopper. She darts back and forth against my palms. "Don't worry," I whisper, "I'll keep you safe."

As she tackles friendships, social events, and the task of inventing new devices, KyRose finds that her drive to be a champion earns her recognition, but comes with newfound responsibilities and revelations that change her life perspective.

Cicek Bricault's engaging blend of magical realism and a girl's realistic, technology-influenced life will engage those who enjoy stories that operate on the edgy boundary of fantasy and fiction.

KyRose's new discoveries lead her to grow in unexpected ways that both embrace her talents and revise her relationships.

With its intrigue, discovery, problem-solving, and extraordinary encounters, Cicek Bricault has created an engaging story to attract STEAM learners.

KyRose Takes A Leap is highly recommended for advanced elementary to middle school readers. They will relish this captivating story of a girl who decides when to take risks and how to accept more responsibility as a leader.

The Indigo
Heather Siegel
Stone Tiger Books LLC
9798985824025, $9.95 Paper/$2.99 Kindle

Young adult fantasy readers who look for stories that incorporate metaphysical, fantasy, and real-life dilemmas will find The Indigo an attractive choice that promises a satisfying mix of all these elements and more.

Sixteen-year-old Jett never expected to be a decision-maker about her mother's death or the fate of her soul, but when her mother is placed on life support, Jett finds herself in the unusual position of embarking on a journey to elsewhere to find where her mother has gone and return her to her body before the plug is pulled. Jett once visited the place she thinks that soul now resides, but only her friend Farold, an amateur quantum physicist, believes in this possibility. His attempt to help Jett return to that milieu to find her mother and bring her back places him in a similar position of making hard decisions.

Heather Siegel creates a compelling story of astral projection and travel, grief, proactive measures to save loved ones, and a girl's conviction that she is doing the right thing against all odds. The story features exceptionally strong characterization and threads of discovery and revelation that are solidly centered on first-person descriptions and experiences. The timeline to her choices also presents conflicts as Jett struggles with reality, fantasy, and the nature of a death that is not quite complete.

Readers who initially choose The Indigo for its fantasy or metaphysical elements may be surprised to find that its psychological explorations are just as astute and attractive.

As the story unfolds, it turns out that its strength lies equally in its ability to traverse guilt, rescue efforts, loss, and changing connections between friends and family during this process. Siegel creates a story that supplements its thriller components with this satisfying overlay of psychological depth. This creates a rich read highly recommended not just for YA fantasy and metaphysical readers, but for those who would connect to the protagonist and her special dilemma through an emotional draw that keeps events both fast-paced and thought-provoking.

The Portly Lady
Theresa Nellis
Atmosphere Press
9781639883301, $12.99

Book Two of the young adult fantasy series Keeper of the Mirror, The Portly Lady, requires little prior familiarity with the first book in the series, as Theresa Nellis opens the story with a prologue explaining the elven world of Duendere and the history and influences leading up to the first chapter.

The Portly Lady (Claudia) comes to life from the opening lines of the story, painting main character Peter's grandmother in a questionable light as it is revealed that she is a dark elf whose powers and concerns are anything but staid. This inheritance has rubbed off on Peter, who takes a dim view of the cackling old woman who often seems lost in a haze of memories and regrets.

Family strengths, angst, and an uncertain legacy permeate Peter's life from the start of his story as he grapples with the truth about his estranged father, his past, and his own jealousy and anger. He's always viewed his parents as "his lot in life." This inheritance is about to become much more as he comes to realize that acceptance and strength don't necessarily go hand in hand, especially for a new dark elf coming into his powers.

Theresa Nellis includes all the trappings of a gripping fantasy: a son at odds over his family connections, a missing father; a world on the cusp of change; and a mysterious legacy that involves a banishment, a dangerous truth, and a hidden drive for revenge. Her young protagonist doesn't operate on the side of good, but stands as firmly in the middle of a maelstrom of magical issues and influences as he straddles the fine line between good and evil. Not necessarily a flawed character, Peter is struggling with what has been handed to him -- a series of mistruths and misconceptions about the world and his place in it, which charges him to determine what role he will play in its future.

Unlike most protagonists, this young man is determined to make his mark on those who have warped his life. This makes his coming of age especially uncertain and understandable as readers who face their own troubled family secrets and situations absorb Peter's influences and the wellsprings of his angst.

Nellis makes Peter's self-absorbed perspective come to life without the usual altruistic focus that young adult fantasy too often harbors. This imparts a more realistic feel to her characters, who don't always choose the path of righteousness and good behavior in response to adversity. The result is a powerful story that centers on Peter, but includes Zack, Sully, and a host of other characters' decisions and special challenges.

