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Children's Bookwatch

Volume 33, Number 2 February 2023 Home | CBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Biography Shelf World History Shelf
Health Shelf Board Book Shelf Picturebook Shelf
Folktale/Fairytale Shelf Middle Grade Fiction Shelf YA Fiction helf
Fantasy/SciFi Shelf Pets/Wildlife Shelf Music CD Shelf
Native American Shelf Architecture Shelf Christian Shelf
Self-Help Shelf Books in Series Readers' Favorite(R) Shelf
Story Monsters Ink Shelf    

Reviewer's Choice

You Come from Greatness
Sara Chinakwe, author
Ken Daley, illustrator
WaterBrook Press
c/o WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group
9780593578285, $13.99, HC, 40pp

Synopsis: Starting with his birth, a young black boy's father lays out the history of his son's ancestry: from the love and warmth of a big family, to the change makers and status shakers, the inventors and engineers, the astronomers, philosophers, and storytellers, the leaders and the doctors. The father details the legacy and impact of Black ancestors whose determination, strength, dedication, creativity, and leadership contributed to making the world better.

Throughout the story, the boy discovers the rich heritage of those that have gone before him and learns how he embodies that same greatness. He, too, has the power to change the world by embracing exactly who God made him to be.

"You Come from Greatness: A Celebration of Black History" includes illustrations of Black historical figures such as Wangari Muta Maathai, Ellie Mannette, Rebecca Lee Crumpler, and more, with twenty short biographies at the end of the picture book. While it should be noted for personal reading lists that "You Come from Greatness" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99), this is a strongly recommended addition for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library Black History and African-American picture book collections.

Editorial Note 1: Sara Chinakwe ( is an author, teacher, and children's ministry leader. She encourages women and children to pursue God's purpose and embrace their God-given identity. Sara's deep love of teaching and decades-long career in education was shaped during her time at California State University, Stanislaus. Since then, she has used writing as a medium to propel God's followers forward as they journey with Him.

Editorial Note #2: Ken Daley ( was born in Cambridge, Ontario, to parents who emigrated from the Dominica, West Indies. Drawing inspiration from his African Caribbean roots, his work is an explosion of color and emotion, leaving a lasting impression in the mind of the viewer. His work has been featured in several picture books, including In the Spirit of a Dream and Auntie Luce's Talking Paintings.

The In-Between
Katie Van Heidrich
c/o Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
Blackstone Audiobooks
9781665920124, $18.99, HC, 304pp

Synopsis: In the early 2000s, thirteen-year-old Katie Van Heidrich has moved more times that she can count, for as long as she can remember. There were the slow moves where you see the whole thing coming. There were the fast ones where you grab what you can in seconds. When Katie and her family come back from an out-of-town funeral, they discover their landlord has unceremoniously evicted them, forcing them to pack lightly and move quickly.

They make their way to an Extended Stay America Motel, with Katie's mother promising it's temporary. Within the four walls of their new home, Katie and her siblings, Josh and Haley, try to live a normal life -- all while wondering if things would be easier living with their father.

Lyrical and forthcoming, Katie navigates the complexities that come with living in-between: in between homes, parents, and childhood and young adulthood, all while remaining hopeful for the future.

Critique: With a unique, engaging, and poetry driven storytelling style, "The In-Between" is a unique and unreservedly recommended addition to family, elementary school, middle school, and community library collections for young readers ages 9-13. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The In-Between" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Blackstone Audio, 9781797154558, $24.99, CD).

PT Runs Free
Jason Kraus, author
Connor DeHaan, illustrator
Bellas Heart of Swfl, Inc.
9798218046118, $35.00, HC, 36pp

Synopsis: "PT Runs Free" by author/storyteller Jason Kraus and artist/illustrator Connor DeHann is a children's picture book that is based on a true story and shares the uplifting tale of PT the rescue dog.

PT faces many challenges in life, but never gives up! With the powers of positivity and determination, he overcomes a neglectful family, life as a shelter dog, and even the loss of his leg! Children will enjoy finding out how the incredible three-legged rescue regains his ability to run free, all while educating and inspiring children in schools and community centers along the way.

