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Children's Bookwatch

Volume 33, Number 12 December 2023 Home | CBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Christmas Shelf Holiday Shelf
Social Issues Shelf Environmental Shelf Science Shelf
Board Book Shelf Picturebook Shelf Elementary Fiction Shelf
Middle Grade Fiction Shelf Young Adult Fiction Shelf Mystery/Suspense Shelf
Fantasy/SciFi Shelf Activity Shelf Graphic Novel Shelf
Audiobook Shelf Pets/Wildlife Shelf Christian Shelf
Art Shelf Gaming Shelf Books in Series
Story Monsters Ink Shelf    

Reviewer's Choice

Ellie The Brave, Bald Fairy
Mardie Caldwell Christensen, author
Barbara Wirth, illustrator
American Carriage House Publishing
9781935176213, $18.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: Ellie is a sick little fairy who has lost her beautiful hair and her magical powers. She doesn't even have the strength to open her fairy wings. In "Ellie The Brave, Bald Fairy" children will enjoy coming along with Ellie as she learns to be brave and strong through cancer, treatments, and loneliness. They will even discover how her baldness saves her village at a terrifying moment!

Critique: A heartfelt and inspiring story gives hope to children of all ages facing cancer and other childhood illnesses, this charming 'kid-friendly' and original picture book by author/storyteller Mardie Caldwell Christensen "Ellie The Brave, Bald Fairy" is supported with beautiful illustrations Barbara Wirth, will gently remind a hurting child that they can be heroes to others. While unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for children ages 4-8, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Ellie The Brave, Bald Fairy" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9781935176220, $12.99).

Editorial Note: "Ellie The Brave Bald Fairy" is a character created by the author to show children dealing with pediatric cancer that despite the side effects that treatment brings, they have the capability to Be Brave and Be Strong! The story of "Ellie The Brave, Bald Fairy" was inspired by author Mardie Caldwell Christensen's personal experience, walking with her granddaughter through diagnosis of stage 3 Wilms kidney cancer and surgery to remove both the tumor and her kidney. That was followed by both radiation and chemotherapy, resulting in the loss of her long blonde hair. The months of treatment also brought loneliness and isolation, as she missed her friends at school.

Watch out for the Elephants!
Cynthia Angela Todd, author
C. Ann Todd, author
Dorrance Publishing
9781480988927, $21.00, PB, 263pp
eISBN 9781480988460, $16.00 Kindle

Synopsis: The year was 1945, and the lives of black Americans showed little sign of improvement. We were still relegated to third-class status-forced to sit at the back of the bus, to drink from separate water fountains, to take only those menial jobs the white population considered beneath them.

In sharp contrast, that same year, our father became only the 11th black man "permitted" to join the United States Foreign Service. His first posting was Cairo, Egypt, where he was sent as a Civilian Security Guard. For the next 35 years, our family traveled the world, moving from country to country and culture to culture, where - perhaps surprisingly - we lived very ordinary lives in very extraordinary settings.

We have always considered our unusual upbringing a distinct privilege, and feel that this privileged background entails the responsibility to pass along important life lessons to others, such as:

If our parents could do it as black Americans living abroad in 1945, you can achieve anything you want to in the 21st century and beyond!

There is a big, beautiful world out there beyond your own personal boundaries, and we want to share some of the world's wonderful people and cultures with you through our stories and pictures.

As you travel though your life, always remember to Watch Out for the Elephants! -- regardless of what shape or form they might take!

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Watch Out for the Elephants!" by co-authors Angela & Ann Todd will fully engage the mind and imagination of young readers ages 12-18 (and older) with respect to the endless possibilities and wonders of diverse cultures and ways of life -- and that the stories comprising "Watch Out for the Elephants!" will showcase the power of the human spirit in dealing with overcoming the prejudices and discriminations of previous generations have had to deal with -- and are now threatening to return.

Inspired and inspiring, "Watch Out for the Elephants!" is especially and unreservedly recommended for middle school, highschool, and community library collections. Of special value and impact for readers with an interest in African-American biographies/ memoirs, it should be noted that while originally published in hardcover in 2005, "Watch Out for the Elephants!" is now also readily available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $16.00) as well.

Aim High, Little Giant, Aim High!
Bobbito Garcia, author
Estefania Cortes, illustrator
Haymarket Books
9798888901533, $19.99, HC, 58pp

Synopsis: "Aim High, Little Giant, Aim High!" is a story about Taina, a nine-year-old Afro Boricua basketball player growing up in Brooklyn during a pandemic and who learns valuable life lessons from family, friends, and the community, both on and off the court.

"Peeeace!" That's how Taina opens this story, and that's how we get a tour of Brooklyn: through Taina's eyes! There's the biddy court where Papa is doing a b-ball clinic, and where Taina is joined by friends Theophilus, Ireyna, Mamushi and Ibrahim. Then there are the legendary parks of Brooklyn (Bed Stuy to Brownsville to Tillary Park) and all the legendary players, the folklore of NYC playground basketball culture. At home and on the court, Taina learns math and stories through the city and basketball.

"Pa'lante, siempre pa'lante!" Mama says this is what the Young Lords Party used to shout for social justice. Taina's mother says it means "forward, always forward!" and that's where Taina is going, forward in life!

Critique: "Aim High, Little Giant, Aim High!" by the team of author/storyteller Bobbito Garcia and artist/illustrator Estefania Rivera Cortes features: A full page glossary of basketball terms and definitions (such as Biddy Rims), "No Look Alley For Two", 21 Utah, and an explanation of Kwanzaa. Original, informative, and of particular and thematic relevance to young readers with an interest in basketball, Hispanic/Latino culture, as well as dealing with emotions and feelings. While especially and unreservedly recommended as a pick for elementary school and community library collections for young readers ages 5-10, it should be noted that "Aim High, Little Giant, Aim High!" is also available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note #1: Robbito Garcia is the critically acclaimed author of Where'd You Get Those? NYC's Sneaker Culture: 1960-1987 (Testify Books). He is also a world-renowned DJ who co-hosts "Stretch and Bobbito Radio" on Apple Music Hits. As an award-winning filmmaker, Garcia has directed Doin' It In The Park: Pick-Up Basketball, NYC (PBS), Stretch and Bobbito: Radio That Changed Lives (SHOWTIME), and NY Times "Critics' Pick" Rock Rubber 45s.

Editorial Note #2: Estefania Rivera Cortes is an artist based in San Juan, Puerto Rico who self-expresses through performance art, visual narration, painting, and printmaking, with a compassion for social causes. Cortes' empathetic illustrative works have been featured in the Museum of Contemporary Art of Puerto Rico, the Clemente Soto Velez Cultural and Education Center, and the Puerto Rico Review magazine.

The Christmas Shelf

How to Decorate a Christmas Tree
Vikki VanSickle, author
Miki Sato, illustrator
Tundra Books
9780735268586, $18.99, HC, 40pp

Synopsis: Written by author/storyteller Vikki VanSickle and charmingly illustrated by the artwork of Miki Satao, "How to Decorate a Christmas Tree" is a charming Christmas tale in which young readers ages 4-8 will fully enjoy follow along with the a little girl as she shares all the things that go into decorating a tree.

Those things include: Lights; Ornaments; Popcorn; Hot chocolate; Taffy the cat; Memories -- and, most importantly -- Family!

With stunning three-dimensional art by Miki Sato and a delightful story by wordsmith Vikki VanSickle, including a twist ending, How to Decorate a Christmas Tree is destined to become a Christmas tree decorating tradition celebration and an unreservedly recommended pick for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library Christmas picture book collections.

Editorial Note #1: Vikki VanSicle ( is the author of a number of acclaimed novels for children including Words That Start With B; Summer Days, Starry Nights; the award-winning The Winnowing; and picture books If I Had a Gryphon; Teddy Bear of the Year; and Anonymouse. Vikki started her career as an independent bookseller and worked in children's publishing for twelve years. In addition to writing, she curates and presents regular book segments for CTV Your Morning. Currently, she lives and writes in Toronto, Canada.

Editorial Note: Miki Sato ( is a Japanese-Canadian illustrator who uses a variety of different papers and fabrics to create layered, three-dimensional illustrations. Born and raised in Ottawa, she currently resides in Toronto, where she attended the Ontario College of Art and Design to study illustration.

10 Things I Love About Christmas
Danielle McLean, author
Mark Chambers, illustrator
Tiger Tales
9781680102956, $10.99, HC, 24pp

Synopsis: "10 Things I Love About Christmas" offers children a festive and lively celebration of Christmas, from putting up decorations and writing a Christmas list to playing in the snow and spreading Christmas cheer. A fun counting element adds energy and makes this an ideal Christmas themed book to share aloud during story time!

Critique: Lively, fun, kid friendly, and highly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library Christmas book collections for children ages 3-7, "10 Things I Love About Christmas" is an ideal and perfect pick.

Editorial Note #1: Danielle McLean ( is a children's book editor who lives in South London, England. When she's not writing and editing children's books, she can be found in ballet class pursuing her other childhood dream.

Editorial Note #2: Mark Chambers ( is an author and illustrator of children's picture books and young fiction. In 2017, Mark was shortlisted for the AOI World Illustration Awards with his piece "We Will Remember" and in 2013 for The Roald Dahl Funny Prize. In the same year, he went on to win the Sheffield Children's Picture Book Award and was also highly commended in the young fiction category.

Santa's Gotta Go!
Derrick Barnes, author
Courtney Lovett, illustrator
Nancy Paulsen Books
c/o Penguin Young Readers Group
9780593530436, $18.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: The number one thing on Monte and Mabel's Christmas wish list is the chance to hang out with Santa Claus. So when his sleigh breaks down in their yard as he's finishing up his last delivery, they couldn't be more delighted -- Santa's gonna stay with them while he waits for spare parts to be delivered! It's a dream come true... or is it?

It turns out Santa doesn't have a lot of experience being a houseguest, and likes to rock out late at night and swigs spaghetti sauce from the jar. But when he messes with Dad's motorcycle and Mabel's computer tablet, he's gone a step too far and the whole family agrees -- Santa's gotta go! But how on earth do you kick out Santa Claus?

Critique: Children ages 4 to 8 will find "Santa's Gotta Go!" by author/storyteller Derrick Barnes and artist/illustrator Courtney Lovett to hilarious Christmas holiday picture book whose 'moral of the story' is be careful what you wish for and to remember that sharing the holiday spirit can take a lot of goodwill! An original, fun, and memorable read from start to finish, "Santa's Gotta Go!" is a very special and recommended pick for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library Christmas Holiday picture book collections. It should also be noted for personal reading lists that "Santa's Gotta Go!" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99).

Editorial Note #1: Derrick Barnes ( is the author of the empowering New York Times bestsellers The Queen of Kindergarten, The King of Kindergarten, and I Am Every Good Thing, which won the NCTE Charlotte Huck Award and the Kirkus Prize, and Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut, which received a Newbery Honor, a Coretta Scott King Honor, the Kirkus Prize, and the Ezra Jack Keats Award. He also wrote the bestselling chapter book series Ruby and the Booker Boys.

Editorial Note #2: Courtney Lovett ( was born and raised in Maryland. Since she could pick up a pencil, not a day has passed where Courtney did not draw, a sketchbook on her person wherever she went. She has since pursued an education in illustration and animation. Today, she still lives in her hometown, where she illustrates books including titles Join the Club, Maggie Diaz, and Basketball Dreams written by NBA all-star Chris Paul. When she is not making books, she teaches at a local art studio.

One Stormy Christmas
M. Christian Butler, author
Tina Macnaughton, illustrator
Tiger Tales
9781664300309, $18.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: A big winter storm, just before Christmas, has forced Little Hedgehog and the other animals to stay in their houses. When the weather finally clears, they all decide to get together to have a party -- but where are the beavers? The group discovers that a large boulder has rolled in front of the beavers' door, trapping their friends inside. Can Little Hedgehog and his friends work together to help the beavers so that they can all spend Christmas together?

Critique: "One Stormy Christmas" is newest installment of the Little Hedgehog and Friends series by author/storyteller M. Christine Butler and artist/illustrator Tina Macnaughton. Original, charming, fun, and with an underlying message for children about the value of friendship and cooperation, "One Stormy Christmas is especially and unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library Christmas themed holiday picture book collections for ages 3-7.

Editorial Note #1: M. Christina Butler was born in Scarborough, England and has worked as a nurse and a preschool supervisor, as well as writing a number of children's books.

Editorial Note #2: Tina Macnaughton ( was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, and now lives in Guildford, England. She has worked as a freelance illustrator for over 20 years and in that time illustrated more than 53 picture books, board books and early reader novels. Her books have been published in 41 different countries and translated into 40 different languages, including ones from her family roots of Scottish Gaelic and Danish

Poo in the Zoo: Merry Poop-Mas!
Steve Smallman, author
Ada Greg, illustrator
Tiger Tales
9781664300316, $18.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: It's Christmas Eve, and zookeeper Bob McGrew and his animals are excited to see Santa Claus heading right for their zoo! Poop collector Hector Gloop joins them in the hopes of catching some flying reindeer poop. But one of the reindeer is sick and can't pull the sleigh -- and now Santa can't fly! Is there anyone at the zoo who can help save Christmas?

Critique: One of the most eccentric and unusual takes on Santas Claus and Christmas, "Poo in the Zoo: Merry Poop-Mas!" is a fun picture book read from start to finish for children ages 3-7. With its rhyming storytelling style by Steve Smallman and utterly charming illustrations by Ada Greg, "Poo in the Zoo: Merry Poop-Mas!" will prove a popular pick for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library holiday season picture book collections and reading lists.

Editorial Note #1: Steve Smallman has taken up writing his own stories after illustrating children's books for more than 30 years. He also teaches illustration and mural-painting workshops in schools. When he's not working, Steve enjoys films, television, gardening, and walking in the countryside.

Editorial Note #2: Ada Grey spent several years working for design companies before deciding that she preferred doodling. She lives in Brighton with her daughter and cat, Ming the Merciless. She collects picture books, draws in her studio (which is very messy), and loves cheese and spaghetti, especially together.

Suzy Senior, author
Lucy Semple, illustrator
Tiger Tales
9781664300323, $18.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: It's Christmas Eve, and Cinderella's sisters have left Cinderella home alone to take care of the housework. Then Santa Claus shows up at Cinderella's house and needs help: He hurt his back, and now he can't lift his bag of toys! Cinderella eagerly lends a hand, and the two spend the evening delivering toys all around the world. When they're done, Santa offers to drop Cinderella off at the big party -- but Cinderella decides there's something she'd much rather do instead!

Critique: "Santarella" by author/storyteller Suzy Senior and artist/illustrator Lucy Semple is a laugh-out-loud take on the traditional fairy tale of Cinderella. Original, memorable, humorous, and fun, "Santerella with its deftly blending of a rhyming text and with energetic illustrations is unreservedly recommended as a prized pick for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for children ages 3-7.

Editorial Note #1: Suzy Senior ( lives and works at the top of a huge hill in Sheffield. She lives with her family, a small group of squeaky pets, and quite a lot of books. She loves writing picture books, making things rhyme, and eating jaffa cakes, ideally all at the same time!

Editorial Note #2: Lucy Semple lives and works as a children's illustrator in Nottinghamshire, England. She loves to create her art digitally but sometimes dabbles in traditional media in her free time. (

Lullaby for the King
Nikki Grimes, author
Michelle Carlos, illustrator
Beaming Books
9781506485621, $19.99, HC, 40pp

Synopsis: With the glittering poetry of Nikki Grimes and the stunning watercolor artwork of Michelle Carlos, "Lullaby for the King" ushers young children ages 4-8 into the awe and wonder of the Christmas story. Animals from across the ancient Palestinian landscape lumber, gambol, crawl, fly, and parade toward Bethlehem with gifts worthy of the newborn King. Rare ebony wood, a finely tuned harp, mustard and saffron, a zither, apricot cakes, and other treasures are carried to the manger. The animals bow low and join the music of the angels in a welcoming lullaby.

Critique: Also available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $17.99), "Lullaby for the King" from Beaming Books is a truly captivating and memorable tale of awe, wonder, and imagination that is destined to become a true Christmas holiday classic and unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, and community library children's picture book collections.