Young adults will find The Portly Lady an attractive, multifaceted fantasy that includes many observations about character, choice, and family interactions. Libraries seeking young adult fantasies that go the extra mile to create realistic characters will find The Portly Lady steps away from formula genre writing for a sense of something satisfyingly different.

The Christian Shelf

Bare Tree and Little Wind: A Story for Holy Week
Mitali Perkins, author
Khoa Le, illustrator
WaterBrook Press
c/o WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group
10807 New Allegiance Drive Suite 500, Colorado Springs, CO 80921
9780593234877, $15.99, HC, 40pp

Synopsis: Little Wind and the trees of Jerusalem can't wait for Real King to visit. But Little Wind is puzzled when the king doesn't look how he expected. His wise friend Bare Tree helps him learn that sometimes strength is found in sacrifice, and new life can spring up even when all hope seems lost.

"Bare Tree and Little Wind: A Story for Holy Week" is a picture book story that stands apart for its imagination, endearing characters, and how it weaves Old Testament imagery into Holy Week and the promise of Jesus's triumphant return. While the youngest readers will connect to the curious Little Wind, older children and parents will appreciate the layers of meaning and Scriptural references in the story, making it a book families can enjoy together year after year.

Critique: A lyrical, captivating retelling of the Palm Sunday and Easter story from National Book Award nominee Mitali Perkins and beautifully illustrated with the artwork of Khoa Le, "Bare Tree and Little Wind: A Story for Holy Week" is certain to appeal to families of faith. While also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99), "Bare Tree and Little Wind: A Story for Holy Week" is a unique and very highly recommended addition to family, daycare center, preschool, Sunday School, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for children ages 3-7.

Editorial Note #1: Mitali Perkins has written many books for young readers, including You Bring the Distant Near and Rickshaw Girl. She has been nominated for a National Book Award, honored as a "Most Engaging Author" by independent booksellers, and selected as a "Literary Light for Children" by the Associates of the Boston Public Library. Mitali was born in Kolkata, India, before immigrating to the United States. She has a dedicated website at

Editorial Note #2: Khoa Le is the author and illustrator of numerous picture books. She has been honored by the Singapore Book Council as the winner of the Grand Prize Samsung KidsTime Authors Award and the second runner-up of the Scholastic Picture Book Award. She has a dedicated website at

God Rescues: Moses and the Exodus
Jared Kennedy, author
Trish Mahoney, illustrator
New Growth Press
1301 Carolina Street, #L101, Greensboro, NC 27401
9781645072522, $12.99, Board Book, 30pp

Synopsis: The message of "God Rescues: Moses and the Exodus" is that just as God watched over and rescued his Israelite people from Egyptian slavery in ancient times, even now we are safe with Jesus. The perfect Passover lamb helps us remember God's promise to forgive, and he keeps his promise to forgive today through Jesus, the Lamb of God.

Author/storyteller Jared Kennedy uses simple words and concepts to help toddlers and preschoolers understand that God takes care of us and always keeps his promises. This beautifully illustrated board book for ages three to five is part of the Beginner's Gospel Story Book series.

The preschool-friendly pictures by artist/illustrator Trish Mahoney in "God Rescues: Moses and the Exodus" will also help teach children about shapes, colors, and counting. Children will be captivated by the bright, modern illustrations and the simple encouraging content will turn their hearts to Jesus.

Critique: Fun and inspiring, "God Rescues: Moses and the Exodus" is especially and unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, church, and community library board book collections for children ages 3-5.

Editorial Note #1: Jared Kennedy, MDiv, ThM, is the cofounder and managing editor of Gospel-Centered Family, a ministry that helps churches and families share Jesus with the next generation. He also serves as the family and parenting channel editor for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, is a member of the theological advisory council for Harbor Network, and is an adjunct professor at Boyce College. He is the author of The Beginner's Gospel Story Bible, Keeping Your Children's Ministry on Mission, Jesus Rose for Me, Jesus Came for Me, Jesus Is Bigger Than Me, God Rescues, and God Made Me for Worship, and has developed two VBS programs, Proof Pirates and Clap Your Hands, Stomp Your Feet. He blogs regularly at Gospel-Centered Family and contributes to @TGC, @ERLC, and @HeReadsTruth. You can follow him on Twitter @jaredskennedy. He and his wife, Megan, have three girls.