Critique: A fun and uplifting read for children that will have a very special appeal to young readers with an interest in dog stories, "PT Runs Free" is unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book and animal story collections for ages 4-8.

Editorial Note: The real PT who was found injured on the side of a road in Miami, FL is now living the good life with his forever family in Fort Myers, FL. As a therapy dog, PT goes to work every day with his parents, Joe and Angie, the owners of Apex Physical Therapy. PT serves as the clinic's mascot, spreading kindness, and inspiring those in pain or recovering from challenges of their own. On his days off, PT teaches children about empathy and the importance of adopting rescue dogs still waiting to find their forever homes.

The Bear and the Wildcat
Kazumi Yumoto, author
Komako Sakai, illustrator
Cathy Hirano, translator
Gecko Press
9781877467707, $19.99, HC, 48pp

Synopsis: When the little bird dies, his friend the bear is inconsolable. Full of grief, he locks himself in his house and ventures out again only when the smell of young spring grass blows through his window. He always carries a small box, which he opens for no one.

He meets a wildcat who understands his need to carry the box. As the cat plays on her violin, the bear remembers all the beauty he experienced with the little bird. Now he can bury his friend, keeping him alive in his memories and feelings.

Explaining the topic of grief and loss in a way that speaks to any age and with a quiet understanding of what it is like to lose someone you love, "The Bear and the Wildcat" shows a way through paralyzing grief and simultaneously tells the story of a hopeful new friendship.

Tender and sensitive, this is an excellent tool for helping to explain the process of grief, loss and bereavement with children or anyone who needs it.

Loved by adults and children, also suitable for schools, hospices, grief centers and counselors

Critique: "The Bear and the Wildcat" is a magnificent picture book for children with delicate illustrations that explains the path of grief, ending with the uplifting new beginning of a budding friendship based on understanding. Ably translated from Japanese to English for an American readership by Cathy Hirano, and with a special appeal for children having to deal with the sensitive subject of death, dying and loss, "The Bear and the Wildcat" by author/storyteller Kazumi Yumoto and artist/illustrator Komako Sakai, is a highly recommended, unique and very special addition to family, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for children ages 5-9.

Editorial Note #1: Kazumi Yumoto ( studied music composition at Tokyo College and has written opera libretti and plays for radio and television. Her books have won numerous international awards.

Editorial Note #2: Komako Sakai ( lives in Japan and studied art in Tokyo. She is one of the most popular children's illustrators in Japan, and her books are published throughout the world.

The Biography Shelf

Frederick Douglass: The Right to Dignity
Janet & Geoff Benge, authors
Emerald Books
c/o YWAM Publishing
9781624861512, $9.99, PB, 192pp

Synopsis: Born into slavery in Maryland, Frederick Douglass ( February 1818 - February 20, 1895) was separated from his mother during infancy, then taken from his grandparents at the age of six to serve at the "Great House" on the Wye Plantation in Maryland. He never imagined the cruelties he would witness or the indignities of his family being treated like cattle to be sold, divided, and scattered far and wide.

Escaping from slavery, Frederick Douglass became a national leader of the abolitionist movement in America, the greatest orator of his day, an influential newspaper publisher, writer, and statesman, and the most important African American of the nineteenth century.

Critique: An ideal biographical introduction to the life and accomplishments of Frederick Douglas for young readers ages 8-12, "Frederick Douglass: The Right to Dignity" is unreservedly recommended for family, elementary school, middle school, and community library African-American biography collections and Black History month supplemental curriculum studies lists.

Editorial Note: Janet and Geoff Benge are a husband-and-wife writing team with more than twenty years of writing experience. Janet is a former elementary-school teacher. Geoff holds a degree in history. Originally from New Zealand, the Benges spent ten years serving with Youth With A Mission.

