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Children's Bookwatch

Volume 32, Number 12 December 2022 Home | CBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Christmas Shelf Social Issues Shelf
Health/Medicine Shelf Science Shelf Cookbook Shelf
Board Book Shelf Picturebook Shelf Middle Grade Fiction Shelf
Romantic Fiction Shelf Young Adult Fiction Shelf Fantasy/SciFi Shelf
Pets/Wildlife Shelf Theatre/Cinema Shelf Christian Shelf
Judaic Shelf Folktale/Fairytale Shelf Graphic Novel Shelf
Audiobook Shelf Music CD Shelf Fishing Shelf
Jobs/Careers Shelf Books in Series Story Monsters Ink Shelf

Reviewer's Choice

Kids Play at the White House!
Jonathan Pliska, author
John Hutton, illustrator
The White House Historical Association
PO Box 27624, Washington, DC, 20038
9781950273317, $9.95, HC, 24pp

Synopsis: The presidents' children and grandchildren, as well as kids who are invited to attend special events like the Easter Egg Roll, have long known that the big backyard of the White House is a perfect place for outdoor games. There are large open lawns with room for swing sets, paved pathways for bikes, big trees for tree houses, and space for make believe, organized sports, riding ponies, and playing with pets.

Learning how kids have played at the White House is a great way to learn more about the history of the house, where the presidents have lived with their families for more than two-hundred years!

Critique: A unique introduction to an often overlooked aspect of life in the White House, "Kids Play at the White House!" is a unique, informative, and fun picture book by the team of author/storyteller Jonathan Pliska and artist/illustrator John Hutton that is especially and unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library collections for children ages 4-8.

The Lost Library
Jess McGeachin
Viking Books for Young Readers
c/o Penguin Young Readers Group
9780593351338, $18.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: When Oliver finds a lost library book fluttering behind a secret door in his bedroom, he knows he must return it. But when he does, a mysterious world opens up beneath his feet, taking Oliver, his new friend Rosie, and the book in tow. What (or who!) will they find waiting in this strange new place? And how will they escape?

A beautiful, lyrical take on the imaginative power of books and the transformative power of friendship.

Critique: With a special appeal to children ages 4-8, "The Lost Library" by Jess McGeachin is a charming picture book story of friendship, the joy of reading, and the power of the imagination! A delightful and fun fantasy, "The Lost Library" is especially recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for young bibliophiles.

Editorial Note #1: Jess McGeachin ( is a writer, illustrator, and designer based in Melbourne, Australia. He loves telling stories about hidden worlds just outside our own, and hiding clues in them for small eyes to find. Drawing on a love of natural history (and a day job at Melbourne Museum), Jess hopes that his stories inspire young readers to explore both real and imaginary places and meet the characters that live in them. He can be followed Instagram @jessmcgeachin

Hillary and Bigfoot
Mary Cohen
Independently Published
9798810829843, $9.99, PB, 132pp

Synopsis: After a letter from the King offers Hillary's mom, Alice, a teaching job at the castle, in Ladybug City, everything changes. Hillary's family moves from their humble surroundings to a big new home, with a pool, in Ladybug City. The very first night, Bigfoot surprises her. Because of a scarcity of food, the Bigfoot tribe, starts taking food from garbage cans and breaking into homes, stealing food. With the loss of Baby Bigfoot and the disappearance of Hillary's new friend, Tiny Tim, things get a little scary. Hillary, finding her way out of this without worse news, is going to be difficult. Young readers will enjoy finding out what truffles and food storage has to do with what happens in the end!

Critique: An original and illustrated young readers action/adventure story that also incorporates children's sleep issues, "Hillary and Bigfoot" by Mary Cohen is very highly recommended for family, elementary school, and community library collections for children ages 6-11. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Hillary and Bigfoot" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $1.99).

The Christmas Shelf

The Curious Christmas Trail
Haley Stewart, author
Betsy Wallin, illustrator
Pauline Books & Media
50 St. Paul's Avenue, Boston, MA 02130-3433
9780819816887, $24.95, HC, 80pp

Synopsis: It's Christmas Eve, and under the floorboards of G. K. Chesterton's home, curious clues lie hidden!

Sister Seraphina and the other Sisters of Our Lady Star of the Sea are busy with preparations for the Christmas play and long-awaited feast. That's enough to be getting on with! But where is Sister Dymphna? The elderly nun is nowhere to be found in Saint Wulfhilda's Abbey. Outside it's growing dark, and the snow is falling. The brave search party will need all their wits to avoid danger and follow the trail -- wherever it leads!

Critique: "The Curious Christmas Trail" by the team of author/storyteller Haley Stewart and artist/illustrator Betsy Wallin is the second installment of the Sister Seraphina Mysteries that began with "Pursuit of the Pilfered Cheese". A fun and charming Christmas themed mystery story for young readers ages 5-10, "The Curious Christmas Trail" will prove to be an immediate and enduringly welcome addition to family, elementary school, and community library collections.

Editorial Note #1: Haley Stewart ( is an award-winning author and the Managing Editor of Word on Fire Spark. Her family lived on a farm for a year, and she wrote a book about it (for grown-ups) titled The Grace of Enough.

Editorial Note #2: Betsy Wallin ( began drawing when she was a child. Growing up, she would paint giant animal murals or sketch ruined barns along the roads of upstate New York. Her deep interest in art led her to degrees in Art History from Vassar College and U.C. Berkeley. She also studied Studio Art throughout her life, specializing in Illustration at Pratt Institute.

Little Fairy's Christmas
Daniela Drescher, author/illustrator
Floris Books
9781782508175, $17.95, HC, 28pp

Synopsis: It's a cold winter's night and a little fairy named Faith is lost in a snowstorm. As Faith looks for somewhere warm to stay, she meets friendly birds, a lost young elf and someone else very special! Father Christmas is surprised to find a little fairy and elf out in the snow on Christmas Eve. Can he help them find somewhere to celebrate Christmas Day?

Critique: A magical story by Daniela Drescher brought to life by a series of her one and two page illustrations, "Little Fairy's Christmas" will have a very special appeal to children with an interest in fairytales and Christmas themed picture book stories -- making this an extraordinary and very special addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library collections for children ages 3-6.

Editorial Note: Daniela Drescher ( is an internationally acclaimed author and illustrator from Munich, Germany. Her best-known books in English include In the Land of Fairies, the Little Fairy stories and the Pippa and Pelle board books. She is also the illustrator of stunning fairy tale anthologies An Illustrated Treasury of Grimm's Fairy Tales and An Illustrated Treasury of Dwarfs, Gnomes and Fairy Folk.

Disney Villains: How the Villains Ruined Christmas
Serena Valentino, author
Livio Cacciatore, illustrator
Disney Press
c/o Disney Publishing Worldwide
9781368077019, $16.99, HC, 40pp

Synopsis: No one is more of a bah humbug than a Disney Villain. This Christmas the Disney villains Maleficent, Hades, Captain Hook, the Queen, Ursula, and Cruella are planning to ruin the holiday season once and for all! Children will fully enjoy following these dastardly Disney characters as they cause some Christmas chaos by sending their minions to ruin Christmas dinner, steal the Lost Boys presents, disguise themselves as Santa Claus, and more!

Critique: A fun and original Christmas Disney picture book for children ages 5-8, "Disney Villains: How the Villains Ruined Christmas" will prove to be a welcome and prized addition to family, elementary school, and community library Christmas themed picture book collections.

Editorial Note: For more Disney holiday fun, these other Christmas titles are unreservedly recommended: Anna, Elsa, and the Enchanting Holiday; 12 Days of Princess; Nightmare Before Christmas: 13 Days of Christmas; Disney Christmas Storybook Collection; Frozen: Olaf's Night Before Christmas.

Giving Gal and the Christmas Cookie Extravaganza
Stephanie Jones, author
Angelina Valieva, illustrator
Giving Gal, LLC
9781948693165, $18.95, HC, 36pp

Synopsis: When Giving Gal hosts her annual Christmas Cookie Extravaganza, she is excited for her new friend, Tianna, to join in on the fun. Initially, the day doesn't go as planned. But Giving Gal persists in giving encouragement, showing kindness, and making sure her friend feels included.

Critique: Especially and unreservedly recommended for family, elementary school, and community library Christmas themed picture book collections for young readers ages 5-8, "Giving Gal and the Christmas Cookie Extravaganza" is a beautifully illustrated story by the team of author/storyteller Stephanie L. Jones and the artistry of Angelina Valieva with that messages that the power of our strengths and magical moments happen when everyone comes together for a common purpose. It should be noted that as the first of a highly anticipated series of Giving Gal books, "Giving Gal and the Christmas Cookie Extravaganza" is also available for personal reading lists in a paperback edition (9781948693158, $9.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99).

Editorial Note #1: Stephanie L. Jones ( is on a mission to inspire others to give and practice gratitude daily. She loves sharing her message in schools, churches, and with companies. Besides her children's book, Giving Gal(TM), she's an award-winning author of The Giving Challenge, The Gratitude Challenge, and Thank-You Notes to God.

Editorial Note #2: Angelina Valieva ( was born into the family of artist Vladimir Valiev in Uzbekistan, and it was thanks to her father that she chose the fascinating profession of illustrator. From a young age, her father directed her hand and taught her to draw. In 2005, she graduated from Republic Art College, where she studied graphic design. In addition to illustrating numerous children's books that have been published worldwide, Angelina has participated in various international art competitions and has won many awards. Angelina's favorite genre to illustrate is fantasy.

Evie's Christmas Wishes
Siobhan Parkinson, author
Shannon Bergin, illustrator
Little Island Books
9781912417797, $18.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: Evie can hardly wait for Christmas to arrive. There is lots of festive fun to be had, from rehearsing for the school play, to decorating the tree, to wrapping presents. As she prepares for the big day with her parents and classmates, she is wishing, wishing, wishing. Suddenly, her wishes begin to come true! Just not in the way she expects.

A wish for a reindeer results in a reindeer decoration being found in the attic, a wish for a singing part in her school play sees the whole class (Evie included) all singing along together, and her wish for a white Christmas sees a brief sprinkle of snowfall on Christmas Eve. Her biggest wish of all is fora baby sister, which also partially comes true, in a very surprising way!

Critique: The thoroughly charming illustrations by Shannon Bergin perfectly enhances author/storyteller Siobhan Parkinson's "Evie's Christmas Wishes" -- a unique Christmas themed picture book story about a little girl and her Christmas wishes. A unique, precious, and fun, "Evie's Christmas Wishes" will prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library Christmas holiday picture book collections for children ages 4-7.

Editorial Note #1: Siobhan Parkinson ( has been writing books for a great many years and enjoys writing for kids, because kids are the BEST readers in the world. Sometimes she also writes for adults -- but only sometimes. She also translate children's books (from German). She also publishes children's books written by other people by publishing company, Little Island Books,

Editorial Note #2: Shannon Bergin ( is an Irish illustrator who graduated from Limerick School of Art and Design in the south west of Ireland in 2018 and can usually be found wandering in forests, curled up with a book or hunched over her desk illustrating colorful images.

The Great Tree: A Christmas Fable
Able Barrett
The Last Road Dog Publications
9781667809977, $24.50, HC, 48pp

Synopsis: A young man, Andrew and his older brother Nicholas were separated long ago. Andrew is now trying to find Nicholas even against his mother's wishes driven by her fears of what he will face in his quest. Andrew wants to tell Nicholas their mother is dying and he must see her one last time before she passes.

Andrew and his dog Jenny begin a journey or even a better word would be crusade, which takes them well beyond their wildest imagination into the world of danger, evil protectors, giant wolves, dark magic, Sorcerers, Goblins, and the Prince of Darkness himself all centered around an enormous tree.

"The Great Tree: A Christmas Fable" is story by Able Barrett that blends the magic of how Christmas evolved for eternity. It is a story for the whole family including children, young people and adults of all ages will enjoy this fable in the same way we all have enjoyed other great Christmas stories of the past, but this is thrilling and exciting story to how Christmas came to be today!

Critique: A welcome and unreservedly recommended contribution to the ever expanding Christmas book genre, "The Great Tree: A Christmas Fable" by author Able Barrett is deftly crafted, original, and nicely illustrated throughout, making it a particularly welcome addition to family, middle school, and community library Christmas themed story book collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Great Tree: A Christmas Fable" is also available in a paperback edition (9781667823959, $16.12, Amazon) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99).

Editorial Note: Able Barrett ( is former Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney and U.S. Department of Justice Organized Crime Strike Force Prosecutor. He is an avid animal lover and dedicated to the ethical treatment of all animals. He is manager of The Last Road Dog Animal Sanctuary in its efforts to rescue dogs, cats, and horses The Last Road Dog is an IRS Approved 501 (c)(3) Animal Public Welfare Charity.

Pomp, Snow & Cirqueumstance
Miko Nickolau, author
Neil Goldberg, author
John Kelly, illustrator
Brown Books Publishing Group
9781612545394, $18.99, HC, 48pp

Synopsis: Withe the publication of "Pomp, Snow & Cirqueumstance" by authors Niko Nickolaou and Neil Goldber and artist/illustrator John Kelly, children will enjoy an exciting and magical Christmas themed holiday story of three best friends, Pomp, Snow, and Cirqueumstance, as they study and learn special music, magic & circus skills at a secret university. After receiving their diplomas from Santa Claus, these three fantastical elves share their special gifts with the world, and learn a valuable lesson in humility and service to others.

Critique: Original, fun, and an unreservedly recommended addition to the growing canon of Christmas picture books for young readers ages 5-8, "Pomp, Snow & Cirqueumstance" is highly recommended for family, elementary school, and community library collections.

Editorial Note #1: Neil Goldberg ( is a Broadway director, theater producer, creative visionary and emerging new author whose name is synonymous with quality, engaging family entertainment and content. He has been leading and revolutionizing the world's entertainment landscape for over three decades with highly imaginative contemporary circus arts, theatrical and immersive experiences. Neil is CEO and artistic director of Variety Arts Management, Dream Studios and founder of Cirque Productions and the renowned Cirque Dreams entertainment brand. He has designed and produced show and innovative spectacles for two Super Bowls, the NBA, Disney, Busch Gardens, Six Flags, Miss Universe, NBC, ABC, CBS; Norwegian, Royal Caribbean and Carnival Cruise Lines and Armed Forces Entertainment.

Editorial Note #2: The is the chief theater critic and Sunday culture columnist of the Chicago Tribune, Christopher Nigel Jones ( is a British-American journalist and academic. Since 2014, he has also served as director of the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center's National Critics Institute. Jones appears live on the news broadcast of CBS-2 Chicago as a weekly theater critic. In 2018, he was additionally named Broadway theater critic for the Tribune related publication, the New York Daily News. In 2001, Jones was featured in an article in American Theatre magazine about the 12 most influential theater critics in America. In 2016, the New York Times cited Jones as an important reason that Broadway shows try-out in Chicago, noting the role his reviews have played in helping producers improve productions for New York runs.

Editorial Note #3: John Kelly ( has been working in illustration, animation, and video production since 1991, but he has always loved to draw. In 2019 John decided to focus on picture books exclusively. Inspired by Tolkien and Stan Lee from a young age, John likes to bring the fantastic to life. "I have a passion for digital art of every kind, but story telling is my true talent. I believe every frame should be a work of artistry, and every line, mote, and shadow carries the story within the frame to the viewer."

The Magic of a Small Town Christmas
Megan Alexander, author
Hiroe Nakata, illustrator
c/o Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 4th floor, New York, NY 10020
9781665929806, $19.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: In the little town of Heartbeat Falls, the skies are crystal clear and the magic of Christmas is celebrated in many different ways ranging from picking the perfect tree to decorating it with glittering ornaments, from ice skating to eating yummy gingerbread cookies, from hanging handmade stockings to sharing a homecooked meal. Here, the residents know the beauty of a small town doesn't come from its size, but from the love shared by its people, shining brightly in their eyes.