Editorial Note #2: Trish Mahoney is a graphic designer and illustrator in Salem, Oregon, where she runs The Mahoney Studio with her husband, Patrick, who is also a designer and illustrator. Trish is the illustrator for the God Made Me series and The Beginner's Gospel Story Bible. She has a personal/professional website at

The Stories of God (and Kiki)
Dave Connis, author
Amy Domingo, illustrator
WaterBrook Press
c/o WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group
10807 New Allegiance Drive Suite 500, Colorado Springs, CO 80921
9780593233573, $12.99, HC, 40pp

Synopsis: Kiki is a little girl who aspires to become an author and illustrator who weaves daring tales about swashbuckling otters, all-knowing sea cucumbers, and nail-biting rescues from the clutches of gerblins (part gerbil, part goblin). But where do her imagination, creativity, and ideas come from?

Meet God, the author of all stories. He writes adventurous tales such as Esther Saves Her Family and Friends, Jesus and the Tomb that Couldn't Hold Him, and the Story of Kiki.

Kiki loves to write but sometimes she forgets to include important pieces (like the time she forgot to give the ship's cook a kitchen). God also loves to write, and He knows exactly what every story needs. They are both writing their biggest story of all, and the endings are bound to be incredible.

Children and parents alike will delight in the playful illustrations, imaginative side stories, and the gentle reminder that the image of God is alive in each of us.

Critique: Fun and inspiring, "The Stories of God (and Kiki)" is a very charming picture book by the team of author/storyteller Dave Connis and artist/illustrator Amy Domingo. While also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99), "The Stories of God (and Kiki)" is appropriate and recommended for family, church, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library Christian fiction collections for children ages 3-7.

Editorial Note #1: Dave Connis is a former librarian and the author of The Inventions of God (and Eva) and several YA novels, including The Temptation of Adam and Suggested Reading, recipient of a starred review from Kirkus Reviews. He has an informative website at

Editorial Note #2: Amy Domingo is an illustrator and designer based in the Philippines. She illustrated The Inventions of God (and Eva). Inspired by her personal faith and sense of wonder, her art playfully brings Scripture truths to life. She has a personal/professional website at

The Biography Shelf

Carlo Acutis: God's Computer Genius
Ellen Labrecque, author
Dan Wegendt, illustrator
Pauline Books & Media
50 St. Paul's Avenue, Boston, MA 02130-3433
9780819817006, $21.95, HC, 80pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "Carlo Acutis: God's Computer Genius" by author/biographer Ellen Labrecque and artist/illustrator Dan Wegendt, young readers are introduced to Carlo -- an Italian fifteen-year-old techie who loved coding, video games, animals, and also lived a life that put him on the highway to heaven!

Blessed Carlo Acutis was a vibrant, faith-filled Italian teenager who loved technology and the Eucharist. Set to become the first millennial saint, this kid-friendly biography is the perfect introduction to Carlo's fascinating and moving story.

Critique: Ellen Labrecque has written over 100 books for children on everything from sports to outer space. This is her first book for Pauline Books & Media and it is an extraordinary introduction to an extraordinary young man. Informatively enhanced with the inclusion of illustrations and informative sidebars, this inspired and inspiring edition of "Carlo Acutis: God's Computer Genius" is especially and unreservedly recommended for all members of the Catholic community, but especially for young readers ages 8-11.

The Self-Help Shelf

Connected: Discovering Your Inner Guides
Seema Desai, author
James Ballance, illustrator
The Jai Jais Ltd.,
Copyright of Seema Desai and James Ballance
9781916324220 $9.99 PB, $3.99 Kindle, 50pp

Synopsis: "Connected: Discovering Your Inner Guides, A Kid's Guide to Navigating Their Emotions" is a handbook to help uncover inner pathways to peace through helpful practices of simple meditation, listening and learning to connect with one's own inner guides to promote peace and understanding. A helpful introduction gives instruction to kids about how to use the book, and to adults for how to encourage kids in their use of the tools taught in the book, and tips about exploring with their own inner guides.

"Connected: Discovering Your Inner Guides" is described as divided into three parts. The first part introduces you to your inner guides who can be helpful when encountering tough issues and the thorns of life. The second part teaches simple techniques such as meditation to connect with inner guides in time of trouble. The third part explores how to stay connected with your inner guides even during peaceful times so they are close to you when you need their help.

The Inner Guides are described or named as Curiosity, your Inner Guards, Fun, Creativity, Balance, Hope, Empathy, Strength, and Individuality. Helpful exercises include one called tapping, where you tap out your frustrations with your fingers to balance the energy in your body. Another meditation suggests the child envision himself glowing with golden inner light, saying "I bring peace, love, and kindness to those near me and far away."