A Tulip in Winter: A Story About Folk Artist Maud Lewis
Kathy Stinson, author
Lauren Soloy, illustrator
Greystone Kids
c/o Greystone Books
9781771649513, $18.95, HC, 44pp

Synopsis: Known for her vibrant and cheerful paintings of landscapes, plants, and animals, Maud Lewis' iconic folk art is celebrated around the world. Despite her beautiful art, she spent much of her life living in poverty with rheumatoid arthritis.

"A Tulip in Winter: A Story About Folk Artist Maud Lewis" is stunning picture book by author/storyteller Kathy Stinson and artist/illustrator Lauren Soloy who collaborate to bring Maud's world to life: how she captured in her art what she loved most, while navigating the mobility issues caused by her condition.

From bright paintings of the sea and countryside, to the flowers and birds she painted on the walls of the small house she shared with her husband, Maud's work continues to delight and inspire viewers young and old.

Critique: Of special note is that "A Tulip in Winter: A Story About Folk Artist Maud Lewis" also includes: Backmatter about Maud Lewis' life and legacy and notes from the author and illustrator about how Maud has impacted their lives. Uplifting and visually compelling, Maud's story will inspire young readers to find and focus on the beauty in their worlds. While also available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99), "A Tulip in Winter: A Story About Folk Artist Maud Lewis" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book biography collections for children ages 4-8.

Editorial Note #1: Kathy Stinson ( is the author of a wide range of books for children and adults, including the classic, Red Is Best, and the TD Children's award-winning picture book The Man with the Violin.

Editorial Note #2: Lauren Soloy ( is an author and illustrator whose books include When Emily was Small, Etty Darwin and the Four Pebble Problem, and I's the B'y.

Food for Hope
Jeff Gottesfeld, author
Michelle Laurentia Agatha, illustrator
Creston Books
9781954354241, $19.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: Hunger continues to be an international problem. "Food for Hope: How John van Hengel Invented Food Banks for the Hungry" by author Jeff Gottesfeld and illustrator Michelle Laurentia Agatha is the true life story of how one ordinary person did something extraordinary -- shows how everyone can do something to make a difference.

Young readers will feel encouraged to find their own way to make a difference. Real life experience plus social justice interests combine into a powerful solution, filling empty bellies with nourishing food, all without costing a lot of money. Recycling meets hunger in John van Hengel's ingenious, yet obvious solution to both food waste and widespread hunger.

Critique: Of special relevance to young readers with an interest in the social issues of homelessness, poverty, and hunger here in American or elsewhere throughout the world, "Food for Hope: How John van Hengel Invented Food Banks for the Hungry" is a thoroughly 'kid friendly' biography that is unreservedly recommended for family, elementary school, middle school, and community library collections for children ages 7-11.

Editorial Note #1: Jeff Gottesfeld ( writes for page, stage, screen, and television. He's won many awards, including ones from the American Library Association, the Association of Jewish Libraries, and the Writer's Guild. Hisbook, The Christmas Mitzvah, was named a Sydney Taylor Honor Book.

Editorial Note #2: Michelle Agatha ( was born in Indonesia. She's always had a huge interest in cartoons and illustrated books. Michelle earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, California. Her most recent book, The Christmas Mitzvah, was named a Sydney Taylor Honor Book.

Her Eyes on the Stars: Maria Mitchell, Astronomer
Laurie Wallmark, author
Liz Wong, illustrator
Creston Books
9781954354135, $19.99, HC, 40pp

Synopsis: Now famous as "the lady astronomer", Maria Mitchell (August 1, 1818 - June 28, 1889) became a professional astronomer, an unheard of achievement for a woman in the 19th century. She was the first woman to get any kind of government job when she was hired by the United States Naval Observatory. Then as the first woman astronomy professor in the world, Maria used her position at Vassar College to teach young women to set their sights on the sky, training new generations of female astronomers. Her story inspires all of young girls (and boys!) to reach for the stars.