Critique: A heartwarming picture book story of Christmas in a caring community of friends and neighbors, "The Magic of a Small Town Christmas" by the team of author/storyteller Megan Alexander and artist/illustrator Hiroe Nakata will prove to be an enduringly welcome and valued addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library Christmas themed collections for children ages 4-8. It should be noted that "The Magic of a Small Town Christmas" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99).

Editorial Note #1: Megan Alexander ( is a national news correspondent, host, emcee, speaker, producer, and actress. She can be seen every evening as a correspondent on the top-rated national news magazine television show Inside Edition.

Editorial Note #2: Hiroe Nakata has illustrated numerous picture books including Lucky Pennies and Hot Chocolate; Duck Skates, Duck; Shoe Bop!; and One More Hug. Encouraged in her art by her grandfather who is a painter in Japan, Hiroe graduated from the Parsons School of Design and currently lives and works in New York City.

The Return of the Christmas Witch
Dan Murphy, author
Aubrey Plaza, author
Julia Iredale, illustrator
Viking Books for Young Readers
c/o Penguin Young Readers Group
9780593350836, $19.99, HC, 56pp

Synopsis: The legend of Santa Claus's twin sister all but forgotten. Many years ago, this shadowy figure followed in Santa's footsteps, searching for him while leaving odd gifts of her own. One fateful night, they finally came face-to-face, and she hasn't been heard from since. Until now!

The Christmas Witch has returned. After centuries trapped in her icy chamber, the snow is finally melting, and Kristtorn awakens. She finds that the holiday she loved is now controlled by the mysterious Kringle Corporation. She embarks on a journey to a world unknown to her, where she meets the inventive young Poppy and sweet old reindeer Donner, who agree to help her restore Christmas to its former glory. Little do they know that she wants more than order -- she wants revenge.

Critique: In the highly anticipated follow-up to the "The Legend of the Christmas Witch" by producer and actress Aubrey Plaza and her creative partner Dan Murphy, and supported by the charming full color illustrations of Julia Iredale, "The Return of the Christmas Witch" showcases the true spirit of Christmas a modern and wonderfully witchy twist. While highly recommended for family, elementary school, and community library Christmas themed picture books for children ages 5-8, it should be noted that "The Return of the Christmas Witch" is also available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99)

Editorial Note #1: Aubrey Plaza, originally from Delaware, is best known for her role as April Ludgate on Parks and Recreation. She has produced and starred in several films, as well as performed at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in New York. She currently lives in California and is known to dress up like a witch every Christmas.

Editorial Note #2: Dan Murphy is a writer and producer who lives in Los Angeles, California. Originally from Delaware, he is a graduate of the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU and has been creative partners with Aubrey for over fifteen years.

Editorial Note #3: Julia Iredale ( is an illustrator from Victoria, British Columbia. She studied illustration at Emily Carr University of Art and Design, and now spends her time painting, making books, and, whenever possible, escaping into the magic forests of the Canadian West Coast.

When Santa Came to Stay
Billy Sharff, author
Eda Kaban, illustrator
Dial Books
c/o Penguin Group USA
9780593325230, $18.99, HC, 40pp

Synopsis: What happens when your Christmas cookies are too good? Santa comes to stay! At first, it's fantastic: treats and toys and reindeer flights every day. Then Mrs. Claus arrives. And Baby Claus. And before long, the Easter Bunny and her babies Chuck and Puck and Luck and Duck and -- you get the picture.

By the time the Fourth of July rolls around, everyone's had a bit too much eggnog in their cereal and confetti in their hair. As one family discovers, maybe the true meaning of Christmas is about more than presents and sweets. And maybe there's a reason it comes but once a year!

Critique: A unique, original, fun and funny Christmas (and other holidays!) themed picture book by author/storyteller Bill Sharff and artist/illustrator Eda Kaban, "When Santa Came to Stay" will prove as popular and entertaining read for parents and it is for children ages 4-7. While also available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99), "When Santa Comes to Stay" is especially and unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library Christmas oriented picture book collections.

Editorial Note #1: Billy Sharff ( is an author who writes for kids of all ages. When not writing stories, Billy makes movies, writes songs, and visits every bookstore he can find. "When Santa Came to Stay" is his debut as a picture book author.

Editorial Note #2: Eda Kaban ( has illustrated many popular books for children, including Pirates Don't Go to Kindergarten and Even Superheroes Have Bad Days.

Murray Christmas
E. G. Keller, author/illustrator
Harry N. Abrams
9781419753923, $17.99, HC, 40pp

Synopsis: "Murray Christmas by author and illustrator E. G. Keller is a laugh-out-loud funny and charming Christmas holiday picture book tale about a lovable "patrol dog" named Murray who is put on high alert by all of the sudden changes around the holidays -- from the tree in the living room to the laundry mistakenly hung by the fireplace, threats lurk everywhere! And worst of all? Some random guy in a red suit keeps showing up everywhere -- and Murray is not impressed. Can he learn to embrace the festivities, or will Murray's misguided attempts to protect his family ruin Christmas?

Critique: Fun, original, clever, engaging, "Murray Christmas" will prove a prized and enduringly popular addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library Christmas themed picture book collections for children ages 4-8. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Murray Christmas" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $15.54).

Editorial Note: E. G. Keller ( is the illustrator of "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver Presents A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo", and the picture book "To the Moon and Back for You" by Bravo star Emilia Bechrakis Serhant. As Gerald Kelley, he also illustrated documentarian Ken Burns's book "Grover Cleveland, Again!", and wrote and illustrated the picture book "Please Please the Bees", which won the 2017 Frances and Wesley Bock Book Award for Children's Literature.

The Perfect Tree
Corinne Demas, author
Penelope Dullaghan, illustrator
Cameron Kids
c/o Harry N. Abrams
978195183642, $17.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: Bunny is looking for the perfect Christmas tree. Her forest friends tell her that the perfect tree is one that is just her size, bushy as Squirrel's tail, perfectly pointy on top for a star, the greenest green, and smells like Christmas. But sometimes the perfect tree is the one surrounded by friends.

Critique: A charming and fun Christmas themed picture book for children ages 4-8, "The Perfect Tree" by the team of author/storyteller Corinne Demas and artist/illustrator Penelope Dullaghan will be a perennial and favorite addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Perfect Tree" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note #1: Corinne Demas ( is the author of over thirty-five books for adults and children, including numerous picture books. She is also Professor Emerita at Mount Holyoke College and the Fiction Editor of the Massachusetts Review.

Editorial Note #2: Penelope Dullaghan ( is an award winning illustrator and picture book maker. Her books include "The Good Song", published by Cameron Kids.

Miss Mary's Christmas Mittens
Trinka Hakes Noble, author
Renee Andrivani, illustrator
Sleeping Bear Press
315 East Eisenhower Parkway, Suite 200, Ann Arbor, MI 48108
9781534111677, $17.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: Miss Mary is beloved by her students. She makes learning enjoyable and easy, and her brightly colored knitwear brings a smile to everyone's face. Walking to school on the last day before the Christmas break, Miss Mary envisions all the fun students will have at recess. They'll make snow angels, build snowmen, and play other winter games.

But recess isn't fun. No one wants to play. The snow is cold and the children don't have any mittens. Not to worry, thinks Miss Mary. She will knit mittens for her students as a Christmas surprise. But the store has run out of yarn, with no more deliveries before Christmas. Oh dear, where can Miss Mary find the yarn to knit mittens for her students?

The clock is ticking on this holiday surprise.

Critique: Author/storyteller Trinka Hakes Noble's original Christmas themed picture book is perfectly supported by the charming and colorful artwork of gifted illustrator Renee Andriani, in "Miss Mary's Christmas Mittens", an uplifting and gratifying story of generosity, love, and that the best Christmas gifts come straight from the heart. While available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $16.52), the Sleeping Bear Press edition of "Miss Mary's Christmas Mittens" is an especially recommended addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library Christmas themed picture book collections for children ages 4-7.

Editorial Note #1: Trinka Hakes Noble ( is the author of numerous picture books including The Orange Shoes (2007 National Parenting Publications Awards Honors Winner), The Scarlet Stockings Spy (2005 IRA Teachers' Choice), The Last Brother, and The Legend of the Cape May Diamond. Ms. Noble also wrote the ever-popular Jimmy's Boa series and Meanwhile Back at the Ranch, both featured on PBS's Reading Rainbow. Her many awards include ALA Notable Children's Book, Booklist Children's Editors' Choice, IRA-CBC Children's Choice, Learning: The Year's Ten Best, and several Junior Literary Guild Selections.

Editorial Note #2: Renee Andriani ( has illustrated dozens of picture books, including Teddy Spaghetti and Girl Versus Squirrel.

Christmas With Auntie
Helen Foster James, author
Petra Brown, illustrator
Sleeping Bear Press
315 East Eisenhower Parkway, Suite 200, Ann Arbor, MI 48108
9781534111738, $17.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: There is nothing like an auntie's love. "Christmas With Auntie" by author/storyteller Helen Foster James and artist/illustrator Petra Brown is sweet and charming picture book story that celebrates the special bond between auntie and her little bunny at Christmas time. Of special note is the bedtime-friendly singsong rhythm and adorable holiday illustrations.

Critique: Original, charming, beautifully presented, "Christmas With Auntie" is a very special and highly recommended addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library Christmas themed picture book collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Christmas With Auntie" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $17.09).

Editorial Note #1: Helen Foster James ( has been an educator for more than twenty years, and is now a lecturer at San Diego State University. She received her doctorate from Northern Arizona University. She lives in San Diego, California, with big stacks of children's books and her husband Bob.

Editorial Note #2: Petra Brown's ( work includes the popular Loves You! series and the soon-to-be-released Bevan. She lives in Wales, United Kingdom.

Holly Holiday and the Christmas Forest
Katie Anderson, author
Art Mawhinney, illustrator
Greenleaf Book Group Press
PO Box 91869, Austin, TX 78709
9781626349568, $19.95, HC, 40pp

Synopsis: There's nothing about Christmas that Holly Holiday doesn't love. That is until her parents decide to drag her beloved tree to the street the day after Christmas. Holly then decides that magic shouldn't just end as soon as the yuletide festivities are over. Instead, magic needs to grow!

With Holly's willful determination and Christmas spirit, she embarks on a years-long journey to change tradition while keeping the magic alive well beyond the holidays!

Critique: An original and welcome addition to the cannon of Christmas themed picture books, "Holly Holiday and the Christmas Forest" by author/storyteller Katie Anderson and artist/illustrator Art Mawhinney is a charming and 'kid friendly' tale about a young girl's resolution to nurture the magic of Christmas until it grows into an evergreen forest. While especially and unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library collections for children ages 4-7, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Holly Holiday and the Christmas Forest" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.49).

The Legend of Christmas: An Untold Story of the Real St. Nicholas
Theresa White, author
Dave O'Connell, illustrator
Living Parables Publishing
c/o EA Books Publishing
9781953114884, $16.00, PB, 38pp

Synopsis: Christmas books children love most throughout the ages feature St. Nicholas. As the stories of the real Nicholas of Myra traveled from continent to continent (from history into fantasy) his name and face molded into each new tale. "The Legend of Christmas: An Untold Story of the Real St. Nicholas", introduces a new generation of children to a brave, rugged man with white hair and beard whose heart was not hardened under persecution.

During the last, and most severe, Christian persecution under a Roman emperor, Nicholas the Bishop of Myra, continued his ministry. The stories of his bravery and generosity spread, deep within the prison cells. Then spread throughout Europe with the expansion of Christianity.

In this story we meet a young Nicholas as he begs his mother to tell him the story of the birth of Christ. His constant interruptions reveal his mother is not well. As the story unfolds the reader discovers these are the childhood memories of a prisoner, persecuted for his faith. Tended to by his cellmate, the stories of his life emerge, and the light of the gospel of Christ shines bright in darkness.

To believe, or not, in Santa Claus is arguably the first-time children are confronted with confusing and sometimes conflicting cultural values. Christian parents, who wish to make Christ the center of Christmas, are faced with the decision whether to bring Santa into their family traditions. The Legend of Christmas: An Untold Story of the Real St. Nicholas gives families a new perspective, based on the known history of the man who followed his faith so completely that he became a legend as old as Christmas.

Critique: Author/storyteller Theresa White and artist/illustrator Dave O'Connor gives parents a story for their children to not only believe in, but to follow as an example of living the Christian life, throughout the year. "The Legend of Christmas" ( is especially recommended fo ages 8-12, or as a 'read aloud' for kids 5-7 with activities for inspiring new traditions, "The Legend of Christmas" is an ideal addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, middle school, and community library Christmas themed picture book collections.

The Train Rolls On To The North Pole
Jodi Adams
Young at Heart Publishing
9781734836646, $11.99

The Train Rolls On To The North Pole is a holiday picture book that celebrates the season (and trains) with a rollicking story of the Animal Express's latest mission: to transport eight reindeer back to the North Pole, who have been enjoying a spa visit before their Christmas work. Of course, they could fly rather than taking the train home, but Santa wants them to be well-rested.

The brave little train faces darkness, snow, and all manner of adversity, determined to get his charges safely to the North Pole. Read-aloud parents receive the opportunity to embellish the story with flurries of train sounds and high drama as the train rolls on, its deer passengers increasingly worried about the challenges that lie ahead.

A delightful read-aloud holiday experience evolves that parents and adults will welcome as a bright, original story combining two childrens' favorites: Christmas and trains. Christina Wald's lovely, colorful drawings bring Jodi Adams's story to life as the story unfolds, while vocabulary-building descriptions allow for an interactive experience that adds educational opportunities.

The Train Rolls On To The North Pole's focus on overcoming fear and adversity and achieving goals through cooperative efforts that move through potential disaster makes for a positive holiday tale, spirited and fun for picture book readers looking for something compellingly different.

A Very Mercy Christmas
Kate DiCamillo, author
Chris Van Dusen, illustrator
Candlewick Press
99 Dover Street, Somerville, MA 02144
9781536213607, $18.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: When Stella gets the sudden idea to go Christmas caroling, she has a little trouble getting someone to join her. Her brother, Frank, is not good at spontaneity. The Watsons are very involved in a precarious fruitcake attempt (but happy to send their pig, Mercy, out for the occasion). Eugenia Lincoln declines, a bit rudely, to accompany on her accordion, and Horace Broom is too busy studying planetary movement.

Will Stella need to sing by herself -- with the enthusiastic contributions from the pig, the cat, and the horse she picks up on the way? Or does the evening hold a miracle Stella hadn't expected?

Critique: Author/storyteller Kate DiCamillo and artist/illustrator Chris Van Dusen deftly combine their skills to publish "A Very Mercy Christmas" -- a fun picture-book homage to the Christmas season and is perfectly suited for parent/child sharing while dressing up Christmas Trees or going out to sing Christmas songs for friends and neighbors. While readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.50), "A Very Mercy Christmas" is especially recommended as an addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library Christmas themed picture book collections for children ages 3-7.

Editorial Note #1: Kate DiCamillo ( is the popular author of many books for young readers, including the Mercy Watson and Deckawoo Drive series. Her books Flora & Ulysses and The Tale of Despereaux both received Newbery Medals. She is also a former National Ambassador for Young People's Literature.

Editorial Note #2: Chris Van Dusen ( is the author-illustrator of many books for young readers, including The Circus Ship and Big Truck, Little Island, and the illustrator of the Mercy Watson and Deckawoo Drive series.