Ways of helping to stay connected with your Inner Guides include keeping a gratitude journal, checking into your body, tapping the replay button, and more. Another tool is called Putting on Your Perspective Goggles.

Critique: Exercises are illustrated with charming black and white drawings of a kid seeking helpful contact with his/her Inner Guides. "Connected: Discovering Your Inner Guides" is a perceptive, appealing introduction to self understanding designed to appeal to kids but also relevant for adults. It is surely a helpful guide for both kids and adults, parents, teachers, and others who care about kids. Always sensitive, never heavy handed, "Connected: Discovering Your Inner Guides" can be a valuable resource for kids facing challenging times or just coping with living.

A Spot of New
P. Anastasia, author
Zoe Saunders, illustrator
Jackal Moon Press
9781952425035, $18.99, HC, 38pp

Synopsis: The underlying message of "A Spot of New" by author/storyteller, P. Anastasia and artist/illustrator Zoe Saunders is that while new experiences can be scary, colorful surprises await those brave enough to try them. In the pages of this thoroughly 'kid friendly' picture book, children will taking the first step, diving on in, and learn to fly. Discovering how curiosity and kindness can send you soaring to new heights. How not to be afraid because a fun-filled adventure can be ahead, and any new journey begins with them!

"A Spot of New" will inspire courage in those children seeking to chase their dreams in light of fear and uncertainty.

Critique: Charming, entertaining, original, and just plain fun, "A Spot of New" is ideal reading for children ages 4-8. While especially and unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library Life Skills picture book collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "A Spot of New" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9781952425042, $12.99).

Editorial Note #1: P. Anastasia is the author of nine novels and two children's picture books. Her fresh take on storytelling resonates with mystery, charm, and a little bit of magic -- the embodiment of her unique writing style. She has a dedicated website at

Editorial Note #2: Artist and illustrator Zoe Saunders has an informative and dedicated website at

Everything in Its Place
Pauline David-Sax, author
Charnelle Pinkney Barlow, illustrator
Doubleday Books for Young Readers
c/o Random House Children's Books
9780593378823, $17.99, HC, 40pp

Synopsis: Nicky is a shy young girl who feels most at home in the safe space of her school library, but the library closes for a week and Nicky is forced to face her social anxiety. When she meets a group of unique, diverse, inspiring women at her mother's diner (members of a women's motorcycle club) Nicky realizes that being different doesn't have to mean being alone, and that there's a place for everyone.

Critique: A unique picture book with an important underlying value message for children ages 3-7, "Everything in Its Place: A Story of Books and Belonging" is both entertaining and inspirational showcasing how words and reading 'help us find empathy and connections with the world around us'. While also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99), "Everything in Its Place: A Story of Books and Belonging" by the team of author/storyteller Pauline David-Sax and artist/illustrator Charnelle Pinkney Barlow is especially and unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school and community library 'Life Lesson' picture book collections.

Editorial Note #1: Pauline David-Sax is a playwright, author, and educator living in Brooklyn. She worked in New York City public schools for eighteen years before turning her attention to writing. "Everything In Its Place" is Pauline's debut children's book and was inspired by her friendship with the Sirens Women's Motorcycle Club in New York City. Pauline's play "How We Survived" was awarded the 2020 Jane Chambers Prize, and her play "Cotton's Tale" was selected as a finalist for the 2021 Susan Glaspell Contest. Pauline has a dedicated website at and can be followed on Twitter at @Pauline_D_S

Editorial Note #2: Charnelle Pinkney Barlow grew up surrounded by art, and was inspired by the world of watercolor. She received her BFA in Illustration from the University of the Arts and her MFA in Illustration as Visual Essay from the School of Visual Arts. Charnelle's children's book illustrations include "Everything in its Place" and "The Real Santa". She has a dedicated website at and can be followed on Instagram at @callmechartreuse

Books in Series

Emerald Books
c/o YWAM Publishing
PO Box 55787, Seattle, WA 98155

The outstanding "Heroes of History" series by Janet and Geoff Benge has five particularly appropriate titles for school and community library American Biography collections.

"Dwight Eisenhower: Supreme Cmmander" (9781624861420, $9.99 PB, $21.99 CD) is the story of Dwight David Eisenhower who grew up poor in Abilene, Kansas. After graduating from the US Military Academy at West Point, Ike entered army service, commanding tank training in WWI and afterward, serving in Central America, Europe, and the Philippines. During WWII Ike directed US forces in Europe, eventually becoming supreme commander of Allied forces and leading the invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe. A lifetime of service, sacrifice, and humility shone brightly on the world stage for the brilliant general who would become the thirty-fourth president of the United States (1890-1969).