Critique: With the publication of "Her Eyes on the Stars: Maria Mitchell, Astronomer" by biographer and storyteller Laurie Wallmark and artist/illustrator Liz Wong, young readers are treated to the picture book biography of a young girl who spent hours studying the stars. Discovering a comet as a young woman, Maria won an award from the King of Denmark for being the first person to discover a new comet using a telescope. "Her Eyes on the Stars: Maria Mitchell, Astronomer" is specially recommended for family, elementary school, middle school, and community library picture book biography collections for children ages 8-12.

Editorial Note #1: Laurie Wallmark ( is the author of several award-winning STEM picture books about women, including Ada Byron Lovelace & the Thinking Machine. She teaches computer science when she's not writing books.

Editorial Note #2: Liz Wong ( was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, where she spent her early childhood painting and clambering about in mango trees. She is the author-illustrator of several picture books and now lives in Washington state.

The World History Shelf

Big Ideas from History
Alain de Botton, editor
The School of Life
9781915087348, $32.99, HC, 320pp

Synopsis: Compiled and published by The School of Life, "Big Ideas from History" is the story of what has happened through time -- in a voice that speaks directly to a child's growing mind, helping them make vast connections between time and place, and their own place within history.

What might the dinosaurs or the ancient Egyptians, the Aztec warriors or the Enlightenment thinkers of the 18th century tell us that could be interesting and useful to hear now? "Big Ideas from History" is a big history of the world, from the beginnings of the universe to now, which places the reader at its center. It encourages children to think about how they experience the world and offers a helpful perspective by placing their thoughts and feelings in the context of our history and evolution.

"Big Ideas From History" asks the young reader to imagine a world they would like to live in. What might they learn from self-knowledge? How can they grow, develop and create their own place in history? Charming, thoughtful, and written with warmth and intelligence, this is the perfect introduction to history for the curious child.

Critique: Nicely illustrated throughout, "Big Ideas from History" is an impressive compendium of historical events and personalities written and presented so as to be thoroughly effective for children ages 9-12. While also available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $24.99), "Big Ideas from History" is especially and unreservedly recommended for family, elementary school, middle school, and community library history collections for young readers.

Editorial Note: The School of Life is a global organization helping people lead more fulfilled lives. Through their range of books, gifts and stationery their goal is to prompt more thoughtful natures and help everyone to find fulfillment. The School of Life is a resource for exploring self-knowledge, relationships, work, socializing, finding calm and enjoying culture through content, community and conversation. The School of Life Press brings together the thinking and ideas of the School of Life creative team under the direction of series editor, Alain de Botton.

The Health Shelf

Little Warriors, Big Lives
Esther Valbrun Fausett, author
Mousam Banerjee, illustrator
Histria Kids
c/o Histria Books
9781592111718, $24.99, HC, 28pp

Synopsis: Deftly written by Esther Valbrun Fausett and charmingly illustrated by Mousam Banerjee, "Little Warriors, Big Lives" is an engaging poetry picture book that empowers and comforts young children who are battling critical illnesses -- both those who are winning and those who are losing their fight.

Of special note is that "Little Warriors, Big Lives" allows caregivers, friends, and family, and medical staff members to read to children relatable poems that are positive, upbeat, daring, optimistic, fun, and heart-warming despite whatever the diagnosis of the child might be.

"Little Warriors, Big Lives" a unique collection of enjoyable literary works that collides the pediatric critical illness world with encouragement, solace, and lightheartedness.

Critique: Simply stated, so important is "Little Warriors, Big Lives", that it should and must be a part of every pediatric hospital, elementary school, and community library Health, Medicine, and Disabilities collection. "Little Warriors, Big Lives" is a 'must' for families with children ages 5-7 who are having to deal with a chronic, disabling, and even terminal illness.

Editorial Note #1: Esther Fausett ( is a first time author and mother of two that resides with her husband in Northern Virginia. Esther graduated from Barry University with a degree in Biology and later started her masters in Criminal Justice. She's an avid traveler that enjoys adventures and has incorporated these explorations with her young children. Her son, Solomon, was diagnosed a week after his second birthday with Neuroblastoma, stage 3. The goal behind Esther's work is to actively help children with critical illnesses identify their inner might.