Through the North Pole Snow
Polly Faber, author
Richard Jones, illustrator
Candlewick Press
99 Dover Street, Somerville, MA 02144
9781536228526, $18.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: When a hunting fox pounces through the snow and finds itself inside a warm home, it's welcomed and given dinner by a kind bearded man with a big round belly. Soon yawning, the man leaves the fox to explore through piles of strewn wrapping paper and rows of empty shelves. As the man sleeps, the fox curls up, too, until sun and flowers return, luring them both outside. But soon the man gets back to work -- drawing and measuring, painting and hammering, sewing and stuffing, until all the empty shelves are filled from top to bottom.

Critique: Artist Richard Jones's charmingly detailed illustrations and storyteller Polly Faber's gentle tale offers a fresh look at how Santa prepares for the most magical night of the year, "Through The North Pole Snow" is a wonderful and unreservedly recommended addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library Christmas themed picture book collections for children ages 3-7. It should be noted that "Through The North Pole Snow" is also available as a complete and unabridged audio book (Dreamscape Media, 9781666616217, $14.95, CD).

Editorial Note #1: Polly Faber is the author of All Through the Night, illustrated by Harriet Hobday, Building a Home, illustrated by Klas Fahlen, Pony on the Twelfth Floor, illustrated by Sarah Jennings, and Mango & Bambang: The Not-a-Pig, illustrated by Clara Vulliamy. She lives in London.

Editorial Note #2: Richard Jones ( is the illustrator of numerous picture books, including The Proper Way to Meet a Hedgehog and Other How-To Poems by Paul B. Janeczko and Bird Builds a Nest by Martin Jenkins.

The Social Issues Shelf

The Hope Raisers
Nihar Suthar
Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group
4501 Forbes Blvd., Suite 200, Lanham, MD 20706
9781538168738, $28.00, HC, 194pp

Synopsis: "The Hope Raisers: How a Group of Young Kenyans Fought to Transform Their Slum and Inspire a Community" is the poignant and inspiring true story of three young Kenyans who fought to transform their slum and improve the lives of those around them.

Korogocho is one of Kenya's darkest slums, plagued by gang violence, food and water shortages, and rampant pollution. Most children have no future except for scavenging through trash piles or resorting to lives of crime. One day, a boy named Daniel Onyango decided to do more, creating a band called the Hope Raisers to inspire the kids of Korogocho. His friend, Mutura Kuria, quickly joined in.

With the publication of "The Hope Raisers: How a Group of Young Kenyans Fought to Transform Their Slum and Inspire a Community", author Nihar Suthar tells the amazing story of how Daniel and Mutura turned the band into a platform for change. They started teaching children on the streets how to express themselves through art and established a skating team after finding a pair of rollerblades in the dump. Suthar closely follows the story of one rebellious girl, Lucy Achieng, who refused to get married off at a young age and instead used competitive rollerblading to reach for her dreams. Lucy continues to inspire girls to stand up for themselves and challenge the longstanding practices in Korogocho of early marriage and prostitution.

"The Hope Raisers" is an eye-opening look into a world of poverty and violence where children receive only a basic education and are left with little to no means to get out. Yet it also reveals the remarkable impact that a few determined individuals can have on their community, even in the most challenging of conditions.

Critique: With particular value to young readers ages 13-18 who have an interest in such social issues as the poverty, homelessness, and slums of Africa, America, or anywhere else, "The Hope Raisers: How a Group of Young Kenyans Fought to Transform Their Slum and Inspire a Community" will prove as fascinating, informative, thought-provoking and ultimately inspiring. While a highly recommended addition to middle school, highschool, and community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Hope Raisers" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $26.50).

Editorial Note: Nihar Suthar ( is an author who covers inspirational stories around the world. He is the author of Win No Matter What: A Guide to Hyping Up Your Life and The Corridor of Uncertainty: How Cricket Mended a Torn Nation. During the day, he works as a product manager in the tech industry. Suthar has traveled to Kenya several times to visit Daniel, Mutura, and Lucy.

Part of the proceeds from all book sales will be donated to the Hope Raisers and toward improving the slum of Korogocho.

The Health/Medicine Shelf

Healthy As a Dragon!
Stepanka Sekaninova and Veronika Zacharova
9788000066028, $14.95

Healthy As a Dragon! is a discussion about hygiene which gives young picture book readers a lesson in everything from nutrition and taking care of teeth to washing the body and hands, keeping things tidy, and exercising. The dragon's life at the castle just keeps getting better and better as he absorbs the lessons a little Princess imparts, which seem distant from his cold, dirty forest cave.

Parents who choose this inviting story as a read-aloud will find the whimsical dragon's discoveries and the little girl's lessons prompt important discussions and revelations about the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. The result is a different type of hygiene book that goes beyond the usual narrowed focus on exercise, teeth, or body cleansing to consider the full facets of a well-conducted lifestyle.

My Brave Heart Warrior
Jennifer Diaz, author
Andrew Laitinen, illustrator
Lucid Books
9781632965325, $17.99, HC, 22pp

Synopsis: There are many unknowns in life, especially when a child is about to be born. There are even more when it is known that the child is about to be born with congenital heart disease and defects. Congenital heart disease (CHD) is the most common birth defect. In fact, 1 in 100 infants is born with CHD, which is more than 1.3 million per year worldwide. Even after intervention through surgery, there is no cure for CHD. It is a life-long battle.

Critique: Heart warriors are always at war, going through many battles from the moment they are born. And there are so many unknowns. "My Brave Heart Warrior" by author Jennifer Diaz and illustrator Andrew Laitinen is the true and sensitively told story of one such child and ideal for introducing young readers to the delicate topics of death, dying, physical imperfections associated with infant disabilities and adverse medical conditions. While also available for personal reading lists in a paperback edition (9781632965318, $12.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $6.99), "My Brave Heart Warrior" is especially and unreservedly recommended for elementary school and community library prenatal and infancy illness/disabilities collections for young readers and their parents.

Editorial Note #1: Jennifer Diaz is an entrepreneur, business owner, mother to a brave and beautiful heart warrior angel in heaven (Arnaldo Lopez, Jr.), congenital heart disease awareness advocate, and now a published author. She graduated from the University of Texas at San Antonio with a Bachelor of Science in biology. Her strong love and deep affection for her son inspired her to write this book to him while she was alongside him in the hospital. Her son fought for his life, but God had different plans for him. Jennifer wants to keep the promise she made to Arnaldo -- to keep his name, story, and legacy alive. She hopes to inspire and instill hope through her son's journey and story. She wants to touch many lives the same way her son touched hers and the lives of many others.

Editorial Note #2: Andrew Laitinen ( grew up outside of Detroit drawing everyday at a drafting table he received on his 10th birthday. That desk went through middle school doodles and math homework, creating high school newspaper illustrations and comics, and then to college in Ohio, where he learned all he could about illustration and graphic design. He graduated from the Columbus College of Art and Design.

Lulu How Do You?: How Do You What? Be Good to Your Gut!
Janix Maximov Condon, author
Steve Ferchaud, illustrator
Chris Ficken, illustrator
9781736960820, $10.00, PB, 38pp

Synopsis: Using her newly found Magic Word, Lulu dreams that she's right back inside herself- asking organs Louie Liver, Pammy Pancreas, and the Kidney Brothers, as well as her microbe friends, Abby Acidophilus and Benny Bifidus: "What are your favorite and least favorite foods?"

They give her the answers- all in rhymes! Then Stanley Stem Cell again takes her back through the circulation system- giving her more valuable information. She returns to her bed and explains all to her mom who exclaims, "Your dreams are incredible! Let's work together toward healthier eating!"

Kids will be fascinated by artist Chris Ficken's prototypes and artist Steve Ferchaud's incredibly imaginative and supurb illustrations in this graphic novel style edition of author Jan Condon's "Lulu How Do You?: How Do You What? Be Good to Your Gut!" which is specifically written for young readers ages 6-10.

Critique: Thoroughly 'kid friendly' and appropriate for young readers with an interest in how their bodies work in terms of biologically processing the food that they eat, "Lulu How Do You?: How Do You What? Be Good to Your Gut!" is a unique and highly recommended addition to family, elementary school, middle school, and community library Health & Nutrition collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Lulu How Do You?: How Do You What? Be Good to Your Gut!" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.95).

Editorial Note: Before she was 55, Janice Maximov Condon ( didn't know gut microbes even existed! She didn't know that my many health issues were related to the harm done to her gut by the large doses of antibiotics given to many years earlier. Fortunately, She met the Weston A Price group who helped hear heal my gut with nutritionally dense and fermented foods -- and totally changed the direction of her life. She seeks to share her discovery with children and their parents -- that these lowly microbes are the vital link to human health!

Ewww! Lulu Meets the King of Poo
Janice Maximov Condon, author
Chris Ficken, author
Steve Ferchaud, illustrator
9781736960844, $9.95, PB, 34pp

Synopsis: Lulu dreams she swallows herself and Emily Enzyme takes her on an 'incredible digestible' tour. Lulu and Abby 'Dance the Acidophilus Hula!' in her small intestine. In the colon she meets Benny Bifidus, King of Poo. How does she get back? That is for young readers to find out! (hint: Stanley Stem Cell has something to do with it.)

With the publication of "Ewww! Lulu Meets the King of Poo" children's book authors Jan Condon ( and Chris Ficken introduce children to the Universe of Gut Microbes inside each of us with a fantastic, imaginative, yet scientifically correct rhyming story with expert illustrations by Steve Ferchaud. Children as young as 3 years old find "Ewww! Lulu Meets the King of Poo" both informative and fascinating with the important message that "if you take care of us (gut microbes), we will take care of you!"

Critique: Thoroughly 'kid friendly' in its illustrated storytelling, "Ewww! Lulu Meets the King of Poo" is a unique and highly recommended addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library Health Care, Diet/Nutrition, and Sleep Issues picture book collections for children ages 3-8. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Ewww! Lulu Meets the King of Poo" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99).

The Science Shelf

The Secret World of Lichens
Troy McMullin
Firefly Books Ltd.
9780228103998, $19.95, HC, 48pp

Synopsis: Lichens are complex life forms that are the result of a symbiotic partnership between multiple organisms, usually a fungus and an alga or cyanobacteria. Though often overlooked or mistaken for other organisms like moss, lichens are a critical part of each ecosystem they inhabit and are important sources of food, absorbers of carbon dioxide and biomonitors that help scientists detect air pollutants, among their many other functions.

"The Secret World of Lichens" is a beginning naturalist's guide to the wonderful world of lichens. Written in collaboration with the Canadian Museum of Nature by the Museum's chief lichenologist Troy McMullin, this beautifully and prolifically illustrated edition introduces the young readers ages 8-12 to the subject of lichens (what they are, how they look and what they can do) and then takes them on a survey of 40 of the most interesting and unique species of lichen in the world.

Critique: "The Secret World of Lichens" is informatively enhanced with the inclusion of full-page color photos, detailed captions, fact boxes and a glossary of key lichen terms. A compact and impressively organized and presented guide will have a very specially appeal to young naturalists wanting to learn about the fascinating lives of these important organisms, that exist in the city, suburbs and countryside. While highly recommended, especially for elementary school, middle school, and community library Botany and Biology collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Secret World of Lichens" is also available in a paperback edition (9780228103981, $9.95).

Editorial Note: Troy McMullin ( is a research scientist in lichenology at the Canadian Museum of Nature and one of the foremost lichenologists in North America. He is currently the president of the Field Botanists of Ontario, an adjunct professor at Carleton University, a member of the Lichen Specialist Group for the IUCN and a research associate at Memorial University of Newfoundland. Professor Troy has published extensively in both the academic and popular media spheres.

The Cookbook Shelf

Kids Can Cook Anything!
America's Test Kitchen
9781954210240, $22.99 HC, $11.99 Kindle, 208pp (Ages 8-12)

Kids ages 8 and older receive the dual benefit of a cookbook that is not just geared to their food interests and abilities, but which features foolproof recipes supporting the notion that home cooking is possible to achieve without huge effort. Kids Can Cook Anything! The Complete How-To Cookbook for Young Chefs, With 70+ Kid-Tested, Kid-Approved Recipes comes with the seal of approval of peers who like to cook.

The thoroughly kid-friendly dishes range from comfort foods such as Honey Butter Corn to Pasta with Kale-Basil Pesto, Open-Faced Tuna Melts, and Cheesy Breadsticks. Attractive color photos, sidebars of information (such as how to drain and flake canned tuna), and history accompany a cookbook designed to attract a wide age range of young would-be chefs who want to move beyond the basics of cookbooks directed to young people.

The Board Book Shelf

Sweet Dreams, Lil Paw
Bruce Dierking
Circle D Publishing LLC
9798986096407, $9.99, Board Book, 24pp

Synopsis: It is hard being the youngest and smallest one in the family. Especially when your bedtime comes first, and you are feeling sad and afraid. Lil is just a pup, but she's got big dreams, and nothing is going to hold her back!

Critique: Very highly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, and community library collections for children ages 1-4, "Sweet Dreams, Lil Paw" by Bruce Dierking is the first board book in the new Power Paws series, a collection of children's stories designed to grow with its readers from birth to age 10 by evolving in complexity and maturity to track with a child's intellectual and emotional growth and reading abilities.

Editorial Note: Bruce Dierking is a children's book author, a retired lawyer, an entrepreneur, as well as a former teacher, a husband, a father, and an aspiring grandfather who enjoys making up stories, books, language, and word play games for children.

Eat Together
Miguel Ordonez
Rise x Penguin Workshop
c/o Penguin Young Readers Group
9780593384800, $9.99 Board Book, $9.99 Kindle, 32pp

Synopsis: The geometry of food is explored in "Eat Together", author/illustrator Miguel Ordonez's newest board book on shapes! Various parts of a meal are formed one by one, piece by piece, in this visual play on the interaction between shapes. If just three simple shapes can combine to create a strawberry, then four shapes make a...?

Part guessing game, part visual narrative, young children will follow along as shapes are added to build new foods, and laugh along as some sneaky critters attempt to take on more than they can chew. With humor, anticipation, and possibility on every page, this fun board book encourages creativity and proves that anything is possible when taken piece by piece.

Critique: An entertaining and educational board book for children ages 1-3, "Eat Together" will prove to be an enduringly welcome addition to family, daycare center, preschool, kindergarten, and community library board book collections.

Editorial Note: Miguel Ordonez ( has worked in publishing, advertising, and press with International Herald Tribune, European Space Agency, Elle Magazine, Hachette, Danone, Penguin Random House, and Macmillan. Miguel lives in Madrid and works in his own studio, where he combines graphic design with illustration. He also teaches Visual Communication and Creativity at Instituto Europeo di Design and Escuela Superior de Diseno of Madrid.

Child's Play
250 Minot Avenue, Auburn, ME 04210

Two board book titles from Child's Play form 'Look Touch Learn' -- a new series by author/illustrator Charlotte Arcvher. "Sky" (9781786286260, $17.99, 12pp) and "Sea" (9781786286277, $17.99, 12pp) are ideal for introducing children ages 2- 4 to the topic and concept of Environment/Ecology. Tactile and stimulating, each book has a section for parents and caregivers on how best to utilize these two outstanding 'moving parts' board books in terms of the series title "Look Touch Learn". Both of these innovative, fun, and educational board books are highly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, and community library board book collections.