Editorial Note #1: Nikki Grimes ( is the recipient of the 2022 Virginia Hamilton Lifetime Achievement Award, the 2020 ALAN Award, the 2017 Children's Literature Legacy Award, and the 2006 NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children. Her works include Garvey's Choice, Bedtime for Sweet Creatures, Southwest Sunrise, Bronx Masquerade, Ordinary Hazards, One Last Word, Legacy: Women Poets of the Harlem Renaissance, and Kamala Harris: Rooted in Justice.

Editorial Note #2: Michelle Carlos ( is a Filipina illustrator based in Germany. Her art is largely informed by her lucid dreams, childhood memories, and global perspective based on her life abroad and travels with her husband. On Christmases away from her birthplace, Michelle makes traditional lanterns while singing carols and drinking warm tea.

Christmas Ahoy!
Erin Dealey, author
Kayla Stark, illustrator
Sleeping Bear Press
9781534111783, $18.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: Ahoy! A spectacular Christmas boat parade is underway! Count up to ten as the dazzling crafts bob pass . . . but wait! Where is Santa and his reindeer? Surely, they aren't missing the parade? Never fear, little mariners, Santa simply has a surprise in store!

Critique: An original and fun Christmas themed picture book for children ages 1-7, "Christmas Ahoy!" by the team of author/storyteller Erin Dealey and artist/illustrator Kayla Stark, also features information on the bevy of boats appearing in the picture book story. While also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $17.05), "Christmas Ahoy!" is a delightful, imaginative, and fun read from start to finish -- and highly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, and community library holiday season picture book collections.

Editorial Note #1: Erin Dealey ( has been a teacher, theater director, actor, mom, and author -- and now welcomes any opportunity to visit schools around the world. Her Sleeping Bear Press books include K is for Kindergarten and Deck the Walls: A Wacky Christmas Carol. She can be followed on social media as @ErinDealey

Editorial Note #2: Kayla Stark ( is an illustrator who spends most of her time working on children's picture books and young adult novels. In her free time, she can be found traveling as much as possible and dreaming up stories to share.

Kid Christmas: Of the Claus Brothers Toy Store
David Litchfield
Frances Lincoln Children's Books
c/o Quarto Publishing Group USA
9780711287433, $18.99, HC, 40pp

Synopsis: Nicky Claus works with his three uncles in the Claus Brothers Toy Emporium. Uncle Hanz makes the toys, Uncle Louis checks them and Uncle Levi adds the... what's the scientific term for it? Ah, yes. The magic! For each toy made at the Emporium has a special sparkle that means it will find the child it is perfect for.

One day, Nicky notices a young girl with her face pressed up to the glass. When she disappears, he follows her and finds her living on the streets with lots of other children, none of whom can afford a toy. Nicky vows that for one night only, every child will have the toy of their dreams and (with the help of his uncles and some flying reindeer) the legend of Father Christmas is born.

Critique: "Kid Christmas: Of the Claus Brothers Toy Store" by the team of storyteller and artist David Litchfield is an impressively original, truly magical, and sincerely heartwarming picture book story and a truely festive treat for young children ages 4-7 centered on kindness, generosity and looking after each other. Also available for personal reading lists in a paperback edition (9780711262942, $15.00), "Kid Christmas: Of the Claus Brothers Toy Store" is especially and unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library holiday picture book collections.

Editorial Note: David Litchfield ( is the author and illustrator of 'The Bear & The Piano' 'Grandad's Secret Giant' 'The Bear, The Piano, The Dog & The Fiddle' 'Lights On Cotton Rock' and 'The Bear, The Piano & Little Bear's Concert'. He has also illustrated a number of picture books and novels for authors such as Ross Montgomery, Gregory Maguire, David Almond and Smriti Halls as well as book covers for Kate Dicamillo, Neil Patrick Harris, Chloe Daykin and many more.

Santa Claus and the Three Bears
Lou Peacock, author
Margarita Kukhtina, illustrator
Nosy Crow
9798887770291, $18.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: It's Christmas Eve and Father Christmas has fallen asleep at the Three Bears' cottage but NOTHING will wake him. It's up to Baby Bear and the Fairy-Tale Rescue Rangers to deliver the last presents so EVERY child gets a gift. But how will they cross the Roaring Rushing River, navigate the Deepest Darkest Wood, and get past the Most Monstrous Mountain --all before the children wake up on Christmas morning?

Critique: An original, delightfully charming, warm-hearted, and impressively witty fractured fairy-tale adventure for Christmas, "Santa Claus and the Three Bears" by the team of author/storyteller Lou Peacock and artist/illustrator Margurita Kukhtina is highly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for children ages 4-8 as a fun read during the holiday season of Christmas -- or any other time year round!

Editorial Note #1: Lou Peacock ( is lucky enough to have one of the best jobs in the world: "Publishing Director of Picture Books" at Nosy Crow. She has a degree in English Literature from Oxford University, and over twenty years' experience in children's publishing. She started her editorial career working on novelty books, but has focused on picture books and poetry for the last 15 years. She often puts her author hat on to write picture books for Nosy Crow and has a notebook full of scribbled ideas.

Editorial Note #2: Margarita Kukhtina ( has loved drawing and painting for as long as she can remember. After graduating as a Master of Fine Arts, Margarita worked as a graphic designer, creating personal projects in her spare time that helped her find her true passion-illustrating children's books. She works in mixed media, combining traditional and digital techniques to create playful and atmospheric illustrations. She lives in Moscow, Russia.

Merry and Hark: A Christmas Story
April Genevieve, author
Rebecca Santo, illustrator
Algonquin Young Readers
Hachette Book Group
9781643752389, $18.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: Merry has always wanted to go on a grand adventure, like the great Hero Owls from her favorite stories. But she is just a little owl. Little owls don't have adventures. Then one day, Merry falls asleep in her favorite tree -- and wakes up in a big, noisy city! Can a little owl on a grand adventure find her way home?

Critique: A heartwarming and whimsical story about the connection between humans, nature, and the magic of Christmas, "Merry and Hark: A Christmas Story" by author/storyteller April Genevieve and artist/illustrator Rebecca Santo is an ideal and fun for city kids ages 4-8 (and nature lovers of all ages!). Highly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school Christmas themed picture book collections, "Merry and Hark: A Christmas Story" is an extraordinary and delightful read -- especially for the Holiday season.

Editorial Note #1: April Genevieve Tucholke ( grew up on a farm, where she spent her time wandering the prairie and daydreaming. Her acclaimed, award-winning books have been published in sixteen countries.

Editorial Note #2: Rebecca Santo ( is a Cleveland-based illustrator. Since graduating from the Cleveland Institute of Art, she has illustrated for The Washington Post and Cricket Magazine, among others. Rebecca finds inspiration through music, nature, dreams, and the little wonders in day-to-day life. She can be followed on Instagram at @santodraws

The Tale of the Animals' Christmas in Crouch End
Lance Lee
LWL Books
9798218181635, $25.95 HC
9798218181659, $14.99 PB, 80pp

Readers who choose The Tale of the Animals' Christmas in Crouch End will find a holiday fable as appropriate for adult read-aloud as for individual pursuit.

The animals of Crouch End in North London have not celebrated Christmas before, but when unusual rains lead to changes, one of them is to acknowledge the Christmas season in a special animal way. As a disparate blend of animals wild and domestic, from magpies and squirrels to cats, band together to discern the puzzling meaning of this human holiday, they contribute not just insights but their own values and approaches to celebrations to create a multifaceted experience.

What begins as a simple assignment (Rufus Fox hires Marvin Mole & Sons to repair his flooded home) turns into an exploration of what People do and why some of these rituals and approaches to life may be fine-tuned to bring the animal world together.

Lance Lee creates an unusual focus and take on the typical Christmas holiday book for kids, adopting a lively focus that embraces an unusual blend of fairy tale magic and Christmas insights and secrets as the animals move from incomprehension of human behavior to realizing that, just maybe, they have tapped into an important secret that has (until now) eluded the animal kingdom.

Meilo So's fun, colorful illustrations pepper the story, which is too complex to be called a simple picture book read but too visually attractive to be limited to older readers alone. Rufus, especially, acknowledges that there is much to discover about the holiday and its processes, and his concerns lend particularly well to adult read-aloud discussions with the very young: "Rufus stared into his fireplace, sipped the last of his wine, and looked down at his fine ascot and finer waistcoat. He liked both very much but knew they weren't the 'something more' he wanted to understand."

The Tale of the Animals' Christmas in Crouch End will prove an attraction for any library catering to young readers, but is especially recommended for family viewing as it spins a fine London-steeped yarn that explores fairy magic, Father Christmas, and the deeper points of the holiday season.

The Holiday Shelf

Lunar New Year
Natasha Vim, author
Jingting Wang, illustrator
Words & Pictures
c/o Quarto Publishing Group USA
9780711287136, $14.99, HC, 48pp

Synopsis: The Chinese new year festival lasts for 15 days full of preparation, celebration, and symbolism. With the publication of "Lunar New Year" by author Natasha Vim and Jingting Wang, children will enjoy joining Ling, her sister Mei and granny Po Po as they clean the house from top to bottom, pick fresh flowers from the garden, visit friends and family, and carry red lanterns through their neighborhood. Ling invites the reader into her home and family, allowing the reader to experience this special celebration first-hand through this authentic narrative non-fiction story.

A fun16-page 'factivity' section follows the story and delves into more detail about how the festival is celebrated in China and beyond. Enriching activities are also included, such as guess the riddle, make your own red envelope, and a recipe to make delicious Lunar New Year 'pot sticker' dumplings. Young readers will also learn all about the magic of Lunar New Year, by exploring: The preparations in the lead-up to the festival; The Reunion dinner on New Year's Eve; New Year's day fireworks; Dragon dancing and the New Year Monster; The lantern festival, and so much more!

Critique: A part of the Words & Pictures Celebrations & Festivals series, "Lunar New Year" invites children ages 5-7 into a family's celebrations as they explore the magic and excitement of religious and cultural festivals around the world. The heart-warming story is followed by a fun 'factivity' section packed with information on the festival in more detail along with activities, recipes, and craft projects to enjoy. While a fun, informative, and highly recommended pick for family, elementary school, and community library Holiday collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Lunar New Year" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note #1: Natasha Yim ( was born in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, but attended elementary school in Singapore, and high school in Hong Kong. In 1979, she came to the U.S. for college and graduated from Dominican University in San Rafael, California. Most of her career has been in counseling or social work. It was through reading and telling stories to kids who were away from their families, that Natasha discovered the power of stories to soothe, comfort and inspire children. She decided she wanted to write books for kids. Natasha enjoys writing in different genres and, in addition to children's books, has written magazine articles (both for kids and adults), short plays, play and book reviews, and is currently working on two middle grade novels as well as more picture book projects.

Editorial Note #2: Jingting Wang is a children's book illustrator currently living in Sichuan, China. From an early age she has always been enchanted by the magical scenes and witty stories she found in picture books. After studying on the Illustration MA at Kingston University in London and graduating with a distinction, she now specializes in children's illustration and has worked with publishers in China on a wide range of books. As an illustrator she enjoys bringing whimsical characters and heartfelt scenes to life, blending digital and traditional techniques to create imaginary worlds full of wonder and delight. (

The Social Issues Shelf

Surrounded by Love: An Open Adoption Story
Allison Olson, author
Darlee Urbiztondo, illustrator
Kids are Awesome Publishing LLC
9798985162912, $18.99, HC, 38pp

Synopsis: "Surrounded by Love: An Open Adoption Story" by author/storyteller Allison Olson and artist/illustrator Darlee Urbiztondo is a modern take on the "where did you come from" talk that all parents will have at sometime in their child's life. Specifically, it is an adoption book that celebrates open adoption. Through words and illustrations, "Surrounded by Love: An Open Adoption Story" express the immense amount of love that everyone involved in the process has for the adoptee.

Critique: Thoroughly 'kid friendly' in tone, organization, and presentation, "Surrounded by Love: An Open Adoption Story" is ideal for use with children ages 2-7 and unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library Adoption & Parenting collections as a unique and effective resource for explaining adoption to children is a very positive and effective way. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Surrounded by Love: An Open Adoption Story" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9798985162905, $13.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $2.99).

Editorial Note #1: Being both an adoptee and an adoptive parent, Allison Olson has a unique perspective on the topic of adoption. Her goal is to build confidence and self-esteem in young adoptees by changing the adoption narrative from the "lucky" child to the "loved" child.

Editorial Note #2: Darlee Urbiztondo's (also known as Happylee) is a multi-disciplinary Filipino creative based in the Philippines and sometimes Belgium. She is an extraordinary artist proficient in digital illustrations, painting, calligraphy, graphic design, and traditional art. She believes that learning is a never-ending. Her work can be seen at

The Environmental Shelf

Life on the Thames
Emma Shoard
Child's Play
9781786284723, $19.99, HC, 64pp

Synopsis: "Life on the Thames" by Emma Shoard is a gorgeously illustrated journey for children ages 4-8 along one of Britain's most well-known rivers. The Thames sustains a staggering number of birds, mammals and other creatures. Children will fully enjoy learning about them in-depth as they progress from the source of the river to its estuary.

Critique: An ideal blending of informative commentary and captioning with impressive, full color illustrations throughout, "Life on the Thames" is especially and unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school and community library picture book collections. Indeed, "Life on the Thames" would be a prized and memorable gift for this Christmas season that any young wildlife fan would treasure!

Editorial Note: Emma Shoard ( is a freelance illustrator living and working in London with a studio in Hackney Downs. She has lived on a Dutch barge on the Thames for six years, providing lots of inspiration.

The Science Shelf

Britannica's Encyclopedia Infographica
Valentina D'Efilipo, et al.
Britannica Books
9781913750466, $32.00, HC, 336pp

Synopsis: Britannica Group is a global education leader with over 250 years of dedication to seeking out facts and providing insight into the mysteries of the universe. Britannica's mission to inspire curiosity and the joy of learning helps build the world's future thinkers and innovators.

A seminal and groundbreaking new encyclopedia from Britannica Books, "Britannica's Encyclopedia Infographica: 1,000s of Facts & Figures - about Earth, space, animals, the body, technology & more - Revealed in Pictures" has the pictures do the talking!

An authoritative encyclopedia is perfect for visual learners, "Britannica's Encyclopedia Infographica" reveals astonishing information about space, Earth, animals, humans, and technology through 200 infographics, including maps, charts, timelines, and more!

Young readers will be able to easily grasp facts at a glance as they turn every page: discover the size of our Sun in comparison to the largest star in the universe; find out which animal can leap 200 times its body length; learn how many cups of snot your body makes a day; compare the sizes of the biggest beasts that have ever lived; witness what happens in a single second across the world -- and so very much more!

With stunning infographics by internationally renowned data designer Valentina D'Efilippo, along with beautiful color photography, as well as interviews with leading expert consultants for every chapter, "Britannica's Encyclopedia Infographica" offers an exhilarating visual and effective way to understand the world around us.

Critique: This large format (8.3 x 1.2 x 11.1 inches, 3.35 pounds) hardcover edition of "Britannica's Encyclopedia Infographica: 1,000s of Facts & Figures - about Earth, space, animals, the body, technology & more - Revealed in Pictures" is especially and unreservedly recommended as a key and core addition to family, elementary school, middle school, and community library Children's Encyclopedia & Science collections for young readers ages 10-14. It should be noted for personal use and home-schooling parents that "Britannica's Encyclopedia Infographica" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $25.32).

Dictionary of Dinosaurs
Natural History Museum, author
Dieter Braun, illustrator
Wide Eyed Editions
c/o Quarto Publishing Group USA
9780711290532, $15.99, PB, 184pp

Synopsis: Featuring firm favorites such as the T-rex, ankylosaurus, and triceratops, as well as lesser-known beasts like the baryonyx, rugops, and shanag, there's no dino left behind in the A to Z compendium, "Dictionary of Dinosaurs: An illustrated A to Z of Every Dinosaur Ever Discovered - Discover Over 300 Dinosaurs!".