Editorial Note #2: Mousam Banerjee ( is a full-time artist and illustrator who loves to remain engaged in painting everything from whimsical children's books to realistic concept art. Born into an artistic family, he was keen on creating original paintings right from childhood. With a post graduate diploma in Fine Arts, he has now made a career in digital illustrations

The Board Book Shelf

Hello, Meadow!
Terry Pierce, author
Nadja Sarell, illustrator
Yosemite Conservancy
9781951179250, $8.99, Board Book, 14pp

Synopsis: Grassy, flower-filled meadows are really pretty! It's oh-so tempting to hike and skip right through them. But meadows are actually fragile, and human footsteps and picnics can cause them harm -- and then they cannot do their important work of providing habitat for creatures and plants, filtering water, and even storing carbon. The bouncy text by author/storyteller Terry Pierce and vibrant illustrations by artist/illustrator Nadja Sarell deftly are deftly combined in "Hello, Meadow!", a sturdy board book that will show little nature lovers how to easily protect meadows while enjoying one of Earth's loveliest features.

Critique: Fun and with an important message, "Hello, Meadow!" is a very special and unreservedly recommended addition to family, daycare center, preschool, and community library board book collections for children ages 6 months to 3 years.

Editorial Note #1: Terry Pierce ( is the author of twenty-five children's books, including Eat Up, Bear!, Mama Loves You So, Mother Earth's Lullaby, and My Busy Green Garden. She holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts and teaches for UCLA Extension Writers' Program.

Editorial Note #2: Nadja Sarell ( has a degree in illustration from the North Wales School of Art and Design as well as an MA in dance from Theatre Academy Helsinki. She is also the illustrator behind Eat Up, Bear! and The One and Only Wolfgang, She currently resides in Helsinki, Finland.

Adurable: The Great Truck Switcheroo
Bob Shea, author
Brian Won, illustrator
Dial Books
c/o Penguin Young Readers Group
9780593325957, $8.99, Board Book, 32pp

Synopsis: Three puppies, Dig Dug, Puddles, and Cheddar, have some very important work to do. But it seems absolutely impossible to drive some other puppy's truck instead of their own beloved truck, but with a lot of teamwork, these three pups just might be able to finish their task before snack time!

Critique: A charming, original, and fun board book by the team of author/storyteller Bob Shea and illustrator Brian Won, "The Great Truck Switcheroo" is especially recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, and community library board book collections for children ages 6 months to 3 years. It should be noted that "The Great Truck Switcheroo" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99).

Editorial Note #1: Bob Shea ( is the award-winning author and illustrator of many picture books for children including Crash, Splash or Moo!, the popular Dinosaur Vs. series, Unicorn Thinks He's Pretty Great, Unicorn is Maybe Not so Great After All, and the early readers featuring Ballet Cat. He has also written stories such as Who Wet My Pants?, illustrated by Zachariah OHora.

Editorial Note #2: Brian Won ( is an illustrator and art director. His debut picture book, Hooray for Hat!, was a Children's Choice Award Finalist and an NPR Best Book.

The Picturebook Shelf

Fire Shapes the World
Joanna Cooke, author
Cornelia Li, illustrator
Diana Renzina, illustrator
Yosemite Conservancy
9781951179137, $17.99, HC, 34pp

Synopsis: With lyrical text grounded in the latest research, "Fire Shapes the World" by author/storyteller Joanna Cooke and artists/illustrators Cornelia Li and Diana Renzina is very special picture book that shares the primal connection between all living things and fire.

Children will grasp that fire is basic and powerful; that it has the capability to both destroy and create; that everything they know in the world has evolved with fire.

There is comfort in understanding the natural processes taking place all around us. By learning the story of fire and how it has changed this planet, "Fire Shapes the World" also addresses the question: Can people adapt to an increasingly fire-prone environment?

This answer is: Yes. Because we always have. While fire is to be respected, with proper care and thoughtful planning, it can be a benefit to Earth. We can learn from the past to help create our future. Through understanding, we will thrive.