The Picturebook Shelf

The Happiest Lion Cub
Oleksandr Shatokhin, author
Zenia Tompkins, translator
Red Comet Press
9781636550381, $17.99

The Happiest Lion Cub is translated by Zenia Tompkins, and tells of a lion cub who dreams of being a musician. His father, however, tries to teach him that lions should be busy menacing others; not playing instruments. Not if they want to be King of the Jungle. Can the little cub fulfill his dreams and his destiny at the same time? Creative, whimsical illustrations enhance this story of an unusual, ambitious little cub who longs to be more than his heritage dictates. Parents will find this easy reader an excellent read-aloud choice.

The Last Rainbow Bird
Nora Brech
Floris Books
9781782508007, $17.95

The Last Rainbow Bird is a story about extinction, discovery, and children who embark on an adventure to locate the last rainbow bird before it is gone forever. The topic of wildlife conservation receives a thought-provoking face-lift of adventure and discovery in this story, which follows their journey through nature and shows how the resourceful children's' desire to help can make a difference.

While the tale is fictional in presentation, its underlying message, supported by lovely drawings throughout, lend to early discussion about environmental issues and challenges, making The Last Rainbow Bird an inviting pick for elementary-level libraries looking for starting points to discuss conservation and natural history.

If You Laugh, I'm Starting This Book Over
Chris Harris
Little, Brown
9780316424882, $18.99

If You Laugh, I'm Starting This Book Over will surely earn many re-reads if its title is to be followed literally, because Chris Harris packs the story with fun, enhanced by Serge Bloch's illustrations. Read-aloud adults who choose this book as an interactive venture into laughter with the young will find much to relish as the demand "not to laugh" leads to moments nearly impossible to stifle with serious approaches.

Twists of story, fun names, hilarious drawings by Serge Bloch, and an attention to whimsy, whether it's over a fear of cute yellow feathers or a contrast to seriousness, makes for a story that tackles the subject of humor in an innovative, inviting manner.

The Ugly Place
Laura Deal
Inhabit Media
9781772274325, $17.95, HC, 28pp (Ages 6-8)

Laura Deal's The Ugly Place receives fine illustrations by Emma Pedersen as it explores a child's Arctic world. As the child views this barren landscape, its beauty begins to shine through. Ugliness is not all it seems to be, and the child discovers new things just by a change of heart and perspective. Replete in lessons about social awareness and emotional realizations about bad moods and life encounters, The Ugly Place provides an excellent starting point for exploring emotional growth and the impact of negative and positive feelings. Adults will want to choose The Ugly Place for read-aloud conversations about emotional issues.

A Perfect Day With Wonderful Friends
Philip Waechter
Gecko Press
9781776574667, $18.99

A Perfect Day With Wonderful Friends is translated by Melody Shaw and provides a gentle tale of friendship as friends visit one another and become involved in helping. Each friend holds a different ability, which prompts a growing circle of participants as problem-solving taps a host of issues. This fine story of friendship and fun creates an engaging scene of cooperative thinking and group participation, teaching kids about aiding others in the process of seeking help for their own needs.

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever The Courage to Dream
Frederick Joseph, author
Nikkolas Smith, illustrator
Marvel Press
c/o Disney
9781368076739, $17.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever The Courage to Dream" is the story of Assata, a young Wakandan who hopes to become one of the Dora Milaje, the warriors who protect Wakanda. But because of Assata's disability, she lets go of her dream. Assata's light shows through all the same, introducing her to surprising friends: the princess Shuri, the warrior Okoye, and the powerful M'Baku. But only Assata can give herself what she's missing: the courage to dream.

Critique: Inspired by the two hugely popular Wakanda movies, "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever The Courage to Dream" by author/storyteller Frederick Joseph and artist/illustrator Nikkolas Smith is a charming, fun, and original picture book that will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library collections for children ages 3-5. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever The Courage to Dream" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note #1: Frederick Joseph ( is the author of The Black Friend, Patriarchy Blues: Reflections on Manhood, and Better Than We Found It. An award-winning activist, philanthropist, and marketing professional, he was named to the 2019 Forbes 30 Under 30 list, is a recipient of the Bob Clampett Humanitarian Award, and was selected for the 2018 Root 100, an annual list of the most influential African Americans.

Editorial Note #2: Nikkolas Smith ( is the illustrator of The 1619 Project: Born on the Water and I Am Ruby Bridges, and the author-illustrator of The Golden Girls of Rio, My Hair Is Poofy & That's Okay, and World Cup Women. Many of his viral, globally shared sketches are included in Sunday Sketch: The Art of Nikkolas. Nikkolas speaks on his artivism around the world, leading workshops in digital painting, character, and movie poster design. Any one interested can learn more at

On Your Way!
Mike Purewal
Olympia Publishers
9781839344176, $10.99, PB, 38pp

Synopsis: "On Your Way!" by Mike Purewal is a rhythmic story that inspires children to be adventurous, imaginative and explore what's around and within them. This magical journey will take them all the way from outer space to the center of the universe! With rainbow trees, rocket ships, dances with the stars and tapping into the powers of the universe,

"On Your Way!" is a picture book story inspires immense creativity and touches on the mental obstacles we all face like anger, worry and fear, assuring that they are natural but can be overcome. There is great power in children realizing their dreams and potential!

Critique: Original, fun, and with an underlying message that is especially recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections fo children ages 4-8, "On Your Way!" is also readily available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.53).

Editorial Note: Mike Purewal ( is an advocate of increasing BIPOC representation for authors and young readers and following his passion of writing children's books in order to spread joy and humour to young readers and parents alike!

Bright Winter Night
Alli Brydon, author
Ashling Lindsay, illustrator
Two Lions
9781542022248, $17.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: On one bright winter night, a group of woodland creatures emerges from the forest. Despite their differences, they start to build something together, using items found on the forest floor. What are they making? And how quickly can they build it? Something special is happening tonight, and soon the animals are off -- in a race to catch a glimpse of one of nature's most astounding wonders!

Critique: With a truly lyrical text by author/storyteller Alli Brydon and the sparkling artwork by artist/illustrator Ashling Lindsay, "Bright Winter Night" is a celebration of the joy and beauty of nature and the special gift of friendship and togetherness. While unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for children ages 3-7, it should be noted that "Bright Winter Night" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99).

Editorial Note #1: Alli Brydon ( is inspired by natural wonders and what they can teach us, and she strives to bring that magic to the books she writes for children. Her recent picture books include Lobstah Gahden, illustrated by EG Keller, and Love Around the World, illustrated by Wazza Pink. She also writes nonfiction about creatures, from insects to lemurs to humans. Alli holds an MFA in poetry from Sarah Lawrence College in New York and lives in England with her family.

Editorial Note #2: Ashling Lindsay ( is an artist and writer from Belfast, Ireland. Her picture books are published in more than ten languages and have received various awards and accolades, including a nomination for the Kate Greenaway Medal; being shortlisted for the Waterstones Children's Book Prize, the Klaus Flugge Prize, and the Children's Books Ireland Book of the Year; and being longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards. In 2020 she was awarded the KPMG Children's Books Ireland Honour Award for Illustration with her book The Tide, written by Clare Helen Welsh.

The Willow Pattern Story
Allan Drummond
NorthSouth Books
600 Third Avenue, 2nd Floor, New York, NY 10016
9780735845121, $18.95, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: Beautiful young Koong Shee wishes only to be with her true love Chang. But her father has other plans and locks his daughter in the garden. Clever Koong Shee and Chang use birds to communicate until they manage to escape. But her bitter father is determined to stop them.

Fascinated by the images in the famous beautiful blue-and-white Willow Pattern china, in his picture book "The Willow Pattern Story" Allan Drummond creates his own variation on an old tale about the china taking us on a journey through the world depicted in the design. A memorable epic of passion, betrayal and transcendent love. 

Critique: With the publication of "The Willow Pattern Story", storyteller and illustrator Allan Drummond has created a beautiful, unique and entertaining picture book for children ages 4-8. While also available for personal reading lists in a paperback edition (9781558584136, $6.95), "The Willow Pattern Story" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library Asia themed picture book collections.

Editorial Note: Allan Drummond ( was a journalist before studying graphic design at the London College of Printing and illustration at the Royal College of Art. He has worked as an illustrator for Time magazine, the Sunday Times of London, and the Design Museum. He has also designed murals and floor patterns for one of London's major Underground stations.

What Does Brown Mean to You?
Ron Grady
Nancy Paulsen Books
c/o Penguin Young Readers Group
9780593462881, $18.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: To Benny, brown is more than just a color. Brown is his Gram's coffee and his Gramp's morning kiss. Brown is the wooden spoon he uses for mixing and baking. It's the ground that grows the tomatoes he loves and it's the log he plays on. Brown is the fuzzy blanket he takes to his room at the end of the day. Brown is him and brown is love.
In tender, lyrical text and warmly exuberant illustrations, "What Does Brown Mean to You?" by author and illustrator Ron Grady celebrates all the brilliant and beautiful shades of brown, encouraging children of color to explore and see the beauty of their skin reflected in their families, communities, and the world around them.

Critique: While very strongly recommended for children of color ages 3-7, "What Does Brown Mean to You?" by Ron Grady will also be of importance with its underlying message about skin color to young white readers as well. While also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99), "What Does Brown Mean to You?" is a valued and unreservedly recommended addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections.

Editorial Note: Ron Grady is a preschool educator and researcher. His website,, hosts his blog and illustrated resources for educators, parents and caregivers.

Mrs. Rabbit's Friendsgiving Dinner
Carole P. Roman, author
Mateya Arkova, illustrator
Chelshire Inc.
9781950080052, $14.99, PB, 34pp

Synopsis: Mrs. Rabbit's large family is all too busy to come home for their annual holiday dinner. So she is feeling a bit lonely, and out of habit, prepares a large feast.

To her growing dismay, she realizes she has no one to share it with. Her doorbell rings, and one by one, her furry forest critter friends ask to join her. Soon enough, her holiday table is brimming with tasty dishes.

The best part of a holiday dinner, she learns, is not the food but the company that shares it with you.

Critique: A lovely and charming picture book story by author/storyteller Carole P. Roman and artist/illustrator Mateya Arkova, "Mrs. Rabbit's Friendsgiving Dinner" is unreservedly recommended as being an enduringly popular addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for children ages 4-7. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Mrs. Rabbit's Friendsgiving Dinner" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $5.99).

Editorial Note #1: Carole P. Roman ( is the award-winning author of over fifty children's books. Whether it's pirates, princesses, spies, or discovering the world around us, her books have enchanted educators, parents, and her diverse audience of children of all ages.

Editorial Note #2: Mateya Arkova ( earned a Bachlor Degree in Book Publishing ( Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridski) and Master of Arts (M.A),in Graphic Design in New Bulgarian University. She entered the advertising business as a Visual Artist, one year later began illustrating children's books.

Kyle Wendell and the Running-Away Day
Sherry Bennett Warshauer, author
Chad Thompson, illustrator
TriMark Press
9780976752837, $11.95, PB, 24pp

Synopsis: Is the arrival of a new baby brother as bad as all that? Yup! It's bad enough to make a kid want to run away! "Kyle Wendell and the Running-Away Day" teaches that even the smallest gestures can be big and meaningful among family.

Critique: An exceptionally well written endearing and fun picture book story by Sherry Bennett Warshauer that is charmingly supported by the full color illustrations of Chad Thompson, about how the realization of what love really is can arrive little by little (and then with a bang!), "Kyle Wendell and the Running-Away Day" is especially and unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library collections for children ages 4-7.

Editorial Note #1: The author of five books Sherry Bennett Warshauer is a member of the Dog Writer's Association of America and the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators. (

Editorial Note #2: Chad Thompson is an illustrator, designer, and author of children's books. (

Mark Huffman, author
Dawn Davidson, illustrator
Brown Books Publishing Group
9781612543635, $16.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: A mermaid named Auri has terrible troubles: She toots all the time, and it comes out as bubbles! She wants to be human and live on the land, But her fairy friends fear she may not understand...

Critique: A lively and fun read for children ages 4-8, "Bubbles" by the team of author/storyteller Mark Huffman and artist/illustrator Dawn Davidson is a whimsical picture book that will have a very special appeal for young readers with an interest in mermaids, mermen, and stories told in verse. Original and memorable, "Bubbles" is highly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections.

Editorial Note #1: Mark Huffman ( is an anesthesiologist by day and children's author by night, he loves to write about our shared human experiences, which is just a fancy way of saying he enjoys writing about toots. ABC's Good Morning Texas has even dubbed Huffman "the Dr. Seuss of toilet humor." His children's books include: The Toot Fairy, Cheesemaker Durdsden, Billan the Bard, and now Bubbles. He lives with his family in Texas.

Editorial Note #2: Dawn Davidson ( is a freelance illustrator who spends her days drawing funny pictures and pretty webcomics, writing fanfiction, browsing social media.

William B. Eerdmans
4035 Park East Ct. SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49546

Three new picture books from William B. Eerdmans provide young readers with thought provoking stories that ideally will become part of parent/child discussions and peer classroom debate.

Alexandra Garibal's A Head Full of Birds (9780802855961, $17.99) will reach ages 4-8 with a fine story of diversity. Sibylle Delacroix's color pencil drawings lend a gentle, atmospheric touch to this exploration of diverse friendships, differences in abilities, and disparate ways of viewing the world.

Fran Pintadera's Madani's Best Game (9780802855978, $17.99) is translated by Lawrence Schimel and tells of soccer player Madani, whose prowess at the sport draws the attention of adults and peers alike. The only limiting factor to his talents is a proper pair of cleats, which he saves money towards. Unless something more intriguing demands his attention and largess. Fun insights accompany pencil illustrations by Raquel Catalina for an intriguing picture book story of achievement and challenges.

Isabella Paglia's The Box (9780802855923, $17.99) provides the enchanting story of a mysterious box that arrives in the woods and holds something intriguing inside. Paolo Proietti's pastel, chalk, and watercolor art illustrates an intriguing story of hiding, friendship, and forest animals that focus on how to welcome the newcomer to their home. Laura Watkinson provides the translation of this winning tale of diversity and friendship.

All three of these are appealing picture book stories that hold much food for thought.

Tiger Tales
PO Box 70, Iron Ridge, WI 53035

New picture books from Tiger Tales offer kids enjoyable entertainment value with memorable stories and bright pictures.

Suzy Senior's Who Will Kiss the Crocodile? (9781680102840, $17.99) receives colorful, zany drawings by Claire Powell that accent this "snappy twist on Sleeping Beauty." In a hilarious mishap, a vengeful (but not-too-adept) evil fairy who isn't invited to the party for the King and Queen's new daughter casts a wicked spell that will turn the baby into a crocodile, then force her into a deep sleep when she is 16. Who would kiss a croc to break this enchantment?

A lesson in perseverance lies in Smriti Prasadam-Hall's Dinos Don't Give Up! (9781680102888, $17.99). Here, determined Dinah the Diplodocus is good at everything - until she tackles surfing. How can she win when she can't even stay on her surfboard? Richard Merritt provides engaging lessons that accent this determined dino's dilemma.

Angela Woolfe's Agent Llama: Double Trouble (9781680102857, $17.99) receives engaging, whimsical drawings by Duncan Beedie as it presents fluffy llama spy Charlie Parker, whose mission is to stop Harley Hacker, a rogue alpaca, whose Noodle Doom Machine is causing problems with spaghetti, sauce, and floods of adversity. Charlie's creative re-purposing of apple pie and other devices to stop this Noodle Doom makes for many satisfying twists and turns of high adventure touched by humor.

All of these new picture books from Tiger Tales offer lessons in overcoming adversity, couched in original stories that are attractive and amusing.

Sleeping Bear Press
1750 Northway Drive. Suite 101. North Mankato, MN 56003

New picture books from Sleeping Bear Press provide engaging, lively stories that will prove winning picks for elementary-level libraries and read-aloud parents alike.