Each individual entry includes a fact file, scale diagram, Latin name, and pronunciation. Best of all, each page is filled with a colorful, eye-popping illustration of the dinosaur, in conjunction with the Natural History Museum in London, England.

A 'How to Use this Book' page explains all you need to know for this to become your go-to guide to the dinosaur kingdom. The book also includes a timeline, showing which dinosaurs lived when and where, and how the Earth has changed over millions of years. Discover the different groups of dinosaurs, from ankylosaurs to titanosaurs. And find out how we even know about dinosaurs in the first place.

Critique: Expertly written by leading paleontologists from the Natural History Museum, this large format (7.55 x 0.46 x 9.65 inches) paperback edition of "Dictionary of Dinosaurs: An illustrated A to Z of Every Dinosaur Ever Discovered - Discover Over 300 Dinosaurs!" will have dinosaur-loving kids ages 6-12 become familiar with the dinosaur alphabet as they flick through these colorful creatures with ease. Eye-catching and informative, it's a fun and exciting addition to any child's bookshelf and a 'must' for family, elementary school, middle school, and community library Dinosaur Book collections for young readers. It should be noted that "Dictionary of Dinosaurs" is also readily available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $15.19).

Editorial Note #1: As a working scientific institution, the Natural History Museum is at the forefront of cutting-edge research and scientific discovery. They use their unique collections, 80 million items in botany, entomology, mineralogy, palaeontology and zoology to tackle the biggest challenges facing the world today. All sales of Museum books support internal scientific research, educational programmes and conservation. Books are written by leading experts at the Museum and span age ranges from young children to adults, including Meteorites: The Story of our Solar System and Dinosaur Sticker Book.

Editorial Note #2: Dieter Braun ( is an illustrator and children's book author from Hamburg, Germany. His art style consists of pencil strokes transmitted into Adobe Illustrator, and then developed further in Photoshop, where he brings the design to life by enhancing its dimensions. He studied Communication Design at the Folkwangschule in Essen. Clients include international publications like TIME, The New York Times, stern, Cosmopolitan, Newsweek, Elle, and Glamour.

The Board Book Shelf

Whoever You Are: A Baby Book on Love & Gender
Josephine Wai Lin, author
Sandy Lopez, illustrator
Collective Book Studio
c/o Simon & Schuster (distribution)
9781951412944, $12.95, Board Book, 24pp

Synopsis: Quiet and loud, soft and strong. You being you, there's no way to be wrong...

Every day, parents come home from the hospital with a brand-new human being. What if we made vows to our babies to love them no matter what? What if the world didn't rush in to judge our little ones and instead made them feel truly seen and supported.

With bright, vibrant illustrations and exuberant rhythm and rhyme, "Whoever You Are" is the ultimate vow every baby will love to grow up hearing.

Critique: Family friendly and fun, "Whoever You Are: A Baby Book on Love & Gender" is a charmingly delightful and very special pick for family, daycare center, preschool, and community library Board Book collections for very young children ages 1-4. It should be noted that "Whoever You Are: A Baby Book on Love & Gender" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $5.99).

Editorial Note #1: Josephine Wai Lin is a debut author who grew up from humble beginnings in Anaheim, California. The daughter of Filipino immigrants (dad in the Navy, mom a medical assistant), she never knew you could get paid to be creative. After graduating from the University of California, Los Angeles with degrees in English and Psychology, she's been doing just that -- all while working as an advertising creative, entrepreneur, and mother of two.

Editorial Note: Sandy Lopez is an illustrator who was born and raised in Los Angeles. Like most college graduates, after graduating UCLA she didn't know what she wanted to do. After five years of teaching kiddos, plus a quarter life crisis, Sandy found her creative side and never let go. She is a self-taught designer and illustrator who has a passion for color and self-love.

The Picturebook Shelf

Bold & Brave
K.A. Cummins
Eleonora Press
9798986767635, $16.99 Hardcover/$12.99 Paper/$4.99 ebook

Bold & Brave presents the picture book story of autistic Lily, who wants to sing solo in the school's choir show, but eschews both the stage and audience attention. She even has a new outfit to lend her courage; but alas -- her boldness is still lacking.

How can Lily perform when she has so many worries and fears? Because she is autistic, "sometimes the world overwhelms her." Polka dots give her courage, but she must wear the choir uniform like everyone else. Wise parents intervene to show Lily how she can gain courage anyway as the story moves through Lily's rising and falling fears.

The result is a realistic story of the waves of opportunity and struggles Lily feels in the course of stepping into her role and courage. More so than most books about performance, courage, or autism, Bold & Brave embraces a range of feelings, explains and explores them, and creates a tale that lends to deeper understanding in readers; especially when read-aloud adults participate in discussions.

Libraries and adults who choose Bold & Brave for the young will find it holds many opportunities for exploring the foundations of courage and understanding, couched in simple yet thought-provoking language and experiences that are easy for all ages to understand.

The Year of the Dragon: Tales from the Chinese Zodiac
Oliver Chin, author
Jennifer Wood, artist
c/o MIT Press (distribution)
9781597020282, $15.95, HC, 36pp

Synopsis: 2012 was the Year of the Dragon! Dominic's proud parents rule the sea and sky, advise the Emperor, and have high expectations for their son. Meanwhile Dom befriends the boy Bo and the other zodiac animals, who wish to paddle a boat in the village's annual river race. But when other people and Dom's parents disapprove, what will Dom do? When others tell him what to do, can Dominic eventually spread his own wings?

Critique: Unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections, "The Year of the Dragon: Tales from the Chinese Zodiac" by author/storyteller Oliver Chin is fully enhanced with the charming and dynamic images by artist/illustrator Jennifer Wood which will hold immense appeal children and parents with an interested in Asian culture -- and, of course, all young dragon lovers ages 3-8!

Editorial Note #1: Oliver Chin is the author of many children's book such as Julie Black Belt, Welcome to Monster Isle, and the popular annual series Tales from the Chinese Zodiac. He co-wrote The Discovery of Ramen, The Discovery of Fireworks & Gunpowder, and The Discovery of Anime and Manga from The Asian Hall of Fame series.

Editorial Note #2: Jennifer Wood ( has illustrated the children's books The Year of the Dragon, Snake, and Horse. She is a character and prop designer for many animated TV series, such as the Nickelodeon shows The Fairly OddParents, T.U.F.F. Puppy, The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack, and Strawberry Shortcake. Her illustrations have earned recognition from the Society of Illustrators, Los Angeles and the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.

I Love You
Mary Murphy
Happy Yak
c/o Quarto Publishing Group USA
9780711289031, $18.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: Parents, take a moment to sit down and read "I Love You" by Mary Murphy with your little one as this cute pair of pandas compare their love to all the things they see. Dandelion clocks, tabby kittens, and building bricks are just some of the fun items in the rhyming couplets that cascade through this beautiful read. This fun and bouncy text will keep your child engaged as they grow from baby to toddler. With a vivid yellow color scheme, this sweet book is a visual as well as an emotional joy. The contrasting yellow and black help with eyesight development in babies, and children will love spotting the fun little details as they get older.

A cute and colorful way to show your child the deep affection between parent and child, grandparent and child, and more, and a new take on the phrase 'I love you to the moon and back'. A story which pulls on the heartstrings and will be read again and again by babies and toddlers alike.

Critique: With the publication of "I Love You" by Mary Murphy, this charming and endearing picture book will bring love and joy to your child's bedtime by reading them to them about a big and little panda expressing how much they love each other. While especially and unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, kindergarten, and community library collections for children ages 3-5, it should be noted that "I Love You" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99) as well.

Editorial Note: Mary Murphy ( is a Dublin-based author-illustrator of over 40 books; from board books for babies to fiction for children. With an advanced diploma in Visual Communications, Mary harnesses the power of pictures and words to develop both the eyesight and speech of babies and children as they grow. In Ireland's Children's Books 2018 campaign to mark the centenary of women's suffrage in Ireland, Mary was one of twenty 'Bold Girls' celebrated for having made 'an exceptional contribution to the canon of Irish children's literature'.

The Hare-Shaped Hole
John Dougherty, author
Thomas Docherty, illustrator
Frances Lincoln Children's Books
c/o Quarto Publishing Group USA
9780711276079, $18.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: Hertle and Bertle were always a pair, though one was a turtle and one was a hare. They were utterly buddies, and best friends forever, and whenever you looked, you would find them together... until quite unexpectedly... the end came.

When Hertle disappears for good, Bertle can only see a Hertle-shaped hole where his friend should be. He pleads with it, get angry with it, but the hole still won't bring his Hertle back.

It seems like hope is lost... until Gerda the kindly bear finds him. She explains that he must fill the hole with his memories of Hertle. And slowly... Bertle begins to feel a little bit better.

Powerful and moving text from children's author and poet John Dougherty is paired perfectly with warm illustrations from the wonderfully talented Thomas Docherty in a thoughtful and sensitive approach to this difficult topic.

Critique: "The Hare-Shaped Hole: is a beautiful, touching, and poignant picture book which gently explores themes of death and dying, grief and loss. This moving and age appropriate picture book can be used by parents and caregivers as part of a gentle conversation about loss with children ages 3-5. While very highly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, kindergarten, and community library collections, it should be noted that "The Hare-Shaped Hole" is also available in a paperback edition (9780711276055, $13.35, Amazon).

Editorial Note #1: John Dougherty ( is the award-winning author of around forty books for children. A former teacher, John's also a singer, a songwriter, a published poet, and a seasoned schools and festival performer with all the skills necessary to have a crowd of kids helpless with laughter one minute, and ready to leave the hall quietly and sensibly the next. He's visited schools and festivals from Swindon to Sydney, from Milan to Mumbai, and his appearance before a crowd of 1700 children and teachers at the 2017 Hay Festival was live-streamed to 900 primary schools.

Editorial Note #2: Thomas Docherty ( is dyslexic, so throughout his schooling his spelling was terrible and he struggled with reading. Luckily his parents read stories to him and took him to the library, where he spent hours looking at picture books. He had always liked drawing and started keeping a sketchbook diary. It was these diaries that inspired his first picture books, like Little Boat, which was shortlisted for the prestigious Kate Greenaway Medal. Now, whenever possible, he enjoys going into schools and libraries to talk to children about his work and help them write and draw their own stories.

The Garden Witch
Kyle Beaudette, author/illustrator
Eye of Newt Books
9781777791841, $17.95, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: The Garden Witch is lonely, no one shops at her stall, no one visits her magical garden, and there is no one to talk to -- except for the three evil rats she lives with. The rats will eat her if she upsets them, so she lives day in and day out the same. Until one evening she cries in her garden.

In the morning she finds that the garden has grown her a little turnip boy, Mickey. The turnip boy with his charm and bum wiggling helps the witch refresh her stall and make friends in the community. The witch discovers her own power and with the help of Mickey, she turns the table on the rats.

Critique: With the story told in rhyming verse, "The Witch's Garden" by author and illustrator Kyle Beraudette is an inherently fascinating, original, and entertaining story for children ages 4-7 -- making it a very special, highly recommended, and quite unique pick for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections.

Editorial Note: Kyle Beaudette ( lives in Cornwall, Ontario where he teaches elementary school during the day and works obsessively on art projects at night. He loves creating dark and humourous art. His watercolour and ink illustrations have been compared to the work of Tim Burton, Ronald Searle, and Quentin Blake. He also makes fantasy sculptures, and they're... weird. Kyle has two cats and one wife.

I Am Happy!
Michael Rosen, author
Robert Starling, illustrator
Candlewick Press
9781536231281, $14.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: "I Am Happy" is the picture book story of a puppy who is HAPPY! So happy it wants to shout about it! Riding high on a cloud of joy, it wants to sing on a swing, skip through a puddle, and chase after bubbles. With so much happiness in its little heart, what won't it do?

The inimitable poet and storyteller Michael Rosen brings his knack for capturing the extremes of toddler moods to this carnival ride of a picture book about a puppy so thrilled with its own happiness, there's no end to the celebrations. Paired with artist/illustrator Robert Starling's colorful, energetic images, this companion to their "I Am Hungry" (part of a series mapping toddlers' big emotions) is sure to put silly grins on the faces of parents and children at read-aloud time.

Critique: An original and fun read from start to finish for children ages 3-7, "I Am Happy" by the successfully collaborative team of Michael Rosen and Robert Starling, this hardcover edition is especially and unreservedly recommended as an enduringly popular addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library Emotions/Feelings picture book collections

Editorial Note #1: Michael Rosen ( is a poet and the author of many books for children, including We're Going on a Bear Hunt, which won the Nestle Smarties Children's Book Prize; A Great Big Cuddle; and Michael Rosen's Sad Book. He received the Eleanor Farjeon Award for services to children's literature in 1997 and served as Children's Laureate in the UK between 2007 and2009. Michael Rosen lives in London.

Editorial Note #2: Robert Starling is a creator of many books for children, including Fergal Is Fuming!, which was short-listed for the Waterstones Children's Book Prize, and other books in the Fergal series. He is also the illustrator of I Am Angry and I Am Hungry, both by Michael Rosen. Robert Starling lives in England. (

The Mind-Reading Hat
Lois Wickstrom, author
Nicolas Milano, illustrator
Look Under Rocks
c/o Gripper Products
9781954519398, $19.99, HC, 34pp

Synopsis: Caspian is a little boy who never knows what his Grandpa will give him for his UnBirthday!

This year, Caspian's UnBirthday Gift is a Mind-Reading Hat. When he puts it on he hears his mom and Grandpa talking about his surprises.

But their lips aren't moving.

Then he hears a turtle talking. The turtle needs his help. It's all alone in the dark.Will the turtle's thoughts be enough for Caspian find it?

Critique: "The Mind-Reading Hat" by the team of author/storyteller Lois Wickstrom and artist/illustrator Nicolas Milano is an original and unreservedly recommended pick for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for children ages 4-8. A fun read from start to finish, it should also be noted for personal reading lists that "The Mind-Reading Hat" is also available in a paperback edition (9781954519404, $11.99).

Editorial Note: Lois Wickstrom ( lives in a world where imaginary playmates are real. She doesn't remember being born, so she finds unbirthdays are more exciting than the official once-a-year date on the calendar. She's taken so many science classes that she believes science is the solution to almost every problem, including the dilemmas in fairy tales. She writes by herself. She writes with co-authors. She asks illustrators what they would like to draw. If she ever writes her autobiography, the title will be My Life as a Group Project.

When Dad's Hair Took Off
Jorg Muhle
Gecko Press
9781776575206, $18.99 HC, $14.99 PB, $9.99 Kindle, 64pp

When Dad's Hair Took Off is translated by Melody Shaw and tells of a rebellious head of hair that wants a life of its own, and to see the world. One day, Dad's hair springs to life and makes a run for it, leaving a now-bald father determined to get it back. The delightful story of freedom and the pursuit of hair and happiness will intrigue advanced elementary readers with a zany, hair-raising adventure topic that kids ordinarily don't receive - hair lost and found.

Disney Press

Two winning picture books are outstanding picks for young readers seeking holiday winners, retaining their value year-round for libraries seeking lasting lending value from their acquisitions.

Ryan T. Higgins provides a funny take on the Halloween Sleepy Hollow legend with Bruce and the Legend of Soggy Hollow (9781368059589, $18.99). Bruce the Bear not only dislikes all holidays, but he hates Halloween in particular. If he's to ever enjoy the season, it's up to his diverse animal family to engage him with an attractively spooky story. Said tale turns too realistic, however, when the spook makes an in-person appearance at the campfire. As Bruce flees the phantom, hilarious moments keep kids and read-aloud parents thoroughly engaged through satisfying twists and turns.

Patricia Tanumihardja's The Sugar Plum Bakers (9781368089579, $17.99) receives engaging illustrations by Bonnie Lui as it provides a story of twelve holiday treats created by magical 'bakerinas.' Treats from around the world are profiled in a story that mixes history, cultural traditions, and holiday origins in a manner that will delight kids and adults with magical thinking blended and enriched with facts and bright, engaging drawings throughout.

Simon & Schuster

Robert Heidbreder's My Cat Does Ballet (9781665917032, $18.99) is illustrated by Matt Schu and presents the engaging story of a dancing cat whose excess energy is directed into ballet. Ages 4-8, especially those familiar with feline antics, will appreciate the leaps, en pointe stands, and human and feline ballet class which evolve from the young narrator's observations and teaching.