Of special note is that "Fire Shapes the World" is an encouraging springboard for conversation illuminated by breathtaking paintings, and will allow children to explore their connection to this most elemental agent of change.

Critique: Entertaining, informative, thought-provoking, and having a special appeal to young readers with an interest in prehistory and the evolution of human society/culture, "Fire Shapes the World" is a unique, original, and very special addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for children ages 4-8.

Editorial Note #1: Joanna Cooke ( is a writer who spent ten years living in the Sierra Nevada, working as an environmental educator and National Park Service Ranger in Yosemite National Park. She lives in Jackson, Wyoming, and this is her third book.

Editorial Note #2: The work of Cornelia Li ( has been recognized by Society of Illustrators, American Illustration, Communication Arts, The AOI, 3x3 Illustration, National Magazine Award, and more. She has illustrated many works of nonfiction for children and lives in Toronto.

Editorial Note #3: The hometown of Diana Renzina ( is Riga, Latvia, an inspiring mix of cobbled streets, pine forests, cold sea, and Art Nouveau architecture. She enjoys taking photos, dancing tango, listening to music, and reading books. This is her North American illustration debut.

Lost and Found
Natalie Shampanier, author
David Pavon, illustrator
Artichoke Heart Publishing
9798987503522, $25.00, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: Forgotten toys at a summer camp ground / Are tossed into the camp's Lost and Found. / But Dino Boy refuses to spend his days on a shelf / He sets out to escape and find a home for himself. / A ballerina, a hippo, and a mood ring tag along / On this great adventure to find where they belong.

With the publication of "Lost and Found", award-winning screenwriter and family therapist Natalie Shampanier draws from her experience with adopted children to create a poignant rhyming tale about determination, friendship and the search for love. Coupled with the beautiful illustrations of David Pavan, "Lost and Found" is a perfect read-aloud for early readers and shared family story time!

Critique: A charming and fun bedtime (or anytime!) picture book, "Lost and Found" is unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library collections for children ages 4-8. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Lost and Found" is also available in a paperback edition (9798987503515, $7.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $2.99).

Editorial Note #1: Award-winning screenwriter and family therapist Natalie Shampanier draws from her experience with adopted children to create a poignant rhyming tale about determination, friendship and the search for love. This beautifully illustrated book is a perfect read-aloud for early readers and shared family story time!

What Happens When You Eat Too Many...?
Susy Nieves Dianderas, author
Chad Thompson, illustrator
TriMark Press
9780976752844, $19.95, PB, 52pp

Synopsis: Did you ever think you could change colors from eating your favorite food? One little girl discovers how she and her friends react to their new bodies!

Fiama wakes up one morning with red hair after eating a bowl of her favorite food, cherries, that her mom gives to her each morning. What adventures await Fiama and her friends as they eat their favorite foods!

Critique: A novel notion and a fun read, "What Happens When You Eat Too Many...?" is especially and unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for children ages 4-8.

Editorial Note #1: Susy Nieves Dianderas, a Troy University graduate, holds a Master's Degree in Counseling and Psychology. She served in the US Navy and became a school teacher in 2007. She enjoys spending time with her family and friends and her passion is to read her books to her students. (

Editorial Note #2: Chad Thompson has the Walt Disney Feature Animation studio in Florida. For the next seven years, he worked on animated movies such as Mulan, Lilo & Stitch, and Brother Bear. Chad currently works as an illustrator and designer for a wide variety of clients and continues to work in animation for smaller studios in Orlando. (

Ameya's Two Worlds
Aditi Wardhan Singh
Raising World Children LLC
9781956870008, $18.99 Hardcover/$10.99 Paper/$1.99 ebook

Ameya's Two Worlds presents young picture book readers with a lively story of self-acceptance. It opens with young Ameya's worries that her relatives in India won't understand her English language. Her family is visiting India for the first time to attend a family wedding. Ameya finds she doesn't need to speak Hindi or Marathi at all, and that the bustle involved in wedding preparations feels both familiar and welcoming.