Miss Mary's Christmas Mittens by Trinka Hakes Noble (9781534111677, $17.99) tells the story of a special teacher who is determined to make the holiday season a merry one for her students. When she learns they are missing out on snow activities because they don't have mittens, she decides to knit every student a pair for Christmas. But when the local store runs out of yarn, what can she do? Reminiscent of an O. Henry classic example of creative problem-solving and altruism, the story receives colorful embellishment by Renee Andriani as it provides an inspirational story of giving.

Mr. Thatcher's House by Kristin Wauson (9781534111578, $17.99) tells of a house-builder determined to construct the perfect house. The problem is: no matter how much effort he puts into it or how big it gets, it's never perfect. Will it ever be finished to his satisfaction? The problem is compounded when strangers seek shelter for the night. How can he offer them something less than perfection? Mr. Thatcher, and youngsters who read about him, ultimately discover the foundations of accepting imperfection and understanding what really makes a house a home in this warm story of family relationships, non-traditional families, and meaningful connections in life.

Both of these two new titles are lovely, exceptional picture books, and highly recommended for family, elementary school, and community library collections for young readers..

Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020-1513

Simon & Schuster's latest picture books offer vivid illustrations and stories that lend to both read-aloud and young reader pursuit, standing out from the crowd with lively presentations suitable for library lending and home collections alike.

Angela C. Santomero's I Will Always Be Your Friend! (9781665920780, $12.99) is a 'Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood' title that introduces another beautiful day in the Neighborhood of Make-Believe. Vibrant characters in full color panels supplement this supportive story of imagines and play, giving young readers a cozy story supported by a single pop-up at the end and glossy pages that create durability and attraction.

Rosemary Well's Max Can Read! (9781534493964, $18.99) joins others in the Max & Ruby rabbit series about sibling interactions and growth. Ages 4-8 receive a vivid series of surprises that follow Max's growing abilities as he receives a present he must put together using his unique talents. Older sister Ruby is too busy to either help Max problem-solve or oversee the construction. It's up to Max to help himself in this engaging story of following directions and handling impatience.

Jan Thomas's Even Robots Can Be Thankful! (9781665911672, $17.99) offers two illustrated panels per page where robots discuss the idea of thankfulness, even if the matters under consideration would seem to prompt fear, problem-solving trouble, and challenges to their relationship. The message about thankfulness will prove especially attractive in this format.

Little Red and the Big Bad Editor by Rebecca Kraft Rector (9781534469297, $18.99) receives fine drawings by Shanda McCloskey in a different "once upon a time" story that leads Little Red to confront an editor in wolf's clothing. The thank-you note she carries to her grandmother is full of errors, and the confrontational wolf editor pushes her for impossible perfection. Rector's descriptions are just as vivid as McCloskey's drawings: "Quick as instant grits, Red shoved a cinnamon muffin in his mouth."

Tony Johnston's Pages of Music (9781665904339, $18.99) receives inviting illustrations by Tomie dePaola as it tells of a painter and her son, who visits the island of Sardinia where a shepherd shares his music with them. It's a life-changing event for young Paolo, who one day finds himself a noted composer and conductor and who, as an adult, returns to the island on Christmas morning to share his own musical celebration and influence. Adults who choose Pages of Music as a read-aloud will find the insights on giving back and growth to be perfect starting points for discussion.

Elana K. Arnold's All By Himself? (9781534489899, $18.99) receives illustrations by Giselle Potter that spark the imagination as a child builds a masterpiece by himself. A gorgeous story of cause-and-effect creates a building block of connections that culminate in a solo creative effort that actually is not independently crafted, but results from a series of connections.

Lauren Stringer's The Dark Was Done (9781534462922, $18.99) tells of a universal fear of the dark. Everyone wishes the Dark would go away. But, what happens when the Dark does decide to vanish? What would the world be like without it? Lauren Stringer's foray into "what if" offers many thought-provoking moments that will lend particularly well to read-aloud and adult participation: "Then one day - or maybe it was night, no one could tell the difference - the boy said, "I miss the song of crickets." "Their song is a gift of the Dark," said his mother. "When the Dark left, the crickets' song left too." Simply outstanding, The Dark Was Done is a powerful reminder of the importance of darkness in the world, and the gifts it can bring.

Sophia N. Lee's Holding On (9781534494459, $18.99) receives appealing illustrations by Isabel Roxas and reaches ages 4-8 with the story of Lola, who introduces her granddaughter to the wonders of a wide range of music. As Lola slips into silence herself, with age, her legacy lives on in a loving granddaughter who helps her grandmother remember the joy in music and their relationship, too.

I Can't Draw by Stephen W. Martin and Brian Biggs (9781534493414, $18.99) tells of a boy who loves to draw, but isn't very good at it. He asks his friend Eugene for help, but this seems to change nothing until Eugene comes up with a different approach to the dilemma. Kids ages 4-8 will relish this creative problem-solving tale as they adopt a revised approach to what constitutes art.

Very highly recommended for family, elementary school, and community library collections for young readers, all of these new picture books are exciting, compelling stories kids and read-aloud parents will find refreshingly different and inviting.

Penguin Random House

New picture books from Penguin Random House are highly recommended picks for picture book readers and libraries that look for unusual stories paired with inviting, colorful illustrations.

Heidi Woodward Sheffield's Ice Cream Face (9780525518488, $17.99) comes from an Ezra Jack Keats Award Winner who tells of a kid who loves all kinds of ice cream. It's too bad that he also doesn't love standing in line for it. That's when his mad face appears. Fun illustrations capture the child's ups and downs as he awaits a treat with much impatience and finds it lends to a special face that celebrates the moment. Read-aloud parents will relish the opportunity to employ the action words that accompany ice cream-eating.

Becky Scharnhorst's This Field Trip Stinks! (9780593403334, $17.99) offers zany, fun drawings by Julia Patton and presents the journal of young Stuart, who "doesn't belong in the wild," and who thinks that nature lessons are best gained from books rather than encountering "creepy crawlies" in the outdoors. As good news and bad news evolve from the experience, young readers will laugh over the lessons they transmit.

Alissa Holder and Zulekha Holder-Young's I Am Amazing! (9780593327326, $17.99) receives large-size, attractive illustrations by Nneka Myers as it tells of young Ayaan, who feels like a superhero but doesn't really look like one. Since friends impart this judgment, Ayaan feels he should hang up his mask and cape, until his wiser father teaches him a lesson about helping others and becoming a real superhero. Ages 3-7 will find Ayaan's story an inviting lesson in appearances and good intentions.

Greg Pizzoli's Pizza! A Slice of History (9780425291078, $18.99) comes from a Geisel award-winning author and illustrator who tackle the history of pizza and its colorful attractions. From the slang surrounding pizza ("pizza rat" and "pizzaiolo") to the origins of pizza and some odd facts surrounding its ingredients ("For centuries, most Europeans thought tomatoes were unhealthy - even poisonous - and many people refused to eat them."), kids will enjoy a lively chronicle of pizza's delicious history.

These are inviting picture books that any library collection would find attractive and popular.

Candlewick Press
99 Dover Street, Somerville, MA 02144

New Candlewick Press picture books provide young readers with stories that are thought provoking and fun standouts.

Logan S. Kline's Finding Fire (9781536213027, $18.99) is a wordless picture book adventure set in prehistoric times. It tells of a young boy who searches for fire to bring back to his family before winter. His efforts to brave storms and strange environments especially lends to parental involvement as children absorb the wordless descriptions and fill in the blanks created from colorful adventure.

Carrie Fountain's The Poem Forest: Poet W.S. Merwin and the Palm Tree Forest He Grew from Scratch (9781536211269, $18.99) enjoys lovely illustrations by Chris Turnham as it surveys the life of William Stanley and his efforts to grow a wilderness of trees in Hawaii, in a place where everyone said that nothing would grow. Stanley feels "at home in the wilderness," and so will young readers as they absorb the life and efforts of a man who "heals the earth" via growing trees and crafting poems.

Randi Sonenshine's The Lodge That Beaver Built (9781536218688, $18.99) is illustrated with engaging, whimsical drawings by Anne Hunter that is paired with equally inviting, lyrical language based on the 'House That Jack Built' classic. Here, "This is the crunch in the darkening wood/of teeth against bark where the willow once stood/on the shore near the lodge that Beaver built." Kids receive a lovely rollicking rhyme that also teaches beaver natural history.

Atinuke's Too Small Tola and the Three Fine Girls (9781536225174, $15.99) is a chapter book that holds simple yet appealing black and white drawings by Onyinye Iwu as it presents a new adventure experienced by a small girl with big ideas and an interest in making a difference in the world. The creative, fun tale holds many lessons about attitude and endeavors that will attract elementary-grade readers just beyond the picture book stage.

The Winter Bird by Kate Banks (9781536215687, $18.99) receives lovely illustrations by Suzie Mason as it explores a nightingale with an injured wing that can't fly south when cold weather strikes. How will it prepare for a winter it's never experienced? That's what friends are for as help arrives to educate the little bird and introduce it to a season it fears, but ultimately finds enchanting. The story of perseverance and friendship holds many lessons for the very young.

Build a House by Rhiannon Giddens (9781536222524, $17.99) is illustrated by Monica Mikai and comes with an online link to a recording by the author and Yo-Yo Ma as it tells of an African-American family's determination to survive a legacy of violence. Based on the song "Build a House" composed for the 155th anniversary of Juneteenth, this compelling history of slavery in America brings events to life for picture book readers.

Kenneth Kraegel's Mushroom Lullaby (9781536219418, $17.99) celebrates the mushroom and introduces its wonder to young picture book readers, providing the growth story of a miraculous mushroom that begins softly underground and grows "high in the sky," and which "never stays dry." As the mushroom evolves in a gorgeous, unexpected fantasy manner, readers receive beautiful full-page color embellishments as the tale evolves in a delightfully unexpected direction.

All of these new offerings from Candlewick Press are engaging, fun picture books that are highly recommended picks for family, elementary school, and community library collections.

The Middle Grade Fiction Shelf

The U-nique Lou Fox
Jodi Carmichael
Pajama Press
9781772782585, $23.95 HC, $11.49 Kindle, 240pp (Ages 8-12)

Fans of Harriet the Spy and other dynamic female characters in books for advanced elementary to early middle grade audiences will find The U-nique Lou Fox a fun adventure with the added value of presenting a girl with dyslexia who dreams of being Lou Fox, a famous Broadway playwright, instead of Louisa Elizabeth Fitzhenry-O'Shaughnessy, a girl with an impossibly long name and fifth grade angst.

Teacher Mrs. Snyder doesn't seem to know anything at ADHD or Lou's struggles. However, Lou finds different ways to reinforce friendships and find joy in life in this powerful saga of ADHD, dyslexia, and a girl who both struggles with and celebrates life despite its obstacles.

Elementary-level collections seeking vivid, realistic characters will find The U-nique Lou Fox an intriguing, inviting story.

Abby's Pony Love
Susan Count
Hastings Creations Group
9781952371035, $0.99, Kindle

What does a horse-crazy girl with no horse of her own do to satisfy her passion? She gets a job in a local stable. And then she falls in love. Abby's Pony Love is a story that will feel familiar to any horse-crazy girl who harbors the passion (but not the opportunity) to interact with horses. Illustrator Bev Johnson adds pictorial drama to Susan Count's tale, providing a compelling cover and cameo images thereof to embellish the story as Count follows Abby's rationale for developing a strategy to satisfy her pony passion. Humor and spiritual components spice the tale with added value.

These elements combine with the horse-centric passion of the plot as Abby's favorite pony moves on and out of her life, creating further conundrums over something she loves like it's her own, even though it isn't. From differences between mares and geldings to horse tack and terminology, Count's story is steeped in the language, feel, and nature of the equine world. Advanced elementary to early middle grade readers who love horses, and spunky girls determined to be involved with them against all odds, will relish Abby's Pony Love, which covers the topics of love, maturity, friendship, and determination with equal attention. A glossary of horse terms (and even a carrot recipe for horse treats) follows the tale, supporting its atmosphere and style with practical elements of reality.

The Romantic Fiction Shelf

The Fate of a Crush
Marie McGrath
Creative James Media
9781956183856, $11.99 Paper/$4.99 Kindle

Teens who choose The Fate of a Crush for its insights into young romance and social conundrums will find that Marie McGrath creates a fine juxtaposition of emotional challenges in the story of Allie, who falls in love with her best friend's brother. Dreamy though he is, Hunter Baylor is off-limits. Allie well knows the unspoken roles about this kind of attraction: "The first rule of liking your best friend's brother was that she could never know. The second? I could never do anything about my feelings. But man did I want to."

Mia is like Allie's sister. Her home is Allie's second home. So how can Allie feel this way about a brother who should also be like a brother to her - and nothing more? When she goes on a vacation with her best friend's family, more confusion and trouble emerge as communications become entangled with underlying emotions. Allie's feelings are crushed in a surprising manner that challenges her close relationship with the entire Baylor family.

As the story evolves, teens receive an astute consideration of romantic interests, friendship connections, and the awkwardness that comes from attempts to be something more than pals. The tangled emotions that arise from not just an attraction to Hunter, but fielding advances in other areas of life are given realistic inspection and attention by astute dialogues and encounters: "A shiver went down my spine, but it wasn't from Bennett. It was like an energy, setting me on fire from the inside. An energy I knew made no sense, until I turned and saw Hunter glaring at Bennett. Why would he be mad at him? Did he know something about him I didn't?"

As the lies and confusion build, Mia finds her own sense of self and her ethical beliefs tested. McGrath does a fine job of bringing to life the romantic conundrums of a teen who only wants to do the right thing - for herself, as well as her relationships. She creates a clean romance in which emotional ties are considered, crushes are portrayed in detail, and the angst a teen might feel over expectations, missed opportunities, and notions of love are considered against the realistic backdrop of changing relationships. The result is a romance that considers secrets, challenges, and the special conundrum faced in changing a supportive relationship that has been part of one's entire life.

Teens will find The Fate of a Crush a wholesome and involving tale that holds important points about traditions and interconnected, close lives.

The Young Adult Fiction Shelf

Rolling in the Deep
Arthur Kevin Rein
Open Books
9781948598583, $19.95

Rolling in the Deep blends a coming-of-age story with a mystery that originates in a fishing trip discovery and expands to embrace and shake a small town's psyche and culture. At age 17, Sam is already more than familiar with loss and grief. That's why his family moved to Noquebay Resort in Northern Wisconsin -- to begin anew. But you can't leave the past behind, especially when you snag it with your fishing line and dredge up world-changing trouble.

Fishing wasn't the original objective. It was a legendary skull rumored to be at the bottom of Red Wolf Lake, worth five thousand dollars. The points of view switch between narrator Sam, Diane Warren, and other teens who explore the shifting events that lead to debate, blackmail, set-ups, and a form of intrigue that young adults rarely receive. As friends, their families, and local authorities find their lives entwined and their interests in conflict,

Arthur Kevin Rein spins a yarn replete with intrigue and investigations that embrace trouble on both psychological and environmental levels. Rein's fast-paced story offers many satisfying twists and turns, keeping the focus on a band of teens that seek answers, but just keep miring themselves into more and more questions that lead to deeper trouble revolving around a cold case missing person. The characters are well done, with the intersecting first-person observations expanding the psychological draw of unfolding mystery events.

Young adults who look for murder mysteries that embrace both coming-of-age experiences and small town connected lives and special interests will find Rolling in the Deep a fine story made all the more realistic by Rein's own background growing up in a resort town. Libraries seeking stories of evolving relationships against the backdrop of a deepening mystery will welcome Rolling in the Deep's ability to attract on different levels, powered by an atmosphere that represents both adventure and changing interpersonal relationships and perspectives.