"Ronald Reagan: Destiny at His Side" (, $9.99 PB, $7.50 Kindle, $21.99 CD) is the story of how, from his early days living in small-town poverty, young Ronald 'Dutch' Reagan's thoughts were always on the future. Whether helping his family through financial hard times or doggedly pursuing opportunities reserved for the few, Dutch knew that all the knowledge that he had absorbed over the years was waiting inside of him for a chance to come out. Achieving success as an athlete, sports announcer, and actor, Ronald Reagan discovered his greatest role late in life, as the fortieth president of the United States and The Great Communicator, a man with the ability to reach out to the American people and leave a lasting legacy.

"Billy Graham: America's Pastor" (9781624860249, $9.99 PB, $7.50 Kindle, $21.99 CD). As the oldest son of dairy farmers from Charlotte, North Carolina, William Franklin Graham Jr. (November 7, 1918 - February 21, 2018) attended evangelical revival meetings that inspired him for the rest of his life. As an ordained minister, he rose to prominence and would subsequently preach the Christian message to over 200 million people in 185 countries. Graham championed civil rights, befriended US politicians and presidents, and traveled the world to places no one else dared to go. His life and ministry have shaped the spiritual life of America and offer hope for the future -- inspiring new generations of leaders willing to serve with courage, integrity, and vision.

"Douglas MacArthur: What Greater Honor" (9781932096156, $9.99 PB, $7.50 Kindle, $16.99 CD). Under siege on the island of Corregidor, General Douglas MacArthur received a warning from the enemy. "You are well aware that you are doomed," the Japanese general wrote. "The end is near. The question is how long you will be able to resist. You are advised to surrender." Of course, there was no way Douglas was going to surrender. Whether masterminding battle strategies or guiding the peace process among war-torn nations, 5-Star general MacArthur faced challenges with unwavering courage & resolve. The general began his honored army career by leading his fellow cadets at West Point and ultimately commanded all U. S. forces in Asia. Remembered especially for directing the fight against Japanese expansion during WWII and later governing the defeated Japanese people with grace and wisdom, General MacArthur won the respect of millions, both allies and enemies.

"Louis Zamperini: Redemption" (9781624860492, $9.99 PB, $7.50 Kindle, $16.99 Audio) As an Olympic runner, a bombardier in the Army Air Corps, and a prisoner of war, Louis Zamperini was determined to thrive and survive. Never backing down from a challenge, he lived a life of adventure while modeling hope and forgiveness to a generation. A magnet for trouble as a boy, Louie determined to create a new path for himself. Nicknamed the "Torrance Tornado," he set national records and traveled to the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin. His resolve as a runner was matched by his will to survive a plane crash, weeks adrift at sea, and years in a prison camp. This American hero encouraged countless others to have faith and to persevere through trials, revealing that no life is beyond redemption.

All five of these exceptional biographies of American heros for young readers ages 10-14 are especially and unreservedly recommended for family, elementary school, middle school, and community library American Biography 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.

Mommy's Love
Anastasia Galkina, author
Ekaterina Ladatko, illustrator
9781641706650, $8.99

Christine Irvin

Touching illustrations and tender sentiments make for an enjoyable board book about a mother's love. The text is written in rhyme and the rhyme scheme is a bit forced in several places, taking away from the overall positive effect of the book. (Ages baby-3)

Ruth Forman, author
Talia Skyles, illustrator
Little Simon
9781665903035, $8.99

Christine Irvin

Introduce young readers to the idea of self-love in a simple, playful rhythm with this luminous story where each little girl is as unique and beautiful as a blossoming flower. This is a beautiful book with a beautiful sentiment with vibrant illustrations. However, the theme seems a little too advanced for a board book format. (Ages baby-3)

How to Dress a Dinosaur
Robin Currie, author
Alycia Pace, illustrator
9781641706438, $8.99

Christine Irvin

The imaginative text and expressive, kid-friendly illustrations of this cute book combine perfectly to show the struggles a mother has when her child decides to be a dinosaur for the day. This is a theme everyone will appreciate. (Baby-3)

Little Buckaroo and Lou
Jennifer Sattler
Sleeping Bear Press
9781534111592, $8.99

Christine Irvin

Written in the style of "One, two, buckle my shoe," this delightful counting book features Little Buckaroo and his sidekick, a horse named Lou. Read and count along as Little Buckaroo and Lou make their way through the barnyard. There are two interactive pages at the end of this board book that will add to everyone's fun. (Ages 2-4)