It's not a washing machine, it's a wishing machine in Jonathan Hillman's The Wishing Machine (9781665922302, $18.99). Nadia Alam provides fun illustrations of an ordinary visit to the Laundromat turned extraordinary when the washing machines turn into something different. Ages 4-8 will appreciate the magic and fun an ordinary washday assumes in this inviting tale.

Erica Simone Turnipseed's Bigger Than Me (9781665900324, $18.99) is illustrated by Kara Bodegon-Hikino and will also appeal to ages 4-8 with its story of big adult words that grown-ups like to throw around, which make them sad. The kids would like to help, but these words feel too big and confusing. What if the children join together to tackle a problem which seems too large for them to handle? Big dreams, small changes, and attempts to tackle the impossible make for a moving story of achievement and perspective which will delight read-aloud parents and adults interested in the story's underlying messages of problem-solving and finding solutions through cooperative thinking.

All three of these new children's book titles from Simon & Schuster are unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library collections.

The Elementary Fiction Shelf

Nina Soni, Perfect Hostess
Kashmira Sheth, author
Jenn Kocsmiersky, illustrator
Peachtree Publishing Company
9781682635018, $15.99, HC, 192pp

Synopsis: Nina's grandmother is coming to visit, all the way from India. It's hard, only getting to see her grandparents on carefully timed video calls, scheduled to manage that ten-and-a-half hour time difference. But now Dadi is going to stay for several weeks!

Nina can't wait to see Dadi -- but then it turns out that Montu, her annoying cousin, will also be coming. It's challenging enough to manage her little sister, but Nina has gotten used to that, and even come to appreciate many of Kavita's eccentricities.

Still, it will be fun to introduce her extended family to life and friends in Madison, Wisconsin, and Nina is determined to become the perfect hostess. Surely, she can manage to plan a lovely visit, with the help of the lists she makes in her journal.

Critique: An original and fun story from start to finish, "Nina Soni. Perfect Hostess" is the collaborative work of author/storyteller Kashmira Sheth and artist/illustrator Jenn Kocsmiersky. With its underlying message about the value of family, "Nina Soni, Perfect Hostess" is especially and unreservedly recommended for family, elementary school, and community library Contemporary Fiction collections for young readers ages 7-10. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Nina Soni, Perfect Hostess" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9781682635025, $7.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99).

Editorial Note #1: Kashmira Sheth ( moved to Ames, Iowa from India when she was a teenager in order to attend college, and then on to Madison, Wisconsin for graduate school. Before becoming a writer she caught corn flea beetles one summer, worked in a bakery, where she learned the difference between a hamburger bun and a Kaiser roll, worked as a food microbiologist testing milk, cheese, ice cream and other food products for bacterial counts and pathogens, ran a dance school and choreographed and performed Indian dances. She started writing her first book, "Blue Jasmine", when her daughters completed elementary school. Since that time she has written picture books, middle grade novels, and young adult novels.

Editorial Note #2: Jenn Kocsmierksy ( is a watercolor artist and picture book illustrator. She was adopted from Seoul, South Korea, and grew up in rural New Hampshire. Now, as a mom and artist, Jenn hopes to promote relatable childhood experiences featuring diverse characters. She was the recipient of the 2018 We Need Diverse Books Mentorship for Illustration and the 2016-2017 Walter Dean Meyers Grant.

The Brothers Zzli
Alex Cousseau
Wm. B. Eerdmans
9780802856098, $17.99 HC, $17.09 Kindle, 40pp

The Brothers Zzli by Alex Cousseau will reach ages 6-10 with an engaging story of tall, furry brothers who arrive at the doorstep of little girl Welcome. They have no place else to go, and she has vast room in her house, and so they move in. However, their great differences lead other forest members to wonder about the makeup of this strange family.

Anne-Lise Boutin's engaging illustrations enhance a story translated by Vineet Lal that creates a compelling tale of an unusual family makeup that works both within the home and, ultimately, for others who at first wonder about its disparity.

The Middle Grade Fiction Shelf

Emily Barth Isler
CarolRhoda Books
c/o The Lerner Publishing Group
9798765626894, $12.99, PB, 272pp

Synopsis: After her brother's death from a congenital heart defect, twelve-year-old Lucy is not prepared to be the new kid at school -- especially in a grade full of survivors of a shooting that happened four years ago. Without the shared past that both unites and divides her classmates, Lucy feels isolated and unable to share her family's own loss, which is profoundly different from the trauma of her peers.

Lucy clings to her love of math, which provides the absolute answers she craves. But through budding friendships and an after-school mime class, Lucy discovers that while grief can take many shapes and sadness may feel infinite, love is just as powerful.

Critique: Exceptionally well written and timely given what schools and students are faced with today by way of violence and sudden loss of life, loss of a sense of security, and the mental stress that can be as devastating as any gun incident or physical condition, "AfterMath" is an entertaining story with a critically important underlying message about dealing with the subjects of death and dying, self-esteem and mental health healing -- individually and as a collective. A highly recommended read for children ages 10-12, "AfterMath" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, family, elementary school, middle school, and community library General Fiction collections.

Editorial Note: Emily Barth Isler ( is an author of essays and children's books, including the middle grade novel AfterMath and the forthcoming picture book Always Enough Love. Emily writes regularly about sustainability, organic/eco-friendly skincare, and healthy beauty products for magazines and blogs. Her next book, The Color of Sound, features a character who, like Emily, has synesthesia. She has a BA in Film Studies from Wesleyan University.

Moth in a Fancy Cardigan
Charlotte Lance & David Booth
Berbay Publishing
9781922610577, $19.99, HC, 136pp

Gary Gray Moth blends in but wants to be seen; while Florence Butterfly is sick of all the attention her colors earn. As they consider the pros and cons of each others' lives and swap identities, they discover new facets of attraction and understanding that evolve in the course of adventures and realizations. The story is whimsically presented, but embraces much food for thought about identity, discovery, and transformation.

Moth in a Fancy Cardigan will appeal to middle-grade readers with its story of fitting in, standing out, and cardigans which encourage different personalities to try on new possibilities. This makes it a top pick for young reader discussion groups, from advanced elementary into middle grade levels.

Wedge of Fear
Eugene M. Gagliano
Crystal Publishing, LLC
9781942624813, $9.95 Paper/$2.99 ebook, 124pp

When a sibling dies, family survivors must pick up the pieces, often moving far from their established comfort zones to do so.

In Wedge of Fear, Tony's loss of his brother motivates the family to move from the East Coast to Wyoming. Amid the usual flurry of making new friends, facing bullies, and environmental changes are Tony's additional family challenges with another death that leads his father to question his ability to hold his family together.

Add action from an outside challenge to not just his family, but the entire town, for a tale of how a six-grader evolves into his own abilities and strengths against several difficult odds.

Eugene M. Gagliano does a fine job of addressing and contrasting the fears of both adults and children in this new milieu: "...his stomach tightened at the thought of attending a new school. What if the kids didn't like him? What if they made fun of him because he was from New York? Could he take care of himself?"

Gagliano also provides contrasts between urban and rural Wyoming interests as Tony makes new discoveries and, most of all, faces the special challenge of solving his own situations rather than relying on the adults around him to do so for him. As Tony steps up to help his family during crisis, he develops mature reactions to hardship that he never had before.

Gagliano's ability to contrast action with adversity, reviewing the process of maturity that cements Tony's new skills in dealing with the world, translates to a read that is realistic and thought-provoking.

Middle grade readers seeking a blend of action and astute psychological insights will find Wedge of Fear enlightening, compassionate, and revealing as Tony moves through unfamiliar territory and matters of the heart to discover new facts about himself and those around him.

Libraries will want to include this story in any collection appealing to young leisure readers that emphasize personal growth and empowerment at the middle grade level.

The Young Adult Fiction Shelf

How To Live on the Edge
Sarah Lynn Scheerger
CarolRhoda Lab
c/o The Lerner Publishing Group
9798765608135, $10.99, PB, 312pp

Synopsis: Eighteen-year-old Cayenne barely remembers her mother, who died of breast cancer when Cayenne was four. The women in her family have a history of dying young. Cayenne figures she'll meet the same fate, so she might as well enjoy life now, engaging in death-defying risks like dodging trains and jumping off cliffs with her boyfriend.

When Cayenne receives a series of video messages her mother made for her before dying, she isn't sure she wants them. Her aunt Tee has been her true mother figure. But then Aunt Tee tests positive for a BRCA gene mutation (the one that doomed Cayenne's mom) and decides to get a mastectomy to reduce her chances of developing cancer.

As Cayenne helps her aunt prepare for the surgery, she finds herself drawn to her mother's messages, with their musings on life, love, and perseverance. For the first time, Cayenne starts to question what it truly means to live life to the fullest, even when death might be written into her DNA.

Critique: A thoroughly engaging and inherently fascinating read from start to finish, "How to Live on the Edge" by novelist Sarah Lynn Scheerger effectively address some very difficult facts of life in a completely appropriate storytelling style for young readers ages 13-18. Even though a work of fiction, "How to Live on the Edge" will prove of particular relevance to young readers with an interest in the health issues of girls and women. Originally published in hardcover (2020), this new paperback edition of "How to Live on the Edge" is particularly recommended for middle school, highschool, and community library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "How to Live on the Edge" is also now readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.44).

Editorial Note: Sarah Lynn Scheerger ( is a clinical social worker who works with "at-promise" youth, helping them figure out who they are and who they want to be. She started writing as a convenient excuse to avoid laundry, and admittedly has gotten a little carried away. She writes picture books as well as middle-grade and young adult novels.

Linda Griffin
Wild Rose Press
9781509252350, $17.99 Paper/$3.99 ebook

When Rynna Dalton's mother dies and she goes to live with her great-grandmother and disabled cousin Ted at Stonebridge Manor, she soon comes to suspect that a ghost is haunting the place --possibly that of her mother's murdered cousin. But the specter of a spirit is overshadowed by a romance which evolves between her and lawyer Jason Wyatt, who courts her with a promise of marriage and love.

As she evolves a friendship with Ted, deals with unanswered questions about Jason, and confronts a chilling feeling that accompanies what should be a happy engagement, her relationships and spirit possibilities heat up.

Linda Griffin is adept at cultivating both ghostly encounters and psychological tension as the story evolves. These elements will attract YA readers with a special blend of intrigue and romantic realizations. Griffin also offers astute and thought-provoking insights into the legacy of child abuse and issues that play out between generations, which will encourage discussions in book clubs catering to mature teens and new adults alike.

Rynna matures and changes in the course of the story whose initial draw as a ghost tale evolves into something much more thought-provoking; as driven by the emotional developments between characters as it is by puzzles of the past which motivate and influence them.

The reflections on legacies that transmit within families and between generations are particularly thought-provoking: "He had told her abused children became child abusers. Wouldn't beloved children grow up to be loving parents?" As Rynna comes to understand Ted on a deeper level, even as she becomes a wife and mother, Griffin crafts a tale that is alluring on many different levels.

While libraries may consider Stonebridge for mature YA readers, it also will appeal to adults attracted to stories of possession, discovery, and genetic predispositions and growth, tempered by a legacy of ghostly encounters and the interpretation and action of risk-taking.

The Vessel
Kristin A. Oakley
Independently Published
9798987870327, $13.99 Paper/$4.99 ebook (Ages 12-18)

Book 2 of The Devil Particle series, The Vessel, opens with teen narrator Paul's revelation that, due to his choices, life will never again be the same: "I have all the world's evil inside me, and I've killed my brother. This can't be good."

The Vessel Project was designed to place control of the entire world's evil in one body. Now containing the devil particles, Paul questions his abilities and winning a contest that has cost him so much more than he'd anticipated.

"The Devil Particle", the prior book by Kristin Oakley, covered Paul's competition with nearly fifty others and the extraordinary effort he put forth to win this desirable contest. Much in the manner of The Hunger Games, however, his competition, survival, and ultimate success are only part of the underlying story, which continues here. Can the worst candidate for the job actually come out on top?

Paul is living proof that not only is this a fact, but his continuing eligibility for being the most cunning, brave of all is not necessarily the actual requirement for the job. As he moves from the horrors of what he has done to the actuality of containing the devil particles, Paul's transition includes new realizations about his empowerment that affect both his worldview and his relationships: "What got into me? Did I really talk Oscar into doing what I wanted him to do?

Surprisingly, it wasn't that hard. This new ability to manipulate is exciting and a little scary - it's a power I shouldn't take lightly." Embedded in his new responsibilities are realizations that test Paul's belief in the Vessel Project, his family connections, and the changing attitudes that come from being able to command anyone around him to do anything.

Everyone around him seems so happy. His father confesses that life without his brother Asher brings with it its own ongoing sadness. So why isn't Paul mourning like those around him?

Kristin A. Oakley adds new moral, ethical, and psychological dimensions to Paul's ongoing growth in The Vessel. As a powerful container, Paul discovers that power comes with a price tag. Although his physical and mental abilities have been heightened, Paul admits that "Sometimes it's hard for me to wait for people to catch up." If they ever will.

The Vessel Project has proved both a wild success and a failure in ways Paul and his readers won't anticipate. This gives the story the added value of not just surprise, but a closer inspection of the moral and ethical guidelines which direct and influence the deepest questions humans have about purpose and their lives. The point is that between finding his personal path and stepping into a greater responsibility, Paul has sacrificed something that's irreplacable.

YA readers who have absorbed the action, objectives, and sentiments Paul revealed in The Devil Particle will find his ongoing saga compelling. As Paul discovers, there are no easy answers to his calling or its actual incarnation. Winning the game is just part of the prize. The real challenge lies in wielding power and understanding its ultimate impact and influence on the world.

Libraries and readers seeking a compelling extension of The Devil Particle in a second book that continues to expand the nature of Paul's growth in a Big Bang of unexpected results will find The Vessel a powerfully compelling sequel that confronts illusions, truth, and a president's ultimate lies about the cancer affecting the human soul.

The Mystery/Suspense Shelf

Alex McKenna & The Geranium Deaths
Vicki-Ann Bush
Creative James Media
9781956183771, $16.99, PB, 266pp
9781956183771, $25.00, HC, $5.99 Kindle

Alex McKenna & The Geranium Deaths introduces adult genres and topics for mature teens, blending paranormal developments into a murder mystery in engaging story of intrigue and discovery.

Tension pops from the story's opening lines: "Alex held Margaret, his arm hand pressing her head to his shoulder. His breath brushed across her ear. "Don't look, no matter what you hear. That's how it gets you." All the other victims had turned to ice. Alex couldn't understand why, but the rules didn't apply to him. None of the deceased were family, so maybe that was his armor. His family history protected him somehow."

Alex needs to locate his brother and escape. To do that, he has to bait the creature that stalks them. And time is running out. Vicki-Ann Bush turns up the temperature on her young adult story to 'hot', issuing a declaration of intrigue and adult themes that follow the efforts of transgender teen Alex McKenna to help lost souls move on from the living world. His ability to see them and lend a helping hand makes him a bridge between more than one world, but when a series of murders begins to plague his neighborhood, Alex turns out to be the only stop gate between a legacy of death and the future of life.

As the frozen bodies pile up, Alex comes to realize that his choices, his legacy, and his newfound role require new abilities and possibilities he'd never envisioned for himself. The exquisite dance between paranormal and murder mystery is heightened by the slow truths that emerge about Alex's heritage, his talents, and his unique position.

Bush intersects these insights with character development that features tantalizing invitations to look deeper. "You're not looking close enough." As the wills and purposes of spirit and corporeal worlds clash, Alex becomes the pivot point in personal and paranormal struggles, forcing him to pursue secrets that obscure the identity of a vengeful spirit. Bush's ability to craft a powerful story that unfolds mystery and discovery on different levels of personal and paranormal confrontation results in a novel rich in attraction and a satisfying mix of strong characterization and intrigue.

Young adult readers and libraries catering to them (as well as many an adult) will find Alex's drive, personality, and life as compelling as his extraordinary ability to connect with the unseen and help others overcome hate and fear so that they can cross over to better circumstances... much as he does in his own life.