Like a Hero
Michael J. Bowler
Independently Published
9780990306399, $12.99 Paper/$2.99 ebook/$18.99 Hardcover

Teen fans of superhero stories and action-packed adventures tempered by insights into the origins of courage will find Like a Hero a fine opener to The Invictus Chronicles series.

Dennis wants to become a professional comic book illustrator. His artistic ambitions have been stifled by growing up in his older brother Vincent's shadow of achievement, though creating the comic character Invictus brought them closer. Having created Invictus and incarnated him into reality in the body of his older brother, Vincent faces new challenges as he strives to live up to being a hero, but instead confronts poverty, homelessness, drug addiction, abuse, and cast-off children in the streets.

How can a crime fighter live up to his name? How can a younger brother who has joined him in this vigilante effort live up to his older brother's ideals and persona? Michael J. Bowler's novel may sound like a story of comic book-style crime-busting, but it actually represents a moral and ethical consideration of doing good in a world which pits these young people against their own ambitions as much as any dark forces.

Bowler also excels in documenting the orphan brothers' changing relationship as secrets evolve, misguided intentions redirect perceptions and actions, and the siblings are forced to re-examine their relationship and concepts of each other and Invictus. Streetwise encounters and scenarios from the real world vie with vigilante efforts, drawing others into their circle to face many of the same conundrums.

There is a degree of violence and graphic description that should be mentioned: "Demon flinched at the brutality. He pictured The Hero saving those guys at the school when he could have let them die. Then he thought of Z with his hair ripped out and his shattered arm." Graphic though they may be, these descriptions are in keeping with the story's evolutionary process. As Bowler's narrative about heroism, courage, and being on the right side evolves, young readers enjoy deeper considerations of what it means to be proactive and strong.

Libraries looking for novels that draw readers with the lure of an action-packed hero story, but temper these with moral and ethical considerations, will find that Like a Hero operates on a different level than most entertaining reads, offering not just food for thought, but fodder for classroom and group discussion.

Jesse's Dream
Victor Hess
Independently Published
9780999564028, $12.95 Paper/$4.99 ebook

Young adult readers of coming-of-age novels will find Jesse's Dream: Searching for Family an evocative story of alcoholism, redemption, and family entanglements. While it's the third book in Victor Hess's 'Searching for Family' series (and also marks a future series, the Wesley Club Adventure), Jesse's Dream can be read as a stand-alone story. From its opening lines, Jesse's Dream reveals a sense of place in 1957 Ohio that captures the route of a paperboy who lives with a divorced mother and chooses to attend the local Methodist church with his sister. But, being rooted in religion won't save Jesse from his own fears and family heritage. As he uncovers family secrets, faces new possibilities of extraordinary talents in his younger sister (who may be a healer), and solidifies his own connections with the past, Jesse grows into his heritage and his own life.

Victor Hess demonstrates a strong ability to capture a young boy's concurrent evolution of dreams and failures as he grows up within his church and family structures. The townspeople, support systems, and social services which bring both opportunity and angst introduce Jesse to new ways of thinking about his father's condition and possible pathways to redemption. Readers brought into the fold of Jesse's evolving wonder will find the story steeped in a sense of discovery and insight that keeps them reading, guessing, and experiencing some of these revelations through Jesse's eyes: "Your sister's a saint," Montana whispered to me. "Not yet," I said."

The result is a coming-of-age tale of enlightenment, hope, and new realizations. It is especially highly recommended for libraries and readers interested in a tale of a household run by a single parent and a boy who absorbs simple rules of living and how to identify good and evil in his life and the wider world outside it. Libraries looking for atmospheric coming-of-age novels that appeal to middle grades and older will find Jesse's Dream a powerful saga that operates both as a stand-alone read and, even more strongly, in conjunction with the prior Jesse books.

The Take-Over Friend
Carol Dines
Fitzroy Books
9781646032891, $16.95, PB, 216pp

Synopsis: On the second day of ninth grade, introverted Frances meets Sonja, a wildly funny newcomer from France, and the girls form a fast friendship. Frances adores Sonja's worldliness, and Sonja adores Frances's family, especially her older brother, Will. Frances and Sonja immediately declare themselves "The Poets" and rally their homeroom to enter the homecoming parade with a poetry-mobile built from Frances's father's old band bus. But respective family crises begin to escalate, and tensions come to a head when Sonja temporarily moves in with Frances's family -- forcing each friend to decide how close is too close.

Critique: Fun, funny, and eloquently touching, "The Take-Over Friend" by Carol Dines (with its underlying message about the importance of finding your own voice in relationships) will prove to be an immediately popular addition to middle school, highschool, and community library YA Fiction collections for young readers ages 12-17. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Take-Over Friend" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.99).

Editorial Note: Carol Dines ( has published three previous Young Adult books including two novels, Best Friends Tell the Best Lies (Delacorte), The Queen's Soprano (Harcourt), as well as a collection of short stories, Talk to Me (Delacorte.) In addition, she has published a collection of short stories for adults, This Distance We Call Love (Orison Books, 2021). Her short fiction has been published in numerous literary journals including Ploughshares and Colorado Review. She is a recipient of the SWCA's Judy Blume award as well as a recipient of Minnesota and Wisconsin State Artist Fellowships.

The Luminaries
Susan Dennard
Tor Teen
c/o Tor/Forge Books
9781250194046, $18.99, HC, 304pp

Synopsis: Hemlock Falls isn't like other towns. You won't find it on a map, your phone won't work here, and the forest outside town might just kill you.

Winnie Wednesday wants nothing more than to join the Luminaries, the ancient order that protects Winnie's town (and the rest of humanity) from the monsters and nightmares that rise in the forest of Hemlock Falls every night.

Ever since her father was exposed as a witch and a traitor, Winnie and her family have been shunned. But on her sixteenth birthday, she can take the deadly Luminary hunter trials and prove herself true and loyal -- restoring her family's good name -- or die trying!

But in order to survive, Winnie enlists the help of the one person who can help her train: Jay Friday, resident bad boy and Winnie's ex-best friend. While Jay might be the most promising new hunter in Hemlock Falls, he also seems to know more about the nightmares of the forest than he should. Together, he and Winnie will discover a danger lurking in the forest no one in Hemlock Falls is prepared for.

Not all monsters can be slain, and not all nightmares are confined to the dark.

Critique: A fascinating, original, fun read from cover to cover, "The Luminaries" by Susan Dennard will have and exceptional appeal to young readers with an interest in magic, witchcraft, romance, and action/adventure fantasy. While especially and unreservedly recommended for middle school, highschool, and community library YA Fiction and YA Fantasy collections for readers ages 13-18, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Luminaries" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99).

Editorial Note: Susan Dennard ( is the author of the Witchlands series (now in development for TV from the Jim Henson Company), and the Something Strange and Deadly series, in addition to short fiction published online. She also runs the popular newsletter for writers, the Misfits and Daydreamers.

The Fantasy/SciFi Shelf

Will and the Whisp
Ross MacKay
Creative James Media
9781956183818, $10.99 Paper/$4.99 Kindle

Will Devine never expected to encounter a fugitive being called a Whisp in the bathroom. The Whisp has eluded Hunters and she seeks a refuge. This just so happens to be Will, as they become interconnected in an unexpected way that allows the Whisp to elude her pursuers and forces Will to struggle with an entity that shares his body. Ross MacKay's choice of presenting the Whisp as female and opening with her story of flight creates an engaging scenario from the start as the Whisp finds the promise of freedom in an unexpected place.

The language is vividly compelling, drawing readers immediately into the conundrum: "The Whisp propels herself forward. She has never heard the song of the Thresholds until this night. She didn't even exist when they were last open. But if a Threshold was open and singing to her, then there was a chance... A small chance, she might escape with her life." All of her spirit friends have been captured by the Hunters one by one, never to be seen again. How long can the Whisp elude capture by her choice?

MacKay is especially adept at portraying the minute details of this unusual link between spirit and human. As events move from the Whisp's perspective to Will's odd encounter, it looks like Will's mission (to enter a new school with a minimum of fuss and attention) has gone seriously awry. But that's not the only thing that changes in his life. His relationship with the Whisp introduces him to a strange world that coexists with his own - one that also poses a threat to teachers and other students.

As Will and his young readers learn about Whisps, Ghasts, bindings and unbindings, and others' efforts to save the Whisps from the Hunters, Will becomes involved in a world few knew existed. MacKay injects a wry humor into these descriptions which also lend strength to the story's unexpected twists and turns as explanations evolve: "You need to understand what you are facing. You both do. Across every world, in every reality, the same four elements can be found: earth, fire, air, and water. With the correct maths and a little bit of work, one of those elements can open a door to the same element on the other side. You jump in a fountain and whoosh you end up in a toilet bowl. Water to water. You go through the air in the back of a cupboard and whoosh, you fall through the sky."

The fantasy component is nicely wound into a tale that juxtaposes a real-world backdrop with a new boy's evolving foray into more than just an unexpected life. A crime component also offsets the fantasy as adults interact with situations they think they know (but really don't). The result is a satisfying blend of coming-of-age, empowerment, and discovery tale that focuses on connections, disconnections, and the power of unifying two disparate forces which share the same path for a while.

Teens looking for vivid, action-packed stories of survival that operate on different levels will find Will and the Whisp features many unexpected development that will keep them reading, guessing, and thoroughly involved. Libraries choosing leisure reads that excel in creative scenarios and tales of unexpected connections will find Will and the Whisp an outstanding work of literature. It invites with a promise, a song, and surprising connections that carry Will into alien territory both elsewhere and in his own heart.

Grady Whill and the Templeton Codex
Carole P. Roman
Chelshire Inc.
9781950080045, $18.99, HC, 286pp

Synopsis: The superhero high school Templeton Academy is finally open! This prestigious academy is now recruiting the best of the best to enroll in its student body. The school is as mysterious as it is exclusive.

Grady Whill thinks there is nothing special about him to make the grade. However, his best friend, Aarush Patel has been selected and thinks Grady has the right stuff. Even school bully Elwood Bledsoe is attending. If Grady is fortunate enough to be picked, his guardian has forbidden him to attend. Will a family secret prevent Grady from becoming the superhero he was destined to be?

Critique: Original, fun, and with a special appeal to young readers with an interest in superhero high school adventure stories, "Grady Whill and the Templeton Codex" by gifted children's book author and novelist Carole P. Roman will prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to elementary school, middle school, and community library fiction collections for young readers 8-15

Editorial Note: Carole P. Roman ( is the award-winning author of more than fifty children's books. Her books have been applauded by educators, parents, and her enormously diverse audience of children from preschool to young adult.

The Tiltersmith
Amy Herrick
Algonquin Young Readers
c/o Algonquin Books
PO Box 2225, Chapel Hill, NC 27515-2225
Blackstone Audiobooks
9781643750996, $17.95, HC, 320p

Synopsis: Spring has arrived in Brooklyn, New York, but winter refuses to let go. Sleet, snow, and even a tornado batter the city.

Mr. Ross, the science teacher, believes climate change is the cause, but classmates Edward, Feenix, Danton, and Brigit suspect older, magical forces are at work. When a peculiar character calling himself Superintendent Tiltersmith appears with a keen interest in the foursome, their suspicions are confirmed, and they're swept up in a battle of wits and courage.

The friends must protect a set of mysterious tools belonging to the Lady of Spring. If they can free her from her underground prison, winter will end. But if the Tiltersmith steals the tools, he will keep the Lady in his power and upset the balance of nature forever.

Critique: With the publication of "The Tiltersmith", author Amy Herrick demonstrates a genuine flair for originality, character development, and narrative driven storytelling that is ideal for young readers ages 8-12 who have an interest in fantasy fiction. While highly recommended for elementary school, middle school, and community library Science Fiction & Fantasy collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Tiltersmith" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Blackstone Audio, 9798200881291, $41.99, CD)

The Pets/Wildlife Shelf

Animal FACTopia!
Julie Beer, author
Andy Smith, illustrator
Britannica Books
9781913750732 $14.99

Synopsis: Did you know that beavers have orange teeth? Or that some monkeys floss their teeth using bird feathers? Or that one species of bird can walk underwater? Or that alligators stay underwater for longer by swallowing rocks? Or that sea otters use rocks to crack open prey?

Welcome to Animal FACTopia!, a purrfectly amazing world of facts, all of which are verified by Encyclopaedia Britannica. Every fact in this book is connected to the next in a fascinating web of information, where you will leapfrog from topic to topic in surprising and hilarious ways. Sometimes your path branches and you can slide down a rabbit hole to a totally different, but still connected, part of the book. Discover where your curiosity will take you!

Critique: Intended for young people ages 8-12, Animal FACTopia! is an extraordinarily fun collection of fascinating animal facts. Each animal fact has been verified by Britannica, and is presented with a colorful drawing or photograph. The facts range from historical tidbits to biological oddities to amazing animal accomplishments and much more! For example, "Megalodon, a type of shark that went extinct more than two million years ago, had teeth as long as butter knives." Animal FACTopia! is a great way to encourage young animal lovers to read and learn, and is especially recommended for public and school library children's collections.

Please Don't Step on Me
Elly Kree-George, author
Jesse T. Hummingbird, illustrator
Alfreda Beartrack-Algeo, illustrator
7th Generation
c/o Native Voices Books
9781939053435, $14.95, PB, 40pp

Synopsis: "Please Don't Step on Me" is delightful picture book story that teaches children ages 3 to 5 that many bugs are "helpful insects" and enables the young reader to develop a positive and protective attitude towards them.

Willie the Worm introduces his insect friends and inspires the young reader to discover a fresh interest in "bugs," and to realize many of them are indeed their friends too. Included are a series of questions and recommended activities to help parents and teachers engage children to learn even more about these little helpers.

Critique: The join project of author/storyteller Elly Kree-George and artists/illustrators Jesse T. Hummingbird and Alfreda Beartrack-Algeo, "Please Don't Step on Me" charming, informative, and thoroughly 'kid friendly' in presentation. A unique and unreservedly recommended addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Please Don't Step on Me" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note #1: Elly Kree- (McKay) George (1924-2003) was of Scottish-Cherokee descent and grew up in Ohio. From an early age she loved all facets of nature. Later as a Girl Scout leader and an Audubon Jr. Club leader, she was able to instill a respect of the natural world in children. After observing her grandchildren taking nature walks, Elly-Kree wrote Please Don't Step on Me to remind them and others to be kind to all creatures. Elly-Kree was married to a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, artist Edwin George, and lived on the Cherokee reservation in North Carolina.

Editorial Note #2: Jesse Hummingbird (1952-2021) was born in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, and was a member of the Cherokee Nation. He became a full-time artist in the early 1980s, using a traditional "flat-style" that was made famous by earlier Native Oklahoma artists. In 2015, Jesse was named a Tribal Elder by the Cherokee Nation, and in 2017, a National Treasure, an honor given by the tribe to those who are helping to keep Cherokee art and culture alive.

Editorial Note #3: Alfreda Beartrack-Algeo is a storyteller, poet, artist and illustrator. Her recent book, The Day the Earth Rose Up, is her Lakota version of the story of the Pleiades star constellation. She is a member of the Lower Brule Lakota Nation, Kul Wicasa Oyate, Lower Brule, South Dakota. Alfreda grew up surrounded by her tiyospaye, her circle of family and friends and uses stories she heard as a child, along with various art forms, in all her work.