Mary Murphy
Candlewick Press
9781536217698, $17.99

Anita Lock

While stars grace the dark sky just before the rising of the sun, "Chirp, says the sparrow." Bold backdrops shift from dark to light hues with blackened-shaped birds at the forefront to announce the calls of various birds while a tiny bluebird watches. The unique sounds build to one cacophonous moment as the sun rises and the rooster crows. Then everything hushes when the bluebird says, "It's my turn to sing. Zi... zip... zippy... zi... Zippy-zip..." Chirp! is a celebration of individuality filled one engaging page after the next with glorious onomatopoeia set within scant sentences. A fun anytime read! (Age 2-5)

Before the World Wakes
Estelle Laure, author
Paola Zakimi, illustrator
Two Lions
9781542028837, $17.99

Anita Lock

A girl narrates it's not the ordinary things (i.e., gathering with friends at school, going to an open market, and taking a bath) that make the "nicest time of day." It's going outside with her brother just as the sun rises in the morning when "everything is still gentle and quietish." Muted mixed media combined with simple and personified prose ("The snails do a slow dance, flowers turn their faces to watch") exemplify a unique and tender moment in a sibling's relationship as they explore the world through their childlike eyes. (Age 2-7)

What I Can Do With My Hands
Sheila C. Duperrier
9798801798035, $7.99

Deb Greenberg

Follow along with little Reina as she demonstrates the many amazing things we can do with our fingers and hands. Playing games, making puppets, baking a cake, building blocks, and climbing a tree are only some of the wonderful ways to use our hands. Indoors or outdoors, there are tons of activities. Bright and cheerful illustrations with rhyming text teach kids that they can share a toy, write their name, and even learn sign language to speak to the deaf. So get started now, tapping and snapping with your little one. (Ages 2-7)

Bubble Head, It's Time for Bed!
Misty Black, author
Ana Rankovic, illustrator
Berry Patch Press
9781951292393, $12.99

Deb Greenberg

Let your kids splish splash in a bubble bath as this boy takes them on an adventure while learning the days of the week, proper hygiene habits, and a regular routine: brush teeth, put on PJs, read a story, and then tuck tuck. Sunday Sailor, Tuesday T-Rex, Thursday Thief... play along in the bubble magic. Includes some fun facts and a routine starter in the back of the book. (Ages 2-7)

Grandmas Are for Love
Misty Black, author
Marina Batrak, illustrator
Berry Patch Press
9781951292263, $8.99

Deb Greenberg

Snuggle up with Koala as he gets to spend a few days with his favorite person: Grandma! They sing, take a drive, play games, build a fort, and read books together. Her baked sweets, shared stories, and hugs are amazing ... Grandmas are for giving love. The cuddly illustrations add even more warmth, and the included questions, a family tree to fill out, and a form letter for when you can't be together complete this adorable package. Perfect for bonding with your someone special. (Ages 2-8)

The Gecko Without an Echo
Cheryl Denise Bannerman, author
Anushka Bansal, illustrator
Independently Published
9798985401523, $18.49

Deb Greenberg

Roam the woods with best friends Earl the Squirrel and Tim the Gecko, as Tim tries to figure out why his voice has no echo. Mother Nature must be mad at him, he surmises. See what Tim learns about communication and friendship when they stumble upon a cave with a pond, with sand as white as snow and water with the bluest glow. A sweet, rhyming story with soft and inviting illustrations teaches readers that friends are there for each other. (Ages 2-8)

Periwinkle Smith and the Lonely Star
John & Wendy
Charge Mommy Books
9781955947299, $18.99

Deb Greenberg

One night when looking out at the starlit sky, Periwinkle Smith sees a star shining brightly all by itself. She doesn't want the little star to be alone, so she sets out to tell him that she'll be his friend. She attempts to send her message in several creative ways, but none of them work. Join Periwinkle to see if she can accomplish the mission of her wild imagination. A sweet story with a message about kindness and friendship. (Ages 3-7)

I'm a Unicorn
Helen Yoon
Candlewick Press
9781536219760, $17.99

Deb Greenberg

After reading that "uni" means one and "corn" means horn, a little calf born with one horn attempts to confirm his unicorn identity. But with no moonlight sparkle or rainbow poop, doubt sets in. Soon the disappointment turns to excitement after an unexpected encounter with a pack of "real" unicorns. A silly tale with adorable illustrations that teaches an important lesson about acceptance and openness. (Ages 3-7)