The Fantasy/SciFi Shelf

Champion of Fate
Kendare Blake
Quill Tree Books
c/o HarperCollins Children's Books
Blackstone Audiobooks
9780062977205, $19.99, HC, 480pp

Synopsis: Aristene are an order of mythical female warriors. Though heroes might be immortalized in legends, it's the Aristene who guide their paths to victory. They are the Heromakers.

Raised by the order after being orphaned, Reed grew up surrounded by her future sisters-in-arms and the incredible stories of their quests. She's been counting the days until her initiation, and now one final test stands in her way: shepherding her first hero to glory on the battlefield. Succeed, and her place in the order is secured. Fail, and she'll be cast out of the only home she's ever known.

But Reed didn't count on Hestion, her assigned hero, being both infuriating and intriguing. When their strategic alliance turns into something more, it forces Reed to question the cost of becoming an Aristene. As battle looms and fate hangs in the balance, Reed must make an impossible choice: her hero or her order.

Critique: A compelling, original, and impressively crafted novel that will hold a very special interest to fans of Epic Fantasy fiction, "Champion of Fate" by Kendare Blake is especially and unreservedly recommended for middle school, highschool, and community library Science Fiction & Fantasy collections for young readers ages 14-18. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of teens and young adult Dark Fantasy enthusiasts that "Champion of Fate" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Blackstone Audio, 9798212696425, $41.99, CD).

Editorial Note: Kendare Blake ( received a Master of Arts in Creative Writing from Middlesex University in London, England.

Apprentices in Magic
Sally Basmajian
Creative James Media
9781956183344, $16.99 PB, $5.99 Kindle, 226pp

Apprentices in Magic opens with a legend of promise that permeates a war-weary country -- that two peasant children will eventually bring peace and prosperity to the land. These would be Annette and Laila, friends who were delivered on the same night, who harbor not dreams of saving anyone, but learning how to wield their magical abilities.

When they are offered apprenticeships at Paduane's royal magical academy, they are excited until assignments at the school separate them, driving them into different directions of education and magical deployment. Immersing themselves in the promise of magic as well as their individual growth, Annette and Laila find their habits and purposes challenged as studies, relationships, and progress takes its tool on their perspectives of the world.

Sally Basmajian illustrates how these two friends become not only apprentices in magic, but apprentices in learning about life, politics, and how their special abilities will grow to affect their prospects for the future. The mission the girls embark upon eventually proves to be one that is even more important than magical training and predictions.

Basmajian illustrates how the girls grow different personalities and abilities, tackle challenges both together and independently, and move from apprenticeships to more powerful roles in life. As the two face sacrifices and sorrow, they continue to build upon the foundations of new possibilities that are supported by the strong friendship between them and the connections made by their disparate powers.

Tension is created by their dual confrontation with monsters and war. These turn their apprenticeship into a series of extraordinary confrontations that quickly flow outside the usual progression of a magical education.

The result is a compelling story for young readers ages 9-18 that moves from political and social situations to relationship- and power-building efforts as seamlessly as the two girls evolve new maturity and abilities.

Libraries looking for stories of magical confrontation and self-discovery embedded firmly in the foundations of powerful female role models and friends will welcome Apprentices in Magic's ability to evolve mystery, possible romance, and healing opportunities in one powerful story.

Darkness Rising
Tracy Earle
DartFrog Plus
9781959096337, $24.99 Hardcover/$14.99 Paper/$4.99 ebook

The opening dialogue in the Children of Light series title Darkness Rising reflects a classic confrontation between darkness and light, with a difference: the Universe is adding wisdom in the middle of its portent of an upcoming battle: "As the Darkness crept further and further into the souls of humanity, the Light turned in desperation to the Universe and begged for help... "The Darkness is rising," the Universe warned. "Every day it becomes stronger, and with each human soul it destroys, you will become weaker. When the light is extinguished from the last human soul on Earth, you will cease to exist. The heart of the earth will stop beating; its lands will blacken and die."

A gift and a final chance arrive in the form of a new Consciousness, but the Universe gives this gift with a cautionary note: "If you destroy the Darkness, you will also destroy yourself. Both are an intrinsic part of the fabric of life; each exists only because the opposing force exists. Without both, there is nothing. You must learn to accept the existence of the Darkness, to understand it and then to navigate a path beyond it."

The clear outline of not only the struggle but its underlying importance is thus set forth in a prologue that will attract both young adult and adult readers into the fantasy with the promise of bigger-picture thinking. Fueled by this introduction, all readers will view the unfolding events and trials with the added value of a philosophical approach to classic confrontations that will spark thought and book club debate among readers that follow the fantasy into the Darkness, Light, and beyond.

The legacy of the Universe's gift lays in young adult Lightworkers Aurora, Aaron, and Cal. They embody the power and represent the ability to transcend physical reality and boundaries to come into their powers and destinies.

From the power of unresolved grief to hold a soul and expose it to the Darkness to changes in souls that receive the new Consciousness and escape the dark demons, Tracy Earle weaves a gripping fantasy that goes beyond the classic good-versus-evil confrontation to probe the necessity and benefits of alliances with and struggles between both. The teens' revelations reflect the higher-level thinking of many an adult spiritual and philosophical assessment. These can be as wide-ranging as psychic Jane Robert and Seth's The Nature of Personal Reality or as close to home as a psychologist's assessment of the long-ranging impact of grief.

These intellectual challenges come wrapped in a veneer of action and revelation which is completely compelling, presenting adventure in a very different fantasy form than most genre fans may be used to. All ages will appreciate the insights and messages embedded in these encounters and revelations: "Everything... every person, every situation, even every thought, feeling, and emotion we have has a resonant frequency.

Think of frequencies as if they were hundreds of highways running parallel to each other. You can choose to switch to another highway, or you can convince yourself that this is the only way for you and you don't have the power to change it. Your thoughts will become your reality, and you will indeed have no power to change it. A negative frequency will attract other negative people, situations, and circumstances to it along its route, so in essence, a person existing at a negative frequency will likely always be in the 'wrong place at the wrong time.' Unlucky things will keep happening to them because that is what they expect to happen; they are resonating at that frequency."

As unusual as it is to receive a fantasy wrapped in energetic healing and new age thought, Earle's ability to personalize these experiences translates ideas to actions, choices, and insights that can be absorbed by a broader age range than usual. The result in Darkness Rising is a story that transcends its own age-connected interpretation of a young adult fantasy to appeal to a much broader range of readers who will find its action based on thought-provoking realizations about the nature of good, evil, reality, and choice. Libraries and book clubs will find the story packed with fodder for discussion.

Eugene M. Gagliano
Crystal Publishing LLC
9781942624820, $9.95, PB, 110pp

Snap follows a fourteen-year-old boy's experience of his dream holiday turned nightmare when he becomes involved with Cody, who harbors a secret that endangers them both. On the run from everything familiar, Jace Johnson finds that accusations of an over-active imagination have come true as his visions of danger and intrigue turn out to be far too real.

Middle graders seldom receive a thriller-style story, but Eugene M. Gagliano excels in creating the same nonstop action and heart-pausing moments in Snap as many a young adult or adult receives in writings tailored for older readers. Jace's fascination with and studies of nature and his introduction to a Washington rainforest far from his Wyoming roots are only a few of the many background elements that fill in the story and give it a sense of place.

The truth about Cody which is revealed early in the story lends it both intrigue and psychological depth. Jace isn't used to facing down crazy adults. Nor is he familiar with those who aren't above kidnapping and violence. These and his own drive to stay brave and proactive in the face of impossible choices and confrontations make for a riveting story that middle grade readers will find a compelling survival saga.

Libraries seeking adventure-based, action-packed tales that incorporate the allure of a thriller but embed bigger-picture thinking into the plot will find Snap an appealing story of courage and survival. It also will serve well for middle grade discussion groups about all kinds of psychological dilemmas and responses that require stepping up into survival mode.

The Activity Shelf

Copy That!
Katrina Tangen and Giulia Orecchia
Barefoot Books
9781646869992, $19.99, Board Book, 34pp

Copy That! Inventions Inspired by Animals is an interactive lift-the-flaps book that pairs riddles with natural history information for board book readers. The blend of interactive format and riddles which challenge young minds to identify flippers, showshoes, and bike reflectors pairs animal attributes with human attempts to mimic them through mechanical or physical innovations.

This level of thought goes above and beyond simplicity, drawing important and interesting associations between the natural world and what humans can learn from it. Copy That! thus holds many insights that board book readers typically don't receive in a manner that challenges their young minds, giving them yet another reason why the natural world is important and inspirational.

The Graphic Novel Shelf

The Bodyguard Unit
Clement Xavier, author
Lisa Lugrin, illustrator
Graphic Universe
c/o The Lerner Publishing Group
9781728445656, $29.92, Library Binding, 136pp

Synopsis: In the early twentieth century, women in England demanded the right to vote -- and in doing so faced violent retaliation. Rather than back down, the suffragist group Women's Social and Political Union formed its own security unit. Edith Garrud, a pioneering self-defense instructor, trained them to fight back against abuse and arrest while pursuing long-overdue rights.

"The Bodyguard Unit: Edith Garrud, Women's Suffrage, and Jujitsu" by author Clement Xavier and illustrator Lisa Lugrin is a graphic novel that tells the story of Garrud's life and reveals the resilience and (often physical) resistance of her era's voting-rights activists.

Featuring an introduction from Elsa Dorlin (Self-Defense: A Philosophy of Violence), The Bodyguard Unit explores an explosive stage of the fight for suffrage.

Critique: Strongly recommended, especially for middle school, highschool, and community library Graphic Novel Story collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of teens and young adults ages 13-18 that "The Bodyguard Unit: Edith Garrud, Women's Suffrage, and Jujitsu" is also readily available in a large format (8.1 x 0.5 x 10.1 inches) paperback edition and also in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.49).

Editorial Note #1: Clement Xavier is a writer based in France. In 2015, Xavier and illustrator Lisa Lugrin jointly received the prestigious Prix Revelation (Debut Prize) at the Angouleme International Comics Festival for their first French-language graphic novel, Yekini, le roi des arenes.

Editorial Note #2: Lisa Lugrin is a comic book artist and author based in France. In 2015, Lugrin and Clement Xavier jointly received the prestigious Prix Revelation (Debut Prize) at the Angouleme International Comics Festival. She is co-founder of Na editions.

The Audiobook Shelf

Through the Dark
Alexander Bracken, author
Shaun Taylor-Corbett, et al., narrators
Brilliance Audio
9781501242205, $14.99, MP3-CD (12 Hours 53 Minutes)

A desperate young man is forced to make a terrible choice between his own survival and the future of a little girl who won't speak, but who changes his life in ways he could never imagine.

A spark of light brightens a brutal world when a girl named Sam encounters her childhood best friend at the government-run "rehabilitation" camp, Thurmond. Lucas and Sam form a risky escape plan, but sometimes even love isn't powerful enough to overcome unspeakable cruelty.

The camps are closed. A tyrant president has been deposed. But for many Psi kids living rough, there is no home to return to, no place for them in a country devastated by the past and anxious about the future. Every day is a struggle for Sam, who knew all the rules at Thurmond and has been thrown into a terrifying and uncertain new life. But there's more at stake than Sam's own survival. She once made a promise to someone she loves, and the time has come to fulfill it.

Critique: This complete and unabridged MP3-CD audio book edition of "Through The Dark" by Alexandra Bracken showcase three hauntingly beautiful novellas set in the world of the author's 'Darkest Minds' series. The characters in these original and inherently fascinating dystopian stories are expertly portrayed by the narrative storytelling talents of Shaun Taylor-Corbett, Sarah Naughton, Todd Haberkorn, and Cortney Wright. Thoroughly appropriate for young listeners ages 12-17, "Through The Dark" is especially recommended for middle school, highschool, and community library Science Fiction audio book collections.

The Pets/Wildlife Shelf

How to be Your Dog's Best Friend
Elena Bulay, author/illustrator
Lena Traer, translator
Thames & Hudson, Inc.
9780500653296, $21.95, HC, 96pp

Synopsis: Meet Lena and her rescue dog Jo with "How to be Your Dog's Best Friend", the true story of how Lena and Jo became best friends, told through Lena's own beautiful illustrations.

This is also a guidebook, packed with useful tips about caring for a dog of your own. Learn how to choose a dog, how to train them, feed them and groom them, and pick up lots of fascinating facts about why dogs behave the way they do.

Critique: Illustrated throughout and deftly translated into English by Elena Bulay, "How to be Your Dog's Best Friend" is essential, informative, fun reading for anyone who wants to be a dog's best friend -- whatever the size and shape of their canine companion might be. Simply stated, "How to be Your Dog's Best Friend" is very highly commended as an addition to family, elementary school, middle school, and community library Pets/Wildlife collections for young readers ages 8-12.

Editorial Note #1: Elena Bulay is an author and illustrator, and was a winner of the Illustrators Exhibition organized by Bologna Children's Book Fair in 2021 for The Life of Wonderful Toys by Sergey Sedov, and in 2022 for How to be your dog's best friend.

Editorial Note #2: Lena Traer ( is a Russian- and English-language literary translator with a focus on books for children and young adults. She is a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. Her past projects include translating Wind: Discovering Air in Motion, On the Edge of the World (both published by Eerdmans) into English and translating a variety of picture books and scientific materials into Russian. Born and raised in Siberia, Russia, Lena now lives in San Francisco.

The Junior Birder's Handbook
Danielle Belleny, author
Michelle Carlos, illustrator
Running Press Kids
c/o Running Press
9780762480784, $16.99, HC, 128pp

Synopsis: In the woods, in cities, in our backyards -- birds are everywhere. But do you know the difference between a robin and a wren? A raven and a crow?

"The Junior Birder's Handbook: A Kid's Guide to Birdwatching" is fully illustrated book, with which children will enjoy learning how to identify birds in an array of habitats and seasons (thanks to migration, there are always new birds to find). They will also learn the different behaviors/habits of birds -- from why blue jays divebomb other birds' nests to what attracts hummingbirds to certain flowers.

As the popularity of birding and birdwatching reach new heights, more and more children have the opportunity to connect with nature, whether indoors or outside and with no equipment other than one's eyes (and this handbook, of course). What's not to love?

Featuring Michelle Carlos's vibrant illustrations, this gorgeous (and gifty) book by Danielle Belleny includes interactive elements like quizzes and crafts, as well as accessible charts/guides that will lead to endless fun!

Critique: "The Junior Birder's Handbook: A Kid's Guide to Birdwatching" is a beautifully and prolifically illustrated guide to birds and their habitats, perfect for budding birders ages 8 to 12 -- whether living in a city, a suburb, or a rural area. Highly recommended, especially for family, elementary school, and community library Avian Wildlife collections for young readers, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Junior Birder's Handbook: A Kid's Guide to Birdwatching" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note #1: Danielle Belleny, M.Sc., is a Texas-raised wildlife biologist, cemetery birder, and science communicator based in San Marcos, TX. Danielle is a member of The Black AF in STEM Collective and a co-organizer of Black Birders Week.

Editorial Note #2: Michelle Carlos is a Filipino illustrator based in Germany. Her art is largely informed by her lucid dreams, childhood memories and world wide view from her life abroad and travels with her husband. When not exploring, she is at home making things while singing her heart out like a songbird and drinking lots of tea.

5-Minute Shark Stories
Alli Brydon, author
Brian Skerry, photographer
National Geographic Kids
9781426375651, $14.99, HC, 208pp

Synopsis: Alli Brydon's "5-Minute Shark Stories" from National Geographic Kids is comprised of 12 'fin-tastic' true tales about sharks are all the ideal length to be read aloud in five minutes, making them perfect for bedtime, story time, or any time.

In its beautifully and profusely illustrated pages, kids will come face-to-face with great white sharks, hammerhead sharks, whale sharks, and more as each 5-minute story takes them into the wild world of these incredible creatures.

Kids will fully enjoy joining National Geographic underwater photographer Brian Skerry as he meets sharks with surprising personalities, and learn all about the king of the sea -- the great white shark! Illustrated with colorful photographs of one of the planet's top predators, these awe-inspiring true stories are perfect for any time you're ready for a jaw-some reading adventure. Shark-crazy kids and other animal lovers will want to dip into this collection of true stories again and again!