Indian terminology is presented and explained in asterisk notes as the story captures Ameya's explorations of India's different culture and its attractions. As she observes her mother bargaining for lower prices at the local market, and interacts with peers, Ameya is introduced to new ideas about her mixed heritage and what this might mean: "Was speaking in an Indian language what made a person Indian?"

Aditi Wardhan Singh does a fine job of not just contrasting cultural differences, but exploring a young girl's thoughts about her place in the world. Illustrator Noor Alshalabi expands the story's themes into thought-provoking visuals. One example is a vivid scene of a looking glass in which the American and Indian versions of Ameya sporting a new bindi on her forehead pinpoint the different, sometimes confusing ideas she has about her choices.

Libraries looking for powerful, thought-provoking picture books about mixed cultural roots and a child's embrace of both will find Ameya's Two Worlds works well on several levels: as a story of self-acceptance and as an exploration of Indian culture. Its ability to encourage discussions between peers and adults on the nature of cultural identity when it comes in a mixed bag offers rare opportunities for enlightenment.

Lilah Loves Life
Brian Sullivan
Atmosphere Press
9781639886111, $12.99

Picture book readers ages 3-9 will find Lilah Loves Life an uplifting survey of a young girl's day and its many high points. Lilah loves to be alive, celebrating the moment and the pleasures each day brings in a rollicking rhyme that captures her desire to be a chef someday, her interest in making people happy, and her active imagination that leads her to take exceptional pleasure in everything she sees and does.

Laura Watson's simple, evocative drawings follow Lilah through her imaginative and real-world encounters as she experiences a great morning, thinks about the many opportunities for fun the rest of her day, and makes choices that belay any notion of sadness for its closure.

Parents who choose this story for read-aloud pleasure will find its many lessons in positivity embed familiar children's experiences and days with an overlay of determination and proactive thinking that leads Lilah to be an active participant in building a good life. It's a lesson all ages would do well to absorb, and is presented in an active, captivating manner that will enchant a wide audience of young and old alike.

My Mommies Built a Treehouse
Gareth Peter, author
Izzy Evans, illustrator
9781915244185, $18.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: When one boy sets out to build the treehouse of his dreams, there's so much to consider ranging from finding the perfect tree to drawing up the plans. There are certainly many challenges along the way -- and a lot of spilled paint! But one thing is for sure, he won't go too far wrong with his two mommies to support him.

Critique: A fun read with an important underlying message by the team of author/storyteller Gareth Peter and artist/illustrator Izzy Evans, "My Mommies Built a Treehouse" is a thoroughly 'kid friendly' and original story that would be especially appropriate for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library collections for children ages 4-6.

Editorial Note #1: Gareth Peter ( is an author and stay-at-home dad, living in Nottingham, UK with his partner and their two adopted children. His experience as a parent within a same-sex couple brings a fresh, funny, and sensitive perspective to parenting and family life. He is also the author of "Adventures With My Daddies".

Editorial Note #2: Izzy Evans lives in a little terraced house in rainy North London, UK, where he pursue numerous interests from molecular biology to reading poetry. He draws inspiration from nature, mythology, and the multicultural history of his city to create his memorable and distinctive art work. (

Somebody to Love
Valerie June Hockett, author
Marcela Avelar, illustrator
Third Man Books
9781737382973, $21.00, HC, 52pp

Synopsis: Grammy nominated musician Valerie June's "Somebody to Love: The Story of Valerie June's Sweet Little Baby Banjolele" is a children's picture book based on the story of how June wrote the song "Somebody to Love" from her album Pushin' Against a Stone.

In "Somebody to Love", Valerie is a child given a toy banjolele. A banjolele is a very unique four-stringed musical instrument. It has a body like a small banjo, and the neck is like a ukulele. At the beginning, the baby banjolele dreams that its voice will soar and be heard all throughout the world, but very soon its musical journey meets with challenges and doubts. The little banjolele just could not play through a whole song!

Valerie and banjolele want to play with the other instruments at school, but the others make fun of the banjolele saying " You're just a toy". Embarrassed the banjolele, once more, can not finish the song. But "I have a dream, and I want to sing," the toy banjolele stubbornly refuses to give up.