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

Diana Perry

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. This is a great tool for any child trying to cope with the divorce of their parents. It shows that you won't hurt forever. (Ages 3-7)

Jack and Jill and the Man in the Moon
Tamra Andrews, author
Claudie C. Bergeron, illustrator
Independently Published
9798985671537, $9.99

Deb Greenberg

Based on an ancient Scandinavian legend, this rhyming picture book tells an enchanting story accompanied by soft and colorful illustrations to dazzle your little one. When the people of ancient Sweden looked at the patterns of light and dark on the lunar surface, they saw not a "man in the moon" but two children, Hjuki and Bil. Read on to follow the kids as they climb a hill to fetch a pail of water and the moon sweeps them into the sky. A delightful, educational, and entertaining adventure. (Ages 3-8)

Pruett and Soo
Nancy Viau, author
Jorge Lacera, illustrator
Two Lions
9781542043427, $17.99

Anita Lock

Pruett (from Planet Monochrome) only knows about black, white, and gray. Soo (from Planet Prismatic), who is all about brilliant colors, becomes a classmate at Monochrome's Acrylic Academy. Pruett isn't sure he knows what to do with Soo's colorful questions that go against the school rules until he finds her alone on the playground. He decides to be brave and asks her if she'd like to play tag. What unfolds is an amazing transformation and a perfect blending that can only come from getting to know each other. A playfully kaleidoscopic tale of inclusiveness that is both eye-catching and eye-opening. (Ages 4-8)

Finding Fire
Logan S. Kline
Candlewick Press
9781536213027, $18.99

Deb Greenberg

The only words you'll read in this book are on the first page of this remarkably illustrated and heartwarming story about a young boy tasked with the responsibility to search for more fire after a hard rain douses the family fire. Along the way, he meets rugged mountains, frightening predators, raging rivers ... and an extraordinary friend. You and your little ones are bound to be engaged, fascinated, and enlightened by this picture book adventure told through the compelling drawings of the very talented Logan S. Kline. (Ages 4-8)

Gardens Are for Growing
Chelsea Tornetto, author
Hsulynn Pang, illustrator
9781641706469, $17.99

Diana Perry

All children should read a book like this. In this tender poem, the love between a father and daughter blossoms alongside the seeds they plant together. As the garden grows, the daughter grows from a toddler to a teen and finally to a woman with a child of her own. The cottagecore illustrations beautifully connect the seasons of nature with the seasons of life, where new beginnings abound. (Ages 5-8)

Book Buddies: Marco Polo Brave Explorer
Cynthia Lord, author
Stephanie Graegin, illustrator
Candlewick Press
9781536213553, $12.99

Diana Perry

Marco Polo is a retired Christmas ornament, but in his mind he is a great mouse explorer. Because he's tiny and likely to be lost, he is the least-borrowed of the Book Buddies - toys that children can check out of the library just like a book - and he almost never leaves the library. But the little mouse finally meets the right match in Seth, a boy who is about to attend his first sleepover. Early Readers will love following the clues along with the kids in the story. On a rainy day, this book would keep any Early Reader happy to be inside. (Ages 6-9)

The World of Emily Windsnap: Emily's Big Discovery
Liz Kessler, author
Joanie Stone, illustrator
Candlewick Press
9781536225549, $5.99

Diana Perry

Even though she lives in a houseboat, Emily Windsnap doesn't know how to swim. Her mother has always cautioned her to stay out of the water. But it's hard to make friends at the beach when everyone else is having fun in the waves! So when swimming lessons start at school, Emily is excited to finally have the chance to learn. Standing beside the pool, she feels the water calling her, but when she jumps in, she gets a strange, kind of scary sensation. Eager to figure out what's happening, Emily later dives into the sea. She gets that weird feeling again, but this time she looks down to see that her legs are gone - replaced by a shiny, beautiful tail! This is the first in this adorable series for early readers. (Ages 6-9)

Crimson Twill: Witch in the City
Kallie George, author
Birgitta Sif, illustrator
Candlewick Press
9781536214635, $14.99

Diana Perry

Crimson Twill is a little witch, but you might not know it. She lives in the country and loves polka dots and puppies instead of pointy shoes and black dresses. She even wears a big bow on her hat - which is crimson, just like her name. Tonight, for the very first time, Crimson is riding on her mother's broom all the way to New Wart City to go shopping at Broomingdale's! But is Broomingdale's ready for a witch as unique as Crimson? This is another great book to read at bedtime to give early readers the sweetest of dreams. (Ages 7-9)