Critique: This large format (8.04 x 0.92 x 10.77 inches, 2 pounds) hardcover edition of "5-Minute Shark Stories" from National Geographic Kids is as fun as it is informative and an ideal pick for family, elementary school, and community library Marine Wildlife collections for young readers ages 6-8. For more about sharks from National Geographic Kids, the following titles are also highly recommended for young readers: The Ultimate Book of Sharks, National Geographic Kids Can't Get Enough Shark Stuff, and National Geographic Kids Chapters: Diving With Sharks!

Editorial Note #1: Alli Brydon ( is a children's book author and lifelong New Yorker who recently moved to the south of England with her family. Brydon, who writes nonfiction and fiction, is also a freelance children's book editor. She has fiction and nonfiction books forthcoming with Amazon/Two Lions, Disney, Macmillan, and National Geographic Kids.

Editorial Note #2: Brian Skerry ( is a photojournalist and film producer specializing in marine wildlife and underwater environments. Since 1998 he has been a contract photographer for National Geographic Magazine covering stories on every continent and in nearly every ocean habitat. In 2014 he was named as a National Geographic Photography Fellow and then named a National Geographic Society Storytelling Fellow in 2017. In 2017 he was also awarded the title of Rolex National Geographic Explorer of the Year.

Nature's Yucky in the Sea
Lee Ann Landstrom and Karen I. Shragg
Mountain Press Publishing
9780878427109, $12.00, PB, 48pp

Nature's Yucky in the Sea: Gross Stuff That Helps Ocean Animals Survive adds to the picture book 'Nature's Yucky' series, inviting kids interested in gross subjects to connect the dots between nature's behaviors and disgusting facts. Its inviting manner explores some of the oddest of ocean denizens.

Lovely color illustrations by Rachel Rogge lend realistic attraction to the 'yucky' facts, inviting adult read-aloud interest with surprisingly in-depth details that the very young typically don't receive in an accessible format such as this book sports. With its high interest level and solid connections to entertainment and educational value,

Nature's Yucky in the Sea not only deserves to be in elementary-level libraries, but spotlighted for its added attractions in explaining the importance of seemingly-gross facts.

The Christian Shelf

The Psalms of King David
Wisdom Tales Press
9781957670027, $19.95, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: David was just a young shepherd when he slew the Philistine giant Goliath. He would eventually become king of Israel, conqueror of Jerusalem, and install the Ark of the Covenant within its city walls. But, above all, David would be remembered as the inspired poet nd harpist who composed the Biblical Pslams to the Lord his God.

Critique: Beautifully told by, and featuring the memorable artwork of author/illustrator Demi, "The Psalms of King David" is an ideal and unreservedly recommended pick for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, Sunday School, and community library picture book collections.

Editorial Note: Demi (born Charlotte Dumaresq Hunt; September 2, 1942) is a children's book author and illustrator. During her career she has published over 300 titles. More information can be found at:

The Art Shelf

Learn to Draw Manga Basics for Kids
Yuyu Kouhara
Quarry Books
c/o Quarto Publishing Group USA
9780760385487, $19.99, PB, 160pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "Learn to Draw Manga Basics for Kids: Learn to draw with easy-to-follow drawing lessons in a manga story!" and presented in the form of a fun, instructional graphic novel, aspiring young manga artists will follow the creative journey of aspiring manga artist Lemon-chan to learn how to draw the fundamentals of the manga style.

Young artists will learn alongside Lemon-chan as she's guided by her sister Momji, a professional artist who teaches her all about: Making your first attempts at drawing; Building consistent drawing skills; Tools for drawing, including an overview of digital drawing options

Perfect for beginning artists and fans of anime and manga, "Learn to Draw Manga Basics for Kids" shows how to build the skills you need to draw and create your own manga characters and stories.

Critique: Thoroughly 'kid friendly' in organization and presentation, "Learn to Draw Manga Basics for Kids: Learn to draw with easy-to-follow drawing lessons in a manga story!" is a part of the Drawing Manga for Beginners manga series from Quarry Books and offers kids ages 8-12 fun, easy DIY lessons in how to draw manga characters ranging from the basics, to figures and poses, to faces and expressions. Comprehensive, instructive, and a prized pick for personal, professional, elementary school, middle school, and community library Manga and Cartooning instructional reference collections.

Editorial Note: Based in Japan, Yuyu Kouhara is an illustrator who specializes in social games and publishing. She is also active as a comics artist. She can be followed on Twitter @k0uhara

The Gaming Shelf

The Discovery of Chess: The Asian Hall of Fame
Phil Amara, author
Oliver Chin, author
Juan Calle, illustrator
Jennifer Wood, illustrator
c/o MIT Press (distribution)
9781597021623, $16.95, HC, 36pp

Synopsis: The game of chess has never been more popular. Fueled by the 2020 pandemic-induced increase in leisure time and the Netflix television series The Queen's Gambit, more people play chess than ever before. But do they know where the game originated?

Illustrated by Jennifer Wood and co-authored by Phil Amara and Oliver China, "The Discovery of Chess: The Asian Hall of Fame" takes young readers back to ancient India to see how rajahs moved their armies onto a playing board. Then zips back to the future as chess migrated westward, across oceans, continents, and the internet! Children will enjoy learning about how iconic pieces evolved, legendary players, and the game's enduring cultural influence. Young readers of all ages will develop a greater appreciation of the game of kings... and queens!

Critique: "The Discovery of Chess: The Asian Hall of Fame" is as fun as it is informative and will especially appeal to children ages 3-12. The fourth adventure in the Immedium children's picture book series on cool inventions created in Asia, "The Discovery of Chess: The Asian Hall of Fame" is an ideal and highly recommended pick for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library Children's Board Games and Chess History picture book collections.

Editorial Note #1: Phil Amara co-wrote The Discovery of Ramen and Fireworks & Gunpowder from The Asian Hall of Fame series. He wrote the children's picture book The Treehouse Heroes. He was an editor at Dark Horse Comics, and wrote The Nevermen comic book series and So, You Wanna Be A Comic Book Artist? He is currently an elementary school teacher in Boston, MA.

Editorial Note #2: Oliver Chin is the author of many children's book such as Julie Black Belt, Welcome to Monster Isle, and the popular annual series Tales from the Chinese Zodiac. He co-wrote The Discovery of Ramen, The Discovery of Fireworks & Gunpowder, and The Discovery of Anime and Manga from The Asian Hall of Fame series.

Editorial Note #3: Juan Calle ( is a former biologist turned science illustrator for more than 15 years, Juan trained on the Science Illustration program at UC Monterey Bay. He worked early on his illustrator career for field guides of plants and animals of his country of origin, Colombia, and now owns and works in his art studio, Liberum Donum creating concept art, storyboarding and his passion: comic books.

Books in Series

Button Books
c/o The GMC Group

Each of the volumes comprising the Factology series from Button Books provides a fast-paced and fun introduction to its particular subject, explaining key concepts and highlighting significant events in a manner that is clear, accessible and entertaining for children ages 8-12. The school curriculum wass consulted when devising each individual volume, to ensure that the books cover important educational topics, making them a perfect teaching aid for learning history and STEM subjects. The series includes:

"Factology: Bugs: Open Up a World of Information!" (9781787081321, $19.99, HC, 96pp) is about the fascinating lives of insects. Did you know that 90% of all animal species on Earth are insects? For 400 million years bugs have thrived on Earth and in this full-to-bursting volume we're introducing you to lots of them! From web-spinning arachnids to masters of camouflage like the stick insect, get ready to meet all sorts of incredible invertebrates. This visually stunning science guide explores the evolution of insects, their life cycles, special skills, habitats and importance for the wellbeing of our entire planet, as well as showing you how to make a bug hotel, plus much, much more!

"Factology: Ancient Egypt: Open Up a World of Information!" (9781787081314, $19.99, HC, 96pp) is about life in one of the earliest civilizations in written human history. Did you know that the pyramids of Giza were once covered in a white casing made of glimmering limestone that was so polished it would reflect the Sun's rays? Discover the truth about this early human civilization: its ancient ways of life, rulers, rituals, mythology, animals and everyday people. This visually stunning history guide introduces the Egyptian gods and pharaohs, the mysteries of mummification, the great pyramids, the language of hieroglyphics, the world of Egyptian wildlife and much, much more!

"Factology: Space: Open Up a World of Information!" (9781787081352, $19.99, HC, 96pp) is about the marvels beyond the Earth. Did you know that the planet Saturn's famous rings are made from individual ice chunks each about the size of a house? Blast through Earth's atmosphere on a mission to learn everything you need to know about our solar system... and what lies beyond it! This visually stunning science guide explores the furthest reaches of outer space, including our solar system and galaxy, the secrets of stars and black holes, the history of human space travel, the scientific brilliance of super-powerful telescopes and satellites, and much, much more!

"Factology: The Human Body: Open Up a World of Information!" (9781787081345, $19.99, HC, 96pp) is about the incredible human body. Did you know that there are more nerve cells in your body than there are stars in the Milky Way? Take a tour of the world's most incredible living machine: the human body. You're a magnificent mass of weird and wonderful cells (and smells!) and we're peeling back every layer to show you what really goes on in your insides. This visually stunning science guide explores the skeletal, muscular and nervous systems, as well as all the vital organs (from the heart to the brain) and the secrets behind how your senses work, plus much, much more!

Critique: Profusely illustrated, thoroughly 'kid friendly' in organization and presentation. exceptionally fun and informative, although each individual titles can be acquired separately, elementary school and community libraries would be well advised to acquire the entire four volume series for their young readers

Editorial Note: Button Books ( is a premier publisher of activity books, board books, flash-cards, picture books, non-fiction books, and STEAM materials for children.

Stock Explore series
Nicolette A. DiMaggio, author
Amy Betz, editor
Ethan Roffler, illustrator
Stock Explore LLC
9781735970608, $22.00, HC, 36pp

Written by Nicolette A. DiMaggio, edited by Amy Betz, and illustrated by Ethan Roffler, Stock Explore LLC has published a three title series for children ages 7-12 introducing them to the concepts of money and finance.

"Stock Explore" (9781735970608, $22.00 HC, $10.99 PB, $7.99 Kindle, 36pp) follows Elle, a courageous young girl who is learning about her first stock. Throughout her journey, Elle acquires five superpowers with help from an owl named Sam! Each superpower teaches Elle principles of financial literacy.

"Stock Explore & The P/E Pirates" (9798862890846, $19.99 HC, $12.99 PB, 75pp) is a fun and fact filled story where Elle continues her investing education with help from Sam, the magic owl and a few new friends. Young readers will enjoy learning how to value companies with division and apply it to their favorite chocolate sweets this Halloween season.

"Stock Explore's Comic Club" (9781088074480, $17.99 PB, $7.49 Kindle, 38pp) Investing is a language and the goal in the "Stock Explore's Comic Club" is to break down investing terms with the help of Elle, Sam, and some comical new friends. Throughout "Stock Explore's Comic Club" young readers will also learn a handful of investing terms

Critique: Each of these three introductions to money, finance, and the stock market is thoroughly 'kid friendly' in style, organization and presentation. While available individually, it is all three as a set that is especially and unreservedly recommended for family and elementary school, and community library Money/Finance collections for young readers.

Editorial Note: Nicolette A. DiMaggio is the author of Stock Explore and was named one of the "most influential women in institutional investing" by Pensions and Investments in 2023. She loves to explore new stocks and write stories to inspire the next generation of investors. Her mission has become to demystify the world of investing.

The Lerner Publishing Group

The Lerner Publishing Group specializes in non-fiction books-in-series for young readers ages 5-8. Of special note is their Read for a Better World series, 'A First Look' that includes the following new titles:

"Compsognathus: A First Look" by Jeri Ranch (9781728491363, $29.32, Library Binding, 24pp) Young readers will be excited to learn about this small but fierce dinosaur. Easy-to-read text and full-color images help readers keep up with the speedy Compsognathus.

"Brachiosaurus: A First Look" by Jeri Ranch (9781728491325, $29.32, Library Binding, 24pp) The Brachiosaurus will impress young readers with its long features and enormous size. Photorealistic images and leveled text will help readers picture just how massive this dinosaur used to be.

"Ankylosaurus: A First Look" by Jeri Ranch (9781728491332, $29.32, Library Binding, 24pp) Young readers will learn about the massive, armored Ankylosaurus dinosaur. Carefully leveled text and full-color images help these prehistoric creatures come to life.

"Big Rigs: A First Look" by Percy Leed (9781728491394, $29.32, Library Binding, 24pp) Big rig trucks can have eighteen wheels, sometimes more! With all the goods they carry around, they have to be big. Full-color photographs and leveled text give readers a peek inside these huge vehicles.

"Ambulances: A First Look" by Percy Leed (9781728491387, $29.32, Library Binding, 24pp) Ambulances make lots of noise and have flashing lights, but they also help people. Full-color photographs and easy text give young readers a front-row seat into these life-saving vehicles.

"Dirt Bikes: A First Look" by Percy Leed (9781728491400, $29.32, Library Binding, 24pp) Dirt bikes are built to ride on bumpy ground and jump over sandy hills. Engaging photographs and carefully leveled text take readers along for a ride on these awesome motorcycles.

Critique: While strongly recommended for elementary school and community library non-fiction collections for young readers, it should be noted that each one of these informative and thoroughly 'kid friendly' titles are also readily available for personal reading lists in a paperback edition ($9.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.95).

The Child's World

The Child's World is a premier publisher of non-fiction 'books-in-series' for young readers. One of their latest is an informative series is 'Milestones in Technology' for children ages 8-11.

"Military Technology" by Susan E. Hamen (9781503869837, $35.64, Library Binding, 32pp) introduces young readers to significant developments in military technology and explores how those inventions and discoveries led to further advancements.

"Space Technology" by Janie Havemeyer (9781503869868, $35.64, Library Binding, 32pp) introduces readers to significant developments in space technology and explores how those inventions and discoveries led to further advancements.

"Sports Technology" by Janie Havemeyer (9781503869875, $35.64, Library Binding, 32pp) Introduces young readers to significant developments in sports technology and explores how those inventions and discoveries led to further advancements.

"Computer Technology" by Amy C. Rea (9781503869820, $35.64, Library Binding, 32pp) introduces young readers to significant developments in computer technology and explores how those inventions and discoveries led to further advancements.

"Robot and Drone Technology" by Amy C. Rea (9781503869851, $35.64, Library Binding, 32pp) introduces young readers to significant developments in robot and drone technology and explores how those inventions and discoveries led to further advancements.

"Video Game Technology" by Amy C. Rea (9781503869882, $35.64, Library Binding, 32pp) introduces young readers to significant developments in video game technology and explores how those inventions and discoveries led to further advancements.

"Car Technology" by Jeanne Marie Ford (9781503869813, $35.64, Library Binding, 32pp) introduces young readers to significant developments in car technology and explores how those inventions and discoveries led to further advancements.

"Movie Technology" by James Bow (9781503869844, $35.64, Library Binding, 32pp) introduces young readers to significant developments in movie technology and explores how those inventions and discoveries led to further advancements.

Critique: Especially and unreservedly recommended for elementary school and community library collections, additional features for each of the eight individual books comprising the 'Milestones in Technology' includes a table of contents, infographics to help readers learn more about the topic, Fast Facts, critical thinking questions, a phonetic glossary, an index, a selected bibliography, and sources for further research.

Fred the Snake series
Peter B. Cotton, author
Bonnie Lemaire, illustrator
Bublish, Inc.

Fred the Snake is a delightful character created by author/storyteller Peter B. Cotton in a nine picture book series for children ages 4-7, charmingly supported with the colorful illustrations of Bonnie Lemaire.

"When Fred the Snake Got Squished And Mended" (9781948543446, $19.99 HC, $11.39 PB, $2.99 Kindle) Oh, no! Fred the Snake didn't look both ways to see if there were any speeding vehicles coming. Now, he's cut in two! Fred must wait in the hospital for the doctors to sew him back together. But they need a special bendy thread that can only be found in the distant, wild jungle! Can Jungle Jim help?