The Theatre/Cinema Shelf

Film Makers: 15 Groundbreaking Women Directors
Lyn Miller-Lachmann, author
Tanisia Moore, author
Chicago Review Press
814 North Franklin Street, Chicago, IL 60610
9781641606103, $16.99, HC, 224pp

Synopsis: In Hollywood, women don't have to be in front of the camera in order to become famous. Each of the women profiled in "Film Makers: 15 Groundbreaking Women Directors" by collaborative authors Tamisa Moore and Lyn Miller- Lachmann shares a common trait. As Shonda Rhimes says, they each are "First. Only. Different."

These phenomenal women have redefined the film and television industry, winning awards historically given to a male counterpart, being the only woman in a writers' room, or portraying stories no one else could tell.

While their resumes are impressive, it is how they live their lives that has made a greater impact in the communities they serve. Many of them, like Gina Prince-Bythewood and Greta Gerwig, mentor other women. Some, like Agnieszka Holland and Chloe Zhao, have stood up to those who seek to ignore or silence them. All of them tell their stories with passion and integrity, serving as role models and champions for future generations.

Best of all, "Film Makers: 15 Groundbreaking Women Directors" can inspire young women to use the tools of film to tell their own story!

Critique: Deftly organized into three major sections (The Pioneer Generation; Striving for Diversity: Generation X Directors; Young Stars in a Global Film Industry), "Film Makers: 15 Groundbreaking Women Directors" is informatively enhanced for young readers with the inclusion of a three page listing of Acknowledgments, a five page Selected Filmography, and eighteen pages of Notes. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Film Makers: 15 Groundbreaking Women Directors" is especially and unreservedly recommended for middle school, highschool, and community library Cinematic Filmmaking History/Biography collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Film Makers: 15 Groundbreaking Women Directors" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99).

Editorial Note #1: Lyn Miller-Lachmann ( is the former editor in chief of MultiCultural Review. Her young adult novel Gringolandia was a 2010 ALA Best Book for Young Adults and received an Americas Award Honorable Mention from the Consortium of Latin American Studies Programs. She is also the author of Surviving Santiago, Rogue, and Torch and the coauthor with Zetta Elliott of Moonwalking.

Editorial Note #2: Tanisia "Tee" Moore ( is the author of forthcoming books My Ancestors' Wildest Dreams and Black Girl Magic as well as the forthcoming Micah Hudson series. She is also the co-owner of Moore and Young Legal Solutions, a virtual law firm based out of Birmingham, Alabama.

The Christian Shelf

The Light Before Christmas: A Family Advent Devotional
Marty Machowski, author
Sarah Bland-Halulko, illustrator
New Growth Press
1301 Carolina Street, #L101, Greensboro, NC 27401
9781645072928, $15.99, HC, 96pp

Synopsis: "The Light Before Christmas: A Family Advent Devotional" is four-week Advent child and family devotional by author Marty Machowski who deftly combines the devotions on the theme of light and darkness with the story of eleven-year-old Mia and her grandmother as they prepare for Christmas. Grandma loves to share her faith, especially at Christmas time, and although she is blind, she can see the light of Jesus shining bright and helps Mia (and children of all ages) to do the same.

Every year, Mia loves to spend the month of December with Grandma getting ready for Christmas. This year, they read a special devotional, The Light Before Christmas, together. Machowski brings families into their devotional time, sharing the story of Christmas. Through a Bible study of light and darkness, readers young readers will discover how the theme of light weaves its way through the Christmas story and God's plan of salvation.

"The Light Before Christmas" contains thirteen devotionals -- three for each of the four weeks of Advent and one more for Christmas. Each devotional includes a Scripture for the day, an object lesson, a focus Scripture, a question to discuss as a family, a song to sing together, and a prayer.

Critique: Highly recommended for Christian families with children ages 8 to 18, "The Light Before Christmas: A Family Advent Devotional" by Marty Machowski is also an excellent and recommended contribution to Sunday School curriculums. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of all members of the Christian community regardless of denominational affiliation that "The Light Before Christmas: A Family Advent Devotional" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

The Judaic Shelf

Happy Llamakkah!: A Hanukkah Story
Laura Gehl, author
Lydia Nichols, illustrator
Abrams Children's Books
c/o Harry N. Abrams
9781419743153, $8.99, Board Book, 22pp

Synopsis: "Happy Llamakkah!: A Hanukkah Story", a board book by the team of author/storyteller Laura Gehl and artist/illustrator Lydia Nichols follows along with the Llama family's Hanukkah traditions as they light their menorah, spin the dreidel, fry latkes, and more. Laura Gehl's lively rhyming text and Lydia Nichols's vibrant illustrations make for a festive read. It should be noted that "Happy Llamakkah!: A Hanukkah Story" also features kid-friendly back matter, with expanded information on the holiday's history and traditions.

Critique: An ideal introduction to the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah for children ages 1-3, "Happy Llamakkah!: A Hanukkah Story" is unreservedly recommended as a popular, fun, and informative addition to family, daycare center, preschool, and community library board book collections.

Editorial Note #1: Laura Gehl ( is the author of popular picture books, board books, and early readers including One Big Pair of Underwear, My Pillow Keeps Moving, I Got a Chicken for My Birthday, the Peep and Egg series, and the Baby Scientist series.

Editorial Note #2: Lydia Nichols ( is a US-based illustrator with a penchant for design and a knack for anthropomorphizing animals and objects alike. She's worked with clients as varied as The New York Times, Google, Chronicle Books, Girl Scouts, and many other fine folks.

The Folktale/Fairytale Shelf

The Hero of Compassion
Harry Einhorn, author
Khoa Le, illustrator
Bala Kids
c/o Shambhala Publications, Inc.
300 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston, MA 02115-4544
9781611809787, $18.95, HC, 32pp

Editorial Note: In Buddhist folklore, Lokeshvara is a compassionate hero who lives above the moon. He tries to help every single being in the world but gets frustrated when he realizes that he can't save everyone. Lokeshvara becomes so disheartened that he explodes into a thousand pieces. With a little help from a wise friend and teacher, the pieces are put back together in a way that can benefit even more beings than before.

Lokeshvara's tale of compassion and resilience teaches children ages 4-8 that even when we feel overwhelmed by the suffering we see in the world, we can still find creative ways to help those around us.

With beautiful illustrations by Khoa Lee that use a unique approach to color, shadows, and perspective to evoke a sense of magic and wonder, author Harry Einhorn's retelling of a classic Asian Buddhist tale is timely and meaningful for kids and grown-ups alike.

Critique: Magnificently illustrated with emotionally evocative artwork throughout, "The Hero of Compassion: How Lokeshvara Got One Thousand Arms" is especially and unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library Buddhist picture book story collections for children. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Hero of Compassion: How Lokeshvara Got One Thousand Arms" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99).

Editorial Note #1: Harry Einhorn ( is a composer, artist, and meditation instructor. He has helped coordinate Buddhist practice and study programs in Europe, North and South America, India, and Taiwan. Harry has over a decade of experience working with kids teaching art in theaters, schools, and museums, including the Rubin Museum of Art in New York. Harry currently resides in Taiwan where he lectures at a Buddhist university.

Editorial Note #2: Khoa Le ( is an illustrator, graphic designer, painter, and writer. She graduated from the Fine Arts University in Ho Chi Minh City. She has published several award-winning children's books, four of which she both wrote and illustrated. Her artwork has been featured in numerous exhibitions in Vietnam, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Korea.

Elves in the Bookhouse
Ryan Petty, author
Vera Kulikov, illustrator
Provision House
9780935446166, $9.99, PB, 42pp

Synopsis: "Elves in the Bookhouse" by the team of author/storyteller Ryan Petty and artist/illustrator Vera Kulikov is a puzzle of a picture book about a group of Elves who take over a curbside library (aka a bookhouse) -- or do they?

No Elf is ever seen, and the question of whether they exist or not becomes a stimulus to children's intellects. In the context of the story, it's something a little girl named Raye (aka the heroine) and Tummy (her cat) don't quite agree on. They must decide for themselves as they replace the borrowed books each day. Clues are evident -- but how should they be interpreted?

The children you are lucky enough to read this story to will have to make their own decisions. As it ends, be sure to ask them what they think and why. It's the best part of the book.

Critique: A deft and entertaining combination of picture and activity book, "Elves in the Bookhouse" will have a special appeal to children ages 3-8 and are unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Elves in the Bookhouse" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99) as well.

Editorial Note: Ryan Petty ( writes novels in verse; historical fiction; books for children; memoirs; and the occasional odd book that defies explanation. He studied creative writing at Princeton under Jerzy Kosinski and Anthony Burgess and was, for a decade thereafter, the proprietor of Austin, Texas-based Cold Mountain Press, a do-it-yourself publisher of signed, limited editions in poetry and fiction. He can be followed on Twitter, @RyanPetty77

Editorial Note #2: Artist and illustrator Vera Kulikov is currently at work on another picture book with Ryan Petty currently scheduled to be published in the spring of 2022.

Clotilde Perrin, author/illustrator
Gecko Press
9781776574698, $28.99, HC, 28pp

Synopsis: "Quick, hide!" Chased by monsters (a hairball, a stinkwart and a creeper) each hairier and stinkier than the one before, a child needs to find shelter in three famous fairytale houses. The Three Little Pigs' brick home, Sleeping Beauty's palace and Hansel and Gretel's gingerbread mansion.

The hero of this story has read their story books and knows how to vanquish villains, causing the monsters to flee.

Critique: A hide-and-seek, lift the flap, oversized (6.50 x 1.50 x 9.50) style fairy tale book with more than 40 interactive elements to mesmerize pre-schoolers and independent readers, "Gotcha!" by author/illustrator Clotilde Perrin and translated from French into English by Daniel Hahn, is an a unique, fun, and highly recommended addition to family, elementary school, and community library Fairytale/Folklore collections for children ages 4-8.

Editorial Note #1: Clotilde Perrin ( is an illustrator living in Strasbourg. Her other books include Inside the Villains, The House of Madame M and Inside the Suitcase.

Editorial Note #2: Daniel Hahn ( primarily translates fiction from Portuguese, Spanish and French into English for an American readership.

The Graphic Novel Shelf

The Slippery Spinosaurus Splat
Carole Marsh
Gallopade International
611 Hwy 74 S #2000, Peachtree City, GA 30269
9780635136121, $22.99 Hardcover/$5.99 Paper

The Slippery Spinosaurus Splat is the sixth James Bone paleontological graphic novel adventure, carrying prior fans into a new science-and-action-packed tale while providing a satisfying introductory back story to attract newcomers to James Bone's family and friends. Here, scientist Mommypenny sends the kids back in time to ancient Egypt in search of the spinosaurus (which just so happens to be James's favorite dinosaur).

As the kids travel through time, a host of delightful creatures make humorous comments on the history and atmosphere of ancient Egypt, adding comedy into the kids' encounters as the story unfolds. Facts about the giant "spine lizard" are revealed alongside those about ancient Egyptian culture and society as the kids explore, bringing even the most reluctant young reader on a lively journey through the past.

Carole Marsh's ability to bring these times to life through fun and humorous observations and interactions creates an attraction to history and science that makes this story both educational and amusing. Lee Barrow's art keeps the James Bone characters familiar from book to book as these graphic novel adventures unfold. The result is a fine way of introducing learners to science and history facts, through memorable characters who dance through the ages as they uncover mystery and events that include a curse, a dangerous villain, and the possibility of returning home with something unexpected in tow.

Adults seeking an engaging format that introduces history and science in a lively adventure oriented manner will relish this latest James Bone addition to the dino-based graphic novel series, which is every bit as compelling as its predecessors.

The Audiobook Shelf

America's Fight for Independence
Kimbo Educational
PO Box 477, Long Branch, NJ 07740
KIM1001CD, $15.09, CD (2 discs)

Synopsis: Listening to "America's Fight for Independence: The Revolutionary War Told in Story and Song 1768 - 1783", children ages 9-14 will enjoy embark on an historical musical journey through the years of hardships, trials, tribulations, and successes of the American Revolution.

With song and story, this 2 CD set will teach children about iconic Revolutionary War events including: Paul Revere's ride, The Boston Tea Party, The Battle of Bunker Hill, and Valley Forge. The narrator's clear and concise voice will engage middle grade students to learn about America's Fight for Independence. These songs offer an ideal educational resource for classroom, library, and homeschool history lessons.

Critique: From Sam Adams and the Sons of Liberty, to The Treaty of Paris in 1783, "America's Fight for Independence: The Revolutionary War Told in Story and Song 1768 - 1783" is an extraordinary, entertaining and informative experience and is a unreservedly recommended as an addition to family, elementary school, middle school, and community library American History audio book and music collections.

Editorial Note: Kimbo Educational was founded in 1958 by Jim Kimble and is based in Eatontown, NJ. Widely accepted as the #1 children's educational music company, Kimbo Educational specializes in music and movement, with an emphasis on providing musical resources for early childhood. With over 350 titles, Kimbo Educational's award-winning line of CDs and DVDs offer a creative and fun way for kids to learn. They believe that learning through music is a playful approach that makes learning more memorable and motivating. The dedicated mission of Kimbo Educational is to serve the classroom, library, home and physical education markets. Their goal is to provide resources to support intentional and purposeful teaching of children.

The Empress of Time
Kylie Lee Baker, author
Rebecca Yeo, narrator
Dreamscape Media
9781666581614, $22.99, MP3-CD

Synopsis: Ren Scarborough is no longer the girl who was chased out of England -- she is now the Goddess of Death ruling Japan's underworld. But Reapers have recently been spotted in Japan, and it's only a matter of time before Ivy, now Britain's Death Goddess, comes to claim her revenge.

Ren's last hope is to appeal to the god of storms and seas, who can turn the tides to send Ivy's ship away from Japan's shores. But he'll only help Ren if she finds a sword lost thousands of years ago -- an impossible demand.

Together with the moon god Tsukuyomi, Ren ventures across the country in a race against time. As her journey thrusts her in the middle of scheming gods and dangerous Yokai demons, Ren will have to learn who she can truly trust -- and the fate of Japan hangs in the balance.

Critique: Now brought to life in a true 'theatre of the mind' experience by the narrative talents of Rebecca Yao, "The Empress of Time" is the riveting sequel to author Kylie Lee Baker's "The Keeper of Night" in which a half Reaper, half Shinigami soul collector must defend her title as Japan's Death Goddess from those who would see her (and all of Japan) destroyed. Death is her dynasty. A flawless, complete and unabridged MP3-CD audio book production from Dreamscape Media, "The Empress of Time" is fully recommended -- especially for middle school, highschool, and community library collections for young listeners ages 13-17.

Editorial Note #1: Kylie Lee Baker ( has a BA in creative writing and Spanish from Emory University and is pursuing a master of library and information science degree at Simmons University.

Editorial Note #2: A complete listing of Rebecca Yao's audio book narratives can be found at

The Music CD Shelf

Another Laurie Berkner Christmas
The Laurie Berkner band
Two Tomatoes Records
$10.98 CD / $9.49 MP3

Another Laurie Berkner Christmas is the second Christmas music album by the Laurie Berkner band, performing classic seasonal favorites for the whole family, as well as three original creations ("I Live Inside a Snowglobe (Shake It Up)", "Little Tree", and "Icicles"). Energetic and brimming with holiday spirit, Another Laurie Berkner Christmas adds a wonderful touch to the festive holiday season and is highly recommended. The tracks are Holly Jolly Christmas, Good King Wenceslas, I Live Inside a Snowglobe (Shake It Up), God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, Up On The Housetop, Here We Come A-Wassailing, Icicles, Winter Wonderland, Carol Of The Bells, The Twelve Days of Christmas, Joy To The World, Time To Eat, What Child Is This (Greensleeves), Deck The Halls, Little Tree, The Hallelujah Chorus, Jingle Bells (Dance Remix), and Happy New Year (Dance Remix).