Marvin's Monster Diary 4: Neighborhood Bully
Dr. Raun Melmed with Caroline Bliss Larsen, authors
Arief Kriembonga, illustrator
9781641704632, $12.99

Diana Perry

It's the clawsomest time of year: summer vacation! All Marvin and his friends want is to enjoy their turf - the park across the street - and play superheroes to their hearts' content. But when bullies arise, so does conflict. Suddenly a power struggle erupts over playground dibs. It's Marvin and his band of Super Scarers versus Drake the Dreadful and his too-cool-for-school henchmen! This book will have early readers thinking about different ways to handle bullies. The best answer isn't what you'd think. It's a great example on how to turn a bad situation into a good one. (Ages 7-9)

F is for Feathers: A Bird Alphabet
Helen Wilbur, author
Andy Atkins, illustrator
Sleeping Bear Press
9781534111400, $17.99

Christine Irvin

This alphabet book is about birds, with each letter of the alphabet standing for something to do with birds, as in the letter "F" standing for "feathers." Each letter is accompanied by a small poem and a wealth of trivia about that topic. Beautiful illustrations and extra information in the back of the book enhance the overall aesthetics, usefulness, and interest of this book. (Ages 7-10)

Christine McDonnell, author
Victoria Tentler-Krylov, illustrator
Candlewick Press
9781536211290, $18.99

Christine Irvin

This is the true story of Kip Tiernan, a woman who saw a need and filled it. Kip grew up helping her granny feed the hungry men who showed up at their door during the Great Depression. She developed a burden to help those in need. While serving in food lines, she noticed many women dressed as men, standing in line for a free meal. The general consensus was that homelessness was limited to man, but Kip realized this wasn't so. Colorful and expressive illustrations coupled with interesting text combine to tell a powerful story about homelessness. (Ages 7-10)

She Raised Her Voice!
Jordannah Elizabeth, author
Briana Dengoue, illustrator
Running Press Kids
9780762475162, $17.99

Christine Irvin

This is a great reference book about women who have made their mark in the music industry. The pages are packed with interesting biographical information on these incredible women. Great artwork and interesting content make this a great addition for any library. A glossary of music terms is included at the end of the book. (Ages 8-12)

The Last Mapmaker
Christina Soontornvat
Candlewick Press
9781536204957, $17.99

Diana Perry

In a fantasy adventure every bit as compelling and confident in its world building as her Newbery Honor Book, A Wish in the Dark, Christina Soontornvat explores a young woman's struggle to unburden herself of the past and chart her own destiny in a world of secrets. Young readers: get ready for an adventure! You're going to love it. (Ages 8-12)

Green Eyes and Ham
Mary Penney
9780062696939, $16.99

Diana Perry

After a lifetime of being homeschooled, Ham Hudson is hoping that a new year in a new school will help make him a whole new Ham. Instead, he's saddled with an archnemesis to avoid, a confusing and exhausting social sphere to navigate, and a whole host of insecurities to add to his old ones. But then Ham meets Micah.... Every eighth-grader will relate to Ham - how he feels insecure and uncertain and struggles to be just one of the kids. While the story is well-plotted, this book is almost like a training manual on how to survive middle school. (Ages 8-12)

Dragonfly Eyes
Cao Wenxuan
Candlewick Press
9781536200188, $19.99

Diana Perry

Ah-Mei and her French grandmother, Nainai, share a rare bond. Maybe it's because Ah-Mei is the only girl grandchild. Or maybe it's because the pair look so much alike and neither resembles the rest of their Chinese family. Politics and war make 1960s Shanghai a hard place to grow up, especially when racism and bigotry are rife, and everyone seems suspicious of Nainai's European heritage and interracial marriage. Ah-Mei and her grandmother are resourceful, but will the tender connection they share bring them enough strength to carry through? This book will touch the hearts of middle graders while teaching a history lesson on how Japan overtook Shanghai. It shows sacrifice as all family members do everything to help each other. (Ages 9-12)

Tree Singer
Jacci Turner
Lucky Bat Books
9781943588916, $14.99

Diana Perry

Fifteen-year-old Mayten loves training as a tree singer, an esteemed position among her clan. But when she feels pain coming from the trees, she finds herself on an unexpected quest, one so dangerous she might never return home. Now Mayten must use her unfinished training to face betrayal, fear, and a deadly foe. Is she a match for the ancient evil attacking her trees or will the entire kingdom fall to ruin? Middle graders will love the story plot but they'll also realize just how important our trees are. After all, along with all the other plants, they all provide our oxygen so we cannot live without them. (Ages 12+)

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