"When Fred the Snake Goes to School" (9781948543453, $19.99 HC, $14.99 PB, $2.04 Kindle) After a happy summer playing together, Fred the Snake wants to go to school! Fred is a friendly snake, but the students are nervous at first. Fred earns their trust and affection by playing nice and twisting into fun things, like a jump rope and soccer goal!

"When Jungle Jim Comes to Visit Fred the Snake" (9781948543491, $19.99 HC, $14.99 PB, $3.99 Kindle) Fred the Snake is lonely and misses Jungle Jim and his friends. Jungle Jim finds his old shipping boat and braves the wild seas to visit Fred in South Carolina. He brings a whole animal menagerie, including a lady snake named Bernadette!

"When Fred the Snake and Friends Explore Charleston" (9781647040444, $19.99 HC, $14.99 PB, $3.99 Kindle) Fred and his pals take a trip to downtown Charleston, SC, to view the historic sites, like the Market, Rainbow Row, and Fort Sumter. They enjoy a bumpy carriage ride, the aquarium, and the children's museum. Join the fun and learn about this famous city with Fred the friendly snake!

"When Fred the Snake and Friends Go to the Beach" (9781950282050, $19.99 HC, $14.99 PB, $3.99 Kindle) What a surprise! Jack's dad is home and decides to take the whole gang out to the beach off the coast of South Carolina. They fish, surf the waves, make sandcastles--but what happens when Bernadette the Snake is caught in the tide? Join Jack and Fred as they make a harrowing rescue and enjoy a day in the sun!

"When Fred the Snake and Friends Go Camping" (9781647042417, $22.99 HC, $14.99 PB, $2.99 Kindle) Fred the friendly snake, who was sent as a present by Jungle Jim, continues the exciting adventures of Fred and his many friends on an exciting camping trip.

"When Fred the Snake and Friends Explore USA East" (9781647045562, $19.99 HC, $14.99 PB, $2.99 Kindle) The adventures of Fred the Snake and friends continues as they have fun in some of the best cities along the eastern United States.

"When Fred the Snake and Friends Explore USA Central" (9781647046590, $24.99 HC, $14.99 PB, $3.99 Kindle) Fred and his friends continue their exploration visits to special places to the central states of America. Join the fun and educational adventures from Texas to Vegas.

"When Fred the Snake and Friends explore USA-West" (9781647047689, $26.99 HC, $15.99 PB, $3.99 Kindle) Once again, Jungle Jim takes Fred the friendly snake, his girlfriend Bernadette, Perdy and Jack, to enjoy some of the sights on the west coast of USA, from Hollywood California to Alaska and Waikiki beach, Hawaii.

Critique: Fun and thoroughly 'kid friendly' stories from start to finish, each of these nine titles comprising the Fred the Snake series is especially and unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections. That although each title is individual available in a hardcover, paperback, and digital edition, it is specifically suggest that school and community libraries that they acquire the entire nine volume series for their young students and patrons.

Editorial Note #1: Peter B. Cotton has an informative website at

Editorial Note #2: Bonnie Lemaire ( began her career as a freelance illustrator after graduating from the Ontario College of Art's communication and design program. She has had her work successfully used in a variety different projects including home decor, giftware, stickers, toy design, fabric, greeting cards and children's books.

Baby Animals First series
Alexandria Clair
Collective Book Studio
c/o Simon & Schuster (distribution)

Sized perfectly for curious little hands to hold, children will delight in learning from a wide array of creatures in the Baby Animals First series by Alexandra Claire. The series expands with age, as young children will be attracted to the tactile cover and vibrant photographs, while older kids will engage with the rhyming text that teaches early learning concepts. This seven volume series of board books includes:

Filled with eye-catching photos of animals in their natural surroundings paired with playful rhymes, "Baby Animals First ABC Book" (9781951412005, $8.95 Board Book, 26pp) will instill a love of nature while teaching the ABCs. From a scaly little alligator hatchling to a long-legged zebra foal, Baby Animals First ABC Book introduces twenty six adorable baby animals to young readers.

Filled with eye-catching photos of animals in their natural surroundings and paired with playful rhymes, "Baby Animals First 123 Book" (9781951412012, $8.95 Board Book, 20pp) will instill a love of nature while teaching children to count. One lonely baby raccoon is joined by two fluffy owlets, three pink little piglets, and onward to ten curious meerkats, building an adorable menagerie of baby animals.

Filled with colorful, eye-catching photos of baby animals in their natural surroundings and paired with playful rhymes, "Baby Animals First Shapes Book" (9781685550141, $9.95 Board Book, 20pp) will instill a love of nature while teaching children all about shapes. A cute hedgehog curls into a circular ball, a diamond-shaped stingray glides across the ocean floor, and a young praying mantis watches the world through the wide eyes in its triangular head.

Filled with colorful, eye-catching photos of baby animals in their natural surroundings and paired with playful rhythms, "Baby Animals First Opposites Book" (9781951412760, $9.95, Board Book, 20pp) will instill a love of nature while teaching children all about opposites. A small field mouse is dwarfed by a big whale calf, a tall baby giraffe towers over a short baby hedgehog, and a fast colt races along while a slow little sloth has a leisurely climb.

Filled with beautiful full-color photos of baby animals in their natural surroundings and accompanied by playful rhymes, "Baby Animals First Sounds Book" (9781951412913, $9.95 Board Book, 20pp) will get you and your child happily mooing, roaring, and baa-baaing together as you learn about sounds. Cute calves, wild foals, and rascally kittens all come together in this fun, learn-together volume about the sounds baby animals make.

Filled with eye-catching photos of animals in their natural surroundings and paired with playful rhymes, "Baby Animals First Colors Book" (9781951412487, $9.95 Board Book, 24pp) will instill a love of nature while introducing children to all of the colors in a rainbow of adorable baby animals. A little red crab, fluffy yellow ducklings, a vibrant purple seahorse, and soft pink piglets join together to welcome toddlers to the wide world of color.

Critique: Fun and thoroughly 'kid friendly' in organization and presentation, the Baby Animals First series by Alexandra Claire will prove a welcome and enduringly popular pick for family, daycare center, preschool, and community library Board Book collections. Each titles in this simply outstanding seven volume series is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99).

Editorial Note: Alexandra Claire attended UCLA, earning a degree in English Literature. She has a deep love of learning and teaching, and created this series to gently introduce young children to their very first letters and numbers in a fun and interactive manner.

The Story Monsters Ink Shelf

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

The Coo Jumped Over the Moon
Jamie Campbell, author
Gal Weizman, illustrator
Warren Publishing
9781957723174, $10.99

Deb Greenberg

Little ones will be cheering for this Highland coo as she attempts to hurdle the moon. Lassos, winds, and slingshot don't accomplish her goal, so the little coo and her friends get creative. A sweet, rhyming story with soft, colorful illustrations and a message to teach that perseverance pays off. (Ages 2-5)

We Disagree About This Tree
Ross Collins
9781536231984, $16.99

Mark Graham

Bear and Mouse have finally overcome their differences and are living together in perfect harmony... until it's time to decorate the Christmas tree! Ross Collins teaches young children about trying to make compromises in various situations as well as a lesson in learning about big and little things. He also teaches how we all see things in a different way. The drawings are colorful, and the words are in primary print for all to see and read easier. This is also a story about how disagreements can be solved, and it's the reason why I would recommend it. (Ages 2-5)

Sammie the Hungry, Angry, Never Satissssfied Snake
Rebecca Porter
Independently Published
9781735339252, $20.00

Dr. Dawn Menge

Sammi lives on a farm and is awakened by a very loud rooster. With a very hungry tummy, she begins her search for just the right food to satisfy her. As she travels through the farm, she realizes everything is too small to eat! She soon slithers into a zoo with monkeys and giraffes... but what finds her is the zookeeper. (Ages 2-8)

Just Snow Already!
Howard McWilliam
Flashlight Press
9781947277984, $18.95

Kimberly Waters

Sometimes we have to be patient while we're waiting for good things to happen. A young boy finds this to be true as he's waiting impatiently for the snow to arrive. He's so intent on his search for snow, he doesn't notice all the fun and crazy things happening right on his street. It's a great lesson about discovering what's going on around you and not missing out on things that make a difference. Fantastic illustrations! (Ages 3-5)

A Spider Named Itsy
Steve Light
9781536225297, $18.99

Mark Graham

Steve Light puts his spin to an old favorite nursery rhyme. Steve's pictures are quite artistically done, as in the crooked waterspout along with the pictures of the wind, rain, and sun. This is a good story to teach about how to make new friends as Itsy did on his journey. I would recommend this picture book to all involved in early and primary education. (Ages 3-5)

Wimee Creates with Vehicles and Colors
Stephanie Kammeraad, author
Created by Kevin Kammeraad and Michael Hyacinthe
9780310153580, $12.99

Kimberly Waters

Wimee is a clever robot who helps younger children use their imagination as they learn their colors and different types of vehicles. The rhyming is catchy and the colors are vibrant, making it a bright, fun way to enhance their vocabulary. Keeping children educated is certainly the intent and Wimee does a great job doing it! (Ages 3-6)

Lani Rae's Marvelous Hair
Yesenia Rodriguez, author
Sunny Duran, illustrator
Independently Published
9781953548054, $12.99

Dr. Dawn Menge

Lani Rae has the most marvelous hair, and she learns to share it in a very special way. This is a true story based on two young girls faced with the aftermath of cancer treatment. Lani Rae donates her hair so that wigs can be made for cancer patients. This is a very difficult subject to discuss with young children and the way the author approaches it is gentle and supportive. (Ages 3-7)

Shy Robin and the First Day of School
Jaime Kim
9781536209297, $17.99

Cynthia Kern OBrien

A shy little hippo reluctantly maneuvers her way through the first day of school. The author captures the warmth of being courageous and making new friends. This book is beautifully illustrated with bright colors. (Ages 3-7)

Lupe Lopez: Reading Rock Star!
E.E. Charlton-Trujillo and Pat Zietlow Miller, authors
Joe Cepeda, illustrator
9781536209556, $17.99

Cynthia Kern OBrien

Despite her display of confidence, Lupe's classmates don't know how much trouble she has with reading until she decides to try for a star on the Reading Wall Of Fame. Stuck with a group of kids who cannot read, Lupe discovers that learning to read is something that everyone must do at their own pace. Through music and the beat of her own drum, Lupe discovers that sound comes from letters and letters make words! Being a reading Rock Star is someone who tries! (Ages 3-7)

Grandpa Is Here!
Tanya Rosie, author
Chuck Groenink, illustrator
9781536231267, $18.99

Cynthia Kern OBrien

Soft and gentle illustrations depict the love between a grandfather and granddaughter separated by distance. They do not speak the same language, yet somehow understand each other through laughter and love knowing their time together is limited. (Ages 3-7)

Masala Chai, Fast and Slow
Rajani LaRocca, author
Neha Rawat, illustrator
9781536219401, $17.99

Mark Graham

The authors have created this picture book to give some insight to others about diversity and learning about other cultures. Neha's illustrations could lead to a science lesson or activity dealing with herbs, and the book includes a cooking activity and recipe for Masala Chai tea. Neha's illustrations beautifully depict the surroundings of the characters' culture. A wonderful story about caring for others. I would highly recommend this book. (Ages 3-7)

I Am Hungry
Michael Rosen, author
Robert Starling, illustrator
9781536225105, $14.99

Dr. Dawn Menge

This is a delightful book about a squirrel who is very hungry. He searches everywhere for yummy food to eat. Unfortunately, his eyes are bigger than his belly and he gets tummy aches after eating a birthday cake, vanilla ice cream, a frying pan, and bites of a sign. A very fun book that my students enjoyed very much. (Ages 3-7)

Anna Kang, author
Christopher Weyant, illustrator
Two Lions
9781542039611, $17.99

Christine Irvin

Marker is a popular gal, one of the teacher's most used supplies. She gets used often because she always does good work, making perfect marks each time. Marker enjoys her time in the limelight until Pink (Pinking Shears) comes along. Pink impresses the teacher and the class with her sharp work. With Pink taking the spotlight, Marker feels left out and starts making mistakes, something she has never done before. What can she do to get her groove back? The illustrations are bright and cheerful, and the storyline is one which will resonate with young readers. (Ages 3-7)

Betty and the Mysterious Visitor
Anne Twist, author
Emily Sutton, illustrator
9781536234862, $17.99

Kimberly Waters

Kids love a good mystery, and this author has put together a fun and thought-provoking story that they'll want to read to the end. Combined with happy thoughts about visiting Grandma and sampling her yummy preserves, this story helps us think about the importance of family as well as a way to get a sneaky critter out of the garden! Who doesn't love a good mystery? (Ages 3-7)

Is This... Winter?
Helen Yoon
9781536226270, $10.99

Kimberly Waters

An interestingly humorous book that combines winter and the beginning of Christmas in a snowy, fun environment. A silly dog is confused about what lights and Santa have to do with winter as he discovers different decorations outdoors. A cute book of wonder and ice. (Ages 3-7)

Little Red
Will Hillenbrand
Christy Ottaviano Books
c/o Hachette Book Group
9780316333627, $18.99

Kimberly Waters

This cute little red pickup truck is a sweet example of helping others. He and his driver, Katie, are on a mission to deliver the town's Christmas tree but get interrupted several times to lend a hand (or a tire) to others along the way. Colorful pictures create a great imagination of a beautiful snowy day and a little truck who endures and delights. (Ages 3-7)

How Does Santa Go Down the Chimney?
Mac Barnett, author
Jon Klassen, illustrator
9781536223767, $18.99

Kimberly Waters

This story will bring a giggle of imagination to children who always wondered about chimneys and Santa. The author has created some silly and magical ways Santa gets down the chimney. Get ready to smile. (Ages 4-7)

Horse and Zebra Lend a Hoof
Whitney Sanderson, author
Angelika Scudamore, illustrator
North Star Editions
9781631637155, $6.99

Deb Greenberg

When a windstorm damages Llama's shed and breaks his leg, best friends Horse and Zebra are there to help their friend. Zebra makes soup, bakes a cake, brings books, and does other thoughtful things, while Horse works hard to fix his shed. Little readers will learn different ways of looking out for each other. Thought-provoking questions and an activity in the back of the book complete this tight little package with an important message. (Ages 4-7)

Christmas With Auntie
Helen Foster James, author
Petra Brown, illustrator
Sleeping Bear Press
9781534111738, $17.99

Deb Greenberg

Warm and cuddly illustrations accompany rhyming text to bring a special story about the bond between auntie and her little bunny at Christmas. From baking and decorating to painting and playing, there are many moments to share during the festive season when Auntie Bunny visits. Perfect to read together with a warm blanket and a cup of cocoa. (Ages 4-7)

Horse and Zebra Bake a Cake
Whitney Sanderson, author
Angelika Scudamore, illustrator
North Star Editions
9781631637117, $6.99

Deb Greenberg

They're at it again, sensible and steady Horse and his best friend creative and zany Zebra, as they start their Cake Wagon business. The oatcakes are a hit, but after a while, their buyers are ready for something new. Can the two friends figure out a way to compromise on their solution to keep their business booming? Pertinent questions and an oatcake recipe in the back will keep your little readers busy after they're done with the story. (Ages 4-7)

Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Sleigh!
Mo Willems
Union Square Kids
9781454954200, $18.99

Christine Irvin

Pigeon wants to drive Santa's sleigh. Will he get his wish? Fans of author Mo Willem's loveable character, Pigeon, won't want to miss this silly and entertaining addition to the popular series. (Ages 4-7)

Morris and the Magic of Stories
Didier Levy, author
Lorenzo Sangio, illustrator
Thames & Hudson
9780500653258, $17.95

Christine Irvin

When Morris gets tired of chasing mice, he comes up with a clever idea for making them come to him. Morris loves books and stories. So he decides to share his stories with the hopes the mice will come listen to them and he can catch them easily. The mice do come to listen, but things don't work out the way Morris hopes. In the end, he comes to understand the real magic of stories. Author Didier Levy uses humor to convey an upbeat message about reading and books. The illustrations by Lorenzo Sangio perfectly complement that message. This delightful book should be shared so everyone can learn about the magic of stories. (Ages 4-8)