Look Both Ways
Tom Knight
Rhyming Porcupine Records
$10.00 CD / $7.92 MP3

Children's musician and puppeteer Tom Knight presents Look Both Ways, his sixth music album for kids. Wacky storytelling interleaves with the music and the occasional valuable lesson, such as the titular song which emphasizes a basic safety rule. Cheerful, lighthearted, and just plain fun, Look Both Ways is a choice pick for both public and school library children's music collections. The tracks are Alligator Jump (feat. Miea Farias Gomez), Wiggly Tooth, The Garbage Monster, Five Snow People, Look Both Ways, The Museum Mambo, Stone Soup, and Hot Air Balloon.

The Fishing Shelf

Fly Fishing: Let's Go Fish
Kerri Mazzarella
Crabtree Publishing Company
347 Fifth Avenue, Suite 1402-145, New York, NY 10016
9781039660410, $30.60, Library Binding, 32pp

Synopsis: Whether on television or in real life, most children will have ever seen a person standing out in the water, slinging a fishing line like a whip. This kind of fishing is called Fly Fishing and is a very special type of freshwater lake and river fishing that requires practice and skill.

Critique: "Fly Fishing: Let's Go Fish" by Kerri Mazzarella is beautifully illustrated on every page with full color photography and an informative commentary, all aspiring young fishermen (and girls) ages 9-12 will enjoy reading all they will need to know about starting their own fly fishing activity. While unreservedly recommended for family, elementary school, middle school, and community library Sports/Fishing collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Fly Fishing: Let's Go Fish" is also available in a paperback edition (9781039662360, $9.95).

Editorial Note: The Fly Fishing series from Crabtree Press also includes: Deep Sea Fishing; Freshwater Fishing; Ice Fishing; Pier Fishing; Spearfishing.

The Jobs/Careers Shelf

What Does Your Daddy Do?
Joshua Page
Christian Faith Publishing
9781685177171, $15.95, PB, 44pp

Synopsis: Ashton's fifth grade class settles into the classroom. Ms. Dusenbury starts the discussion of career week. The kids are really interested in it and want to learn more. Ashton knows very little about what his dad does so he goes home and says, "Dad, what do you do?" Ashton could have never imagined all the really cool things that his dad gets to do every day and all the really cool tools he gets to use. This is such a great week at school, and all the kids get to learn what their moms and dads do. -- What does your daddy do?

Editorial Note: "What Does Your Daddy Do?" is a fun and thought-provoking picture book for children ages 5-8 and will prove to be a welcome addition to family, elementary school, and community library Family Life collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "What Does Your Daddy Do?" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Joshua Page is a husband, father, entrepreneur and most importantly he is passionate about getting kids involved with the trades. He has been featured on many podcasts, a TEDx speaker, and a motivational public speaker. During the pandemic he wanted a way to influence the younger mind about the trades and let them know how cool the trades are. College isn't for everyone and it shouldn't be the only option. Some kids are not destined for college but would make a great trades person.

Books in Series

A Fun Day with Father, Dear Dragon!
Maria Conn author
David Schimmell, illustrator
Norwood House Press
PO Box 1306, Fairport, NY 14450
9781684508051, $17.95, HC, 23pp

Synopsis: The Dear Dragon Developing Readers-Level D series provides young readers practice reading with simple story lines, familiar topics and vocabulary, and fun illustrations that support the text written at F&P level D.

"A Fun Day with Father, Dear Dragon!" is the story of a boy and his pet dragon who spend a day participating in activities with the boy's father.

"A Fun Day with Father, Dear Dragon!" also features educator resources which include a picture glossary, reading reinforcements and activities. Teachers' notes also available on publisher's website (

Critique: "A Fun Day with Father, Dear Dragon!" is an especially recommended addition to family, elementary school, and community library Early Readers collections and curriculums. Two other titles comprising this instructive, entertaining and highly recommended series are "A New Baby for Dear Dragon!" (9781684508082, $17.95, 23pp) and "A New Friend for Dear Dragon!" (9781684508082, $17.95, 23pp). All three books are also available in a paperback edition ($10.60 each).

Editorial Note: "A Fun Day with Father, Dear Dragon" from The Norwood House Press introduces PK-K readers (as well as classroom teachers and home schooling parents) to the Dear Dragon Developing Readers series. The books in this outstanding provide youngest readers practice reading with simple story lines featuring a boy and his pet dragon as they visit new places, meet new friends and explore their feelings. Level D texts are slightly more complex, with more challenging vocabulary. Concepts are familiar and within the experience of children. There are more lines of text and more involved plots that require children to follow a logical sequence of events and predict outcomes.

The Story Monsters Ink Shelf

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Mushroom Lullaby
Kenneth Kraegel
9781536219418, $17.99

Diana Perry

In gentle rhyme, this spare and whimsical picture book from the one-of-a-kind imagination of Kenneth Kraegel introduces little readers to all sorts of wonderful mushrooms: ones that grow up high and ones that never stay dry, ones that grow in a park and ones that glow in the dark, and even one made just for them! Who can resist climbing up the soft mushroom stair, curling up in a plush mushroom chair, and preparing to dream sweet mushroom dreams? This picture book is the perfect bedtime story for any little one. (Ages 2-5)

A Very Mercy Christmas
Kate DiCamillo, author
Chris Van Dusen, illustrator
9781536213607, $18.99

Deb Greenberg

When Stella is unable to interest her brother or her neighbors in Christmas caroling, she does what any little persistent girl would do... she goes by herself... and picks up a pig, a cat, and a horse that contribute merrily along the way. Join the festivities and see what else is in store for Stella and her Deckawoo Drive friends. Grab some warm cocoa and snuggle up with your little one for a cheerful read with delightful illustrations. (Ages 3-7)

Lupe Lopez: Rock Star Rules!
E.E. Charlton-Trujillo and Pat Zietlow Miller, authors
Joe Cepeda, illustrator
9781536209549, $17.99

Diana Perry

When Lupe Lopez struts through the doors of Hector P. Garcia Elementary in sunglasses with two taped-up Number 2 pencils - drumsticks, of course - poking from her pocket, her confidence is off the charts. All day, Lupe drums on desks, tables, and chairs while Ms. Quintanilla reminds her of school rules. But Lupe has her own rules! But with her new teacher less than starstruck, and fans hard to come by, Lupe wonders if having friends is such a bad idea after all. Beginning readers will relate to this story that teaches little ones that it's always best to follow the rules. (Ages 3-7)

Wheels, No Wheels
Shannon McNeill
Tundra Books
9780735270374, $17.99

Christine Irvin

Farm animals don't usually have wheels, but these ones do. Go for a rolling good time with characters from the farm as they try out their new wheels. Short, simple sentences, colorful, expressive illustrations and a fun storyline make for a rolling good time. (Ages 3-7)

The Snowman Waltz
Karen Konnerth, author
Emily Neilson, illustrator
Sleeping Bear Press
9781534111271, $17.99

Deb Greenberg

What happens when a dozen waltzing snowmen with top hats and colorful mittens are interrupted by a dozen marching penguins with gleaming eyes and red bowties? Can they figure out a way to share the space on the frozen pond? Told in lyrical text and contrasting rhythms, this delightful read-aloud teaches kids a lesson about cooperation and collaboration. Also includes song and sheet music and a finger dance at the back of the book. (Ages 4-8)

Peace in My World
Syeda Mleeha Shah
Yorkshire Publishing
9781947825345, $12.99

Deb Greenberg

Simple and catchy rhymes offer an important message promoting world peace. Full-color illustrations depicting children from all over the world capture and unite readers of all ages. Shah does a wonderful job of introducing an important concept for children to learn at an early age, while dedicating her book to the young children displaced in refugee camps. (Ages 4-8)

Miss Mary's Christmas Mittens
Trinka Hakes Noble, author
Renee Andriani, illustrator
Sleeping Bear Press
9781534111677, $17.99

Deb Greenberg

Miss Mary, with her colorful knitwear, brings a smile to every student's face and makes learning enjoyable. On the day before Christmas break, she envisions the fun students will have at recess, making snow angels and building snowmen. But when the kids are too cold to play because they don't have mittens, she gets an idea to knit a pair for every student. But the store has run out of yarn... what can Miss Mary do to make her mittens before Christmas? This sweet story teaches little ones that the best gifts are from the heart. (Ages 4-8)

A Synagogue Just Like Home
Alice Blumenthal McGinty, author
Laurel Molk, illustrator
9781536210866, $18.99

Christine Irvin

When a new rabbi is assigned to his synagogue, he learns that it needs some attention. The windows are drafty, the floorboards squeak, and the kitchen faucet leaks. He looks at the synagogue as a type of home and he wants to fix things as a Shabbat gift to his congregation. He wants their synagogue to feel like home. He tries to do the work himself, but because he is not a very do-it-yourself type of fella, his repairs don't work out so well. Nonetheless, the members of the congregation team up to make it home. (Ages 4-8)

Room On Top
Bruno Hachler, author
Laura D'Arcangelo, illustrator
NorthSouth Books
9780735844865, $17.95

Christine Irvin

There's always room for one more - until there isn't. Anteater gets lonely riding by himself on his mother's back. He invites all the animals they meet to join him - first a badger, and then a duck, and then a squirrel, and more until there is a pile of animals. How long can this go on? Fun illustrations and a fun story line make this a fun-filled book for everyone. (Ages 4-8)

The Smallest Snowflake
Bernadette Watts
NorthSouth Books
9780735845084, $17.95

Christine Irvin

Everybody has their own dream. Some people want to travel to exotic locations and then brag about their adventures. Some just want to quietly drift through life. When there is a big snowfall, the little snowflake is sent across the skies with thousands of others. The smallest snowflake's dream is just to be warm. She keeps floating and floating, being blown this way and that, until she finds the perfect spot to land. The illustrations are soft and warm, and the story is heartwarming. (Ages 4-8)

Kumo: The Bashful Cloud
Kyo Maclear, author
Nathalie Dion, illustrator
Tundra Books
9780735267282, $18.99

Dr. Dawn Menge

Kumo is a cloud whose only wish is to float unseen. When she's assigned cloud duty for the day, she feels overwhelmed by self-doubt and her fear of being noticed. But after learning that closing your eyes isn't a good solution to your troubles, Kumo pulls her fluff together and does her duties - drifting, releasing rain and providing shelter - meeting some new friends along the way. Learning a few Japanese words is a fun bonus in this beautifully illustrated book. (Ages 4-8)

Marky the Magnificent Fairy
Cynthia Kern OBrien, author
Jeff Yesh, illustrator
Story Monsters Press
9781589850156, $15.95

Dr. Dawn Menge

This is a beautifully illustrated book that teaches us about the long-lasting effects of bullying. Marky is a young fairy who can't fly because her wings are different sizes. She is bullied and teased by the other woodland creatures. But Marky is brave and stands up to them in a magnificent way. This is a wonderful book to use as a discussion tool in the classroom or at home to bring up bullying and kindness. Marky's adventures speaks of her abilities rather than her disabilities, which will encourage self-advocacy skills and confidence building. (Ages 4-8)

Rebecca Gardyn Levington, author
Kate Kronreif, illustrator
Sleeping Bear Press
9781534111486, $17.99

Christine Irvin

Sometimes you need to write something, but you can't come up with a single idea. Just open this delightful book and explore the many ways you can come up with ideas for writing. With great illustrations, interesting page layouts, and rhyming text, this book will capture your imagination and fill your head with ideas. The book's intended audience are children in the lower grades but anyone who gets stuck coming up with ideas could benefit from it. (Ages 5-8)

Frank and Bean: Food Truck Fiasco
Jamie Michalak, author
Bob Kolar, illustrator
9781536214413, $16.99

Dr. Dawn Menge

Frank and Bean have joined the food truck competition! Frank is into healthy food and tries to sell oatmeal while Bean wants to sell fun food such as donuts. But they are afraid of the mad dog who enters his famous cupcakes! What will Frank and Bean do to win the contest? The two friends accidentally mix up their ingredients to find happiness in a bowl. For your new reader who is ready for a chapter book this is a fun colorful read. It is also a lesson on friendship, supporting each other, and finding adventure. (Ages 5-8)

A Life of Service: The Story of Senator Tammy Duckworth
Christina Soontornvat, author
Dow Phumiruk, illustrator
9781536222050, $18.99

Deb Greenberg

Introduce your kids to Senator Tammy Duckworth, an extraordinary woman who has logged a long list of "firsts" during her tenure as the first Thai American woman elected to Congress. She was also the first woman with a disability to serve in the House and Senate. From her childhood fight to keep her family from homelessness to her service in the Army, this picture book tells an amazing account of a remarkable woman that's bound to show readers what one can achieve. Includes a timeline and suggestions for further reading. (Ages 5-9)

The Case of the Missing Crown
Shelley Larkin, author
Yanaisy Puentes Cruz, illustrator
Pathbinder Publishing, LLC
9781955088206, $11.99

Dr. Dawn Menge

Sisters can be our best friends. What could be better than playing detective to find a missing crown? These two playful sisters use their imaginations to dress up as detectives and search high and low together. Embedded in the adventurous story are lessons on being kind when others are sad and helping each other. The author has included suggestions on talking over emotions, handling conflict and family to help build reading comprehension. This is a fun read with colorful illustrations, and we cannot wait to read about the next adventure the young sisters will encounter. (Ages 5-12)

Rica Baptista: Llamas, Iguanas, and My Very Best Friend
Janet Costa Bates, author
Gladys Jose, illustrator
9781536216301, $16.99

Diana Perry

Rica wants a pet, but unlike other kids, she wants a special pet: perhaps a llama, an iguana, or
even a sloth. A cat or dog just won't do. Her parents keep saying no and even give her a list of
all the reasons why. She reads through each reason on her list and decides she will change her ways to impress her parents and finally get a pet. Middle graders will enjoy Rica's crazy plans and misfortunes on her quest to get a pet. Any child can learn a lot from Rica, especially if you want something bad enough, you'll give it all you can to succeed. (Ages 6-9)

Two-Headed Chicken
Tom Angleberger
Walker Books
c/o Candlewick
9781536223217, $12.99

Deb Greenberg

This lightning-fast caper offers plenty of amusing escapades, as you follow along to see if a two-headed chicken can escape a hungry moose named Kernel Antlers. As you jump from universe to universe, you'll meet a fish with a moustache, drive a moon buggy, be an egg, and experience all sorts of wacky adventures while being chased. This cleverly-written graphic novel is interspersed with jokes, quizzes, and games, and complemented by colorful digital artwork. (Ages 7-10)

The Real (Dada) Mother Goose: A Treasury of Complete Nonsense
Jon Scieszka, author
Julia Rothman, illustrator
9780763694340, $19.99

Dr. Dawn Menge

Would you like to find new twists and turns in the old classic nursery rhymes? Follow Dada Goose as he censors Humpty Dumpty, defines it, adds morse code, and even a postcard. Hickory Dickory Dock comes with Egyptian Hieroglyphs, mashups, and a crossword puzzle. This version of the classic nursery rhymes will entertain your child and give them pieces of adventurous pages to read. This is a great book for the middle primary child to encourage reading. (Ages 7-10)

Clarice Bean, Think Like an Elf
Lauren Child
HarperCollins Children's Books
9781536223651, $19.99

Deb Greenberg

Join Clarice Bean and think like an elf as she makes cards for the neighbors, helps a friend, and steps in at the Christmas concert in her attempt to bring holiday cheer. But when she realizes that this season looks different for the Tuesday family (decorating the tree turns into an evening of calamities and the dog eats the turkey), see if her creative problem-solving can turn things around. Another engaging and entertaining story from Child to share with family during this festive season. (Ages 8-12)

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