The Unstoppable Jamie
Joy Givens, author
Courtney Dawson, illustrator
Two Lions
9781662505768, $17.99

Christine Irvin

Jamie has Down Syndrome, but he doesn't let that stop him from enjoying life. He uses a cape and other items (like a set of headphones) to cope with the stresses of everyday life. But when he goes to New York City with his family, the hustle and bustle of the city becomes too much for him, especially after he accidentally leaves his headphones on the subway. This book is a work of fiction, but the story was inspired by the life of the author's son who copes with Down syndrome. A wonderful and educational story. (Ages 4-8)

Dr. Peter R. Chambers, author
Gal Weizman, illustrator
Warren Publishing
9781957723341, $7.99

Deb Greenberg

For an excellent introduction to swimming, take a dive into Swim and see all the activities and fun you can have in the water... but only after you learn to swim. From a variety of water sports such as kayaking and scuba diving, to playing at the pool or the ocean, this book provides useful information in a friendly and inviting way. Colorful and engaging illustrations make a splash on every page. (Ages 4-8)

The Light Within You
Namita Moolani Mehra, author
Kamala Nair, illustrator
Two Lions
9781542039123, $17.99

Christine Irvin

Diya travels to India to be with her grandma as they celebrate Diwali, the Festival of Lights, together with other family members. Diya learns the significance of the festival and the significance of her name. Diya's grandma teaches her how to nurture her inner light all year long, not just during the festival. This is a great book to add to a social studies curriculum for learning about other cultures. It's also a good story to just enjoy. (Ages 4-8)

The Invisible String Backpack
Patrice Karst, author
Joanne Lew-Vriethoff, illustrator
Little, Brown
9780316402286, $18.99

Dr. Dawn Menge

The first day of school can be scary for a child. Not knowing what will happen during the day and missing your parents can be such a big concern. The invisible backpack is a wonderful coping tool for a child to feel supported from home. Mila's brother gives her invisible tools to hold in her invisible backpack such as an invisible microphone to amplify her voice, an invisible paintbrush to help her with her inspiration. The magic of filling your backpack with invisible coping tools is that it lasts forever. (Ages 4-8)

Back to School, Backpack!
Simon Rich, author
Tom Toro, ilustrator
Little, Brown
9780316628341, $18.99

Dr. Dawn Menge

Returning to school can be very worrisome for some children, especially in a new environment. This beautifully illustrated book discusses the different emotions that a child may feel, such as anxiety, loneliness, and fear of not belonging and being different from others. The best part is finding someone to call a friend and share your day, so you are not alone. I recommend this as a fun way to address back-to-school jitters. (Ages 4-8)

Dasher Can't Wait for Christmas
Matt Tavares
9781536230130, $17.99

Mark Graham

Matt Tavares writes a story of why it is important to have some patience at times. The illustrations are all very beautiful and picturesque and show the beauty of Christmas Eve and winter. Matt shows the many emotions of what Dasher feels throughout the story. I would recommend this picture book, for it is a story full of giving, joy, and holiday magic. (Ages 4-8)

The Snow Man
Jonah Winter, author
Jeanette Winter, illustrator
Beach Lane Books
9781665932394, $18.99

Kimberly Waters

This book gives a fascinating intro to scientific research on a personal level. A man spends many years observing, measuring, and taking notes on the snowfall, animal, and plant life where he lives in the mountains. He relates his experiences and shares them with experts in the field of environmental conservation who use his information to make the world a better place. (Ages 5+)

Captain Courage's Superhero Boot Camp
Stacey Marshall, author
Andy Catling, illustrator
Warren Publishing
9781957723259, $12.99

Deb Greenberg

During Superhero Boot Camp, the Captain uses his magical shoes to help his campers find their Voice Power and to communicate with confidence. The silly storyline offers a humorous approach to providing kids with important tools for finding their own strong, confident voices, and a subtle lesson for kids to be their best selves. Cheerful illustrations complete this delightful read for your little ones. (Ages 5-7)

The House That She Built
Mollie Elkman, author
Georgia Castellano, illustrator
9780578979809, $7.95

Christine Irvin

Not only does author Mollie Elkman show readers all the different people who work to build a house (the architect, the framer, the roofer, etc.), her book also features women in all these important positions. The book was inspired by a team of 18 different women from different parts of the country who built a house together. (Ages 5-7)

Ruby and Lonely
Patrice Karst, author
Kayla Harren, illustrator
Two Lions
9781662508042, $17.99

Christine Irvin

Ruby has a problem. She feels like she's invisible. At school or at home, she feels like no one pays attention to her at all. She wallows in her loneliness until she decides to change things. She gives her problem a name, calling it Lonely (hence the title of the book). By giving her feelings a name, Ruby is gradually able to cope with them. This is the type of story that many children will be able to relate to. The author includes discussion questions at the end of the book that can help kids talk about the story. (Ages 5-8)

The Magical Rainbow Cake
Fareedah Amoo and Kamilah Amoo
Indigo Global Merchants
9781777816308, $20.00

Dr. Dawn Menge

Farry and Kammy are very active young ladies. They love reading, exercising, and playing with their little brother Alan. What happens when they decide to bake a cake all by themselves on Christmas Eve? When you add a bit of magic to your rainbow cake, it feeds the whole neighborhood. Wake up on Christmas Day with the girls to find what other surprises are in store for them. A wonderfully colorful book written about family, caring, and sisterly adventure. I highly recommend for your young readers' stockings this Christmas. (Ages 5-9)

Pluto Rocket: Joe Pidge Flips a Lid
Paul Gilligan
Tundra Books
9780735271951, $9.99

Deb Greenberg

Meet Pluto Rocket, an alien who's new in town, and Joe Pidge, a pigeon who's king of the neighborhood. When Joe gives Pluto a tour of the hood (complete with the best fire escape and the best garbage can), it's obvious that Joe has never been outside his little zone. Join the pair for some laughs and "re-joe-pidge-ification" in the second book in Gilligan's graphic novel series. Super bright and colorful artwork adds to all the giggles. (Ages 6-9)

Link + Hud: Heroes by a Hair
Jarrett Pumphrey and Jerome Pumphrey
Norton Young Readers
9781324053057, $8.95

Deb Greenberg

Lincoln and Hudson's parents have tried every babysitter in the neighborhood to watch their boys, to no avail... until the strict and old-fashioned Ms. Joyce is hired to keep the boys in line. The boys, however, are not pleased with the choice and devise a scheme to get her fired. This semi-autobiographical adventure is a mix of prose and graphic-style illustrations that'll keep young readers laughing from one shenanigan to the next. (Ages 6-10)

Too Small Tola Gets Tough
Atinuke, author
Onyinye Iwu, illustrator
Candlewick Press
9781536229462, $15.99

Deb Greenberg

Too Small Tola Gets Tough, book three in the series, focuses on Tola's experiences during the COVID lockdown, as readers get a sense of what it was like for a poor family in Lagos, Nigeria. Sister Moji is sent away in one direction and brother Dapo in another. Grandmommy can no longer go out to work, so Tola goes to work for the wealthy Diamond family. A compelling and informative story for young readers. (Ages 7-9)

Crimson Twill: Witch in the Country
Kallie George, author
Birgitta Sif, illustrator
Candlewick Press
9781536214642, $15.99

Deb Greenberg

Crimson Twill, a delightful little witch, wants her city friends to have fun on their first visit to Cackle County. So she makes a list of all her favorite activities... ripen rotten apples, collect broom straw, and croak the frogs. But when nothing goes right, Crimson wonders if it has something to do with Granny Twill and her stew. Grab your broomstick and cruise along with Crimson in the second adventure in the series. (Age 7-9)

The Christmas Doll
Amy Sparkes, author
Katie Hickey, illustrator
9781536231366, $17.99

Kimberly Waters

What an amazingly tender story about not only a sweet relationship between a grandmother and her granddaughter, but a memorable historical event that the grandma shares. The doll is represented as a generous gift for a little girl who needed something to hug and cherish in a challenging time of war. The author passes on the emotion to the reader in a well-written story of love and kindness. The illustrator has wonderfully portrayed the feelings of hope and joy in a time of hardship and uncertainty. (Ages 7-9)

Megabat Megastar
Anna Humphrey, author
Kris Easler, illustrator
Tundra Books
9780735271661, $12.99

Deb Greenberg

The zaniness of another Megabat story begins when Daniel and Megabat break Daniel's dad's phone screen. With no money to fix it, on top of being grounded, Daniel is fresh out of ideas. But Megabat thinks his idea is a "hit"... he'll become rich and famous (because famous people have money), complete with a new catchphrase, fancy new hair style, and a newly learned talent. Tune in to see the chaos... and the lesson Megabat learns: some things are more important than stardom and money. (Ages 7-10)

Nishka's Golden Heart
Mel Kucenic, author
Mariya Stoyanova, illustrator
Palmetto Publishing
9798822918498, $14.99

Kimberly Waters

It's always a pleasure to read a story within a story like Nishka's Golden Heart. Taking an experience from her childhood, the author writes a story about her father, using colorful and bright illustrations and simple words and thoughts. When you compare Nishka to the author's father, you get a feel for what a great person he was and how he was kind to others. It presents an effective lesson to its readers on how kindness and caring can go a long way. (Ages 7-10)

Legend Keepers: The Partnership
Bruce Smith
Hidden Shelf Publishing
9781955893077, $17.99

Deb Greenberg

The second book in the Legend Keepers series introduces readers to the important topic of climate change and its consequences through the eyes of a 12-year-old Montana boy named Garson and a kid mountain goat named Buddy. For his science project, Garson climbs to the Shining Mountain Glacier in the wilderness near his home where he encounters the goat, and the two share an alarm over the Great Warming's threat to the glacier. For anyone interested in nature, science, the environment, and climate change, The Partnership is informative and entertaining, and filled with fascinating natural history details. (Ages 8-12)

The White House: Designed by James Hoban, Built by Many Hands!
Stewart D. McLaurin, author
John Hutton, illustrator
White House Historical Association
9781950273324, $9.95

Deb Greenberg

Any idea who built The White House... one of the most famous and recognizable buildings in the world? When you read this super interesting and informative book, you'll learn that it was built by many people, from Scottish stonemasons and Irish builders to enslaved laborers of African descent. It was designed by an Irish man named James Hoban, when George Washington needed to have a home built for all the presidents who came after him and he picked Hoban's design. Read more about this incredibly talented man. Colorful and cheery illustrations complete this must-read story. (Ages 8-12)

Batu and the Search for the Golden Cup
Zira Nauryzbai and Lilya Kalaus, authors
Shelley Fairweather-Vega, translator
Amazon Crossing Kids
9781662507014, $9.99

Deb Greenberg

Batu is your ordinary kid in present-day Almaty. Aspara is the Golden Warrior who steps out of the cover of Batu's notebook. It's taken hundreds of years for Aspara to be summoned to the human world to search for the Golden Cup. Seeking adventure and purpose, Batu ventures out with Aspara and his friends to locate the Golden Cup. Middle-schoolers are bound to be entertained while being introduced to Kazakhstan history and culture. (Ages 8-12)

All the Small Wonderful Things
Kate Foster
Candlewick Press
9781536225808, $17.99

Deb Greenberg

An autistic boy starting middle school attempts to impress his classmates and make friends by winning a trophy at the PAWS Dog Show with his sidekick, Kevin the cockapoo. In the process, he learns that friendship is about more than being popular. Told through Alex's perspective, readers see what it's like for an autistic person to try to connect with others. A delightful story with an endearing message about friendship. (Ages 8-12)

White House Clubhouse
Sean O'Brien
Norton Young Readers
9781324052920, $17.95

Deb Greenberg

After stumbling upon a hidden tunnel in the White House that leads to an underground clubhouse full of antiques, two First daughters (their mother recently elected as U.S. President) sign a pledge to join the ranks of the White House kids. That's when they wind up in 1903, team up with former President Roosevelt's kids, and try "to make a difference." A suspenseful, action-packed, and humorous story with a lesson or two for middle-schoolers. (Ages 8-12)

V Is for Victorine
Anne Nesbet
Candlewick Press
9781536228281, $18.99

Deb Greenberg

The follow-up to Daring Darlene, Queen of the Screen takes readers back to 1915, as "missing" heiress Victorine Berryman travels incognito as "Bella Mae Goodwin" with her best friend, Darleen Darling, across the country to Hollywood, CA. They stay with Hollywood royalty Lillian and Dorothy Gish, meet influential director Lois Weber, and become mixed up with a villainous artifact collector. Experience the magic... and mayhem... of the developing movie business in this exciting and fast-paced sequel. (Ages 8-12)

Dragons in a Bag: The Enchanted Bridge
Zetta Elliott
Random House Books for Young Readers
9780593427743, $16.99

Deb Greenberg

Book 4 in the Dragons in a Bag middle grade fantasy series brings a new mission for Jaxon and his pals, and their new magical powers. Jax finds himself caught up in a secret plan involving the Guardian of Palmara's mysterious twin brother, Ol-Korrok. He must convince Sis that magical creatures should be free to return to the human world. But to reach Palmara, they must cross Ol-Korrok's enchanted bridge. Intriguing, eventful, and filled with adventure... fans will be eager for the next in the series. (Ages 8-12)

I See Color
Cierra Chuly Boyd, author
Calvin Reynolds, illustrator
Cocoon to Wings Publishing
9781953497444, $13.99

Kimberly Waters

Attention teachers, administrators, and homeschoolers! This creative chapter book for upper elementary and middle-schoolers is loaded with fun facts, personal experiences, and positive opinions on so many different topics and levels. The author covers enough material to be taught in two or three months in a school setting or at home. If you need a lesson on differences, it's there. If you need a lesson on cultures, it's there too. Recommended for those who want to learn about character, color, and variety. The illustrations are as beautiful as the message. (Ages 8-12)

Finch House
Ciera Burch
Margaret K. McElderry Books
c/o Simon & Schuster Publishing
9781665930543, $17.99

Mark Graham

Ciera Burch has written a youth novel that will even intrigue adults. Ciera's descriptions are point on and the reader will feel that they are actually a part of the story of Finch House. The reader will also feel a part of the relationship of Micah and PopPop, and know what they are feeling with the misunderstandings they have through the story and dealing with loss one way or another. I would recommend this book for use in a social studies lesson on family and making friends, and a lesson on why we need to follow rules that are given by adults. (Ages 8-12)

Juniper's Christmas
Eoin Colfer
Roaring Brook Press
c/o Macmillan
9781250321947, $22.99

Mark Graham

This is a new way of seeing Santa Claus. Eoin Colfer writes a story of relationships that seem familiar yet deal with love, whether between humans or animals. It's a story of believing and having faith in those around you. This book will make you believe in St. Nick and the real meaning of Christmas. (Ages 8-12)

Basketball Town
Scott Rothman, author
Darnell Johnson, illustrator
9781536219777, $17.99

Kimberly Waters

Every child has a dream. Sometimes it's a dream about playing a sport or singing on stage or any other thing kids might dream about. In this book, a boy named Maxwell has a dream about playing basketball. He learns that in order to get really good, it takes a lot of practice. He dreams he is in Basketball Town where his efforts and perseverance pay off. The illustrations are fabulous! (Ages 8-12)

Journey of the Cheyenne Warrior
Kathleen Gibbs
4RV Publishing LLC
9780985266103, $18.99

Christine Irvin

Author Kathleen Gibbs takes readers through the life of Brave Eagle, a member of the Cheyenne, weaving bits of history throughout the narrative. The story is an interesting one, and readers can learn a lot about the culture and history of the Cheyenne. (Ages 12+)

Stop the Drama Stop Comparing & Focus on You
Britteny Petty
Independently Published
9798985695465, $TBA

Dr. Dawn Menge

Being a teenage girl can be one of the hardest times in a woman's life. There is pressure from family, siblings, school, and community. Britteny Petty pens a survival guide for young women to follow and build their self-esteem. The seven secrets every teen girl should know to feel empowered, discover self-worth, and transition into womanhood. Each chapter has a notes page for your personal reflections. Visit her website, and use her freebies and resources. Highly recommend for every young woman. (Ages 13+)

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Diane C. Donovan, Editor
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