Finally, the toy finds the courage, and belief, and love it needs, coughs out a last bit of dust, and belts out a gorgeous a song. Valerie names the banjolele Baby and both go on to perform all over the world together forever.

Critique: A charmingly illustrated and original story by the team of author/musician/storyteller Valerie June Hockett and artist/illustrator Marcela Avelar, "Somebody to Love: The Story of Valerie June's Sweet Little Baby Banjolele" will have a very special appeal for children with an interest in the performing arts. Especially and unreservedly recommended to family, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for children ages 5-12, "Somebody to Love" will prove to be an enduringly welcome and prized addition.

Editorial Note: Valerie June Hockett ( says of her banjolele: "As I traveled the world telling the story of my banjolele, I always knew it would make an uplifting children's book. It wasn't until I got a call from the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities that I was encouraged to sit down and write it out. One of the nation's most historical dreamers is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. As a black female artist, his message taught me the power of dreams at an early age. He was a light for me. Each time I've shared this story with students, I watch as their eyes light up with wonder. It's been thrilling to witness that same light awakening within them. Believing you can achieve your dream is a way to be an inspiration for your community, like a great Nigerian proverb teaches us, 'Thoughts and dreams are the foundation of our being'.

Put Your Shoes On & Get Ready!
Raphael G. Warnock, author
Temika Grooms, illustrator
c/o Penguin Young Readers Group
9780593528877, $19.99, HC, 40pp

Synopsis: Before Raphael Warnock became a pastor and the first Black senator from Georgia, he was a little boy whose father told him to get up, get dressed, put on his shoes, and get ready! So that's what he did, along every step of his journey. From his work boots to his marching band shoes to his shiny lace-ups, Senator Reverend Warnock found the right shoes to fit his feet and to carry him toward his dreams.

"Put Your Shoes On & Get Ready!" is inspirational picture book story, with bold, brilliant art by TeMika Grooms, and follows Raphael Warnock's journey from Savannah, Georgia, to the United States Senate and shows young readers that they, too, can find the power to be themselves and make a difference when they have the shoes that fit their feet.

Critique: An inspiring and unreservedly recommended addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library Black History and African-American picture book collections for children ages 4-8, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Put Your Shoes On & Get Ready!" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99).

Editorial Note #1: Raphael G. Warnock ( was elected the first Black senator from Georgia in 2020. He also serves as the senior pastor of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church of Atlanta. Senator Reverend Warnock went to Morehouse College and Union Theological Seminary and is a member of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. He is the eleventh of twelve siblings, and has two children, Chloe and Caleb.

Editorial Note #2: TeMika Grooms ( is an Atlanta-based artist and art activist who illustrated Save The Crash-test Dummies by Jennifer Swanson and Nana's Favorite Things by Dorothy H. Price. She is also the Founder and Program Coordinator for KidsLitATL, a grassroots organization to support a diverse group of creators in Atlanta, Georgia.

You Gotta Meet Mr. Pierce!
Chiquita Mullins Lee, author
Carmella Van Vleet, author
Jennifer Mack-Watkins, illustrator
c/o Penguin Young Readers Group
9780593406502, $18.99, HC, 40pp

Synopsis: "Creeeeak!" goes the screen door to self-taught artist Elijah Pierce's barbershop art studio. A young boy walks in for an ordinary haircut and walks out having discovered a lifetime of art.

Mr. Pierce's wood carvings are in every corner of the small studio. There are animals, scenes from his life, and those detailing the socio-political world around him. It's this collection of work that will eventually win Elijah the National Heritage Fellowship in 1982 just two years before his death. But the young boy visiting the shop in the 1970s doesn't know that yet. All he knows is: "You gotta meet Mr. Pierce!"

Based on the true story of Elijah Pierce and his community barber shop in Columbus, Ohio, this very special picture book includes cleverly collaged museum-sourced photos of his art and informative backmatter about his life. With engaging text by Pierce to the Soul! playwright Chiquita Mullins-Lee and Christopher Award-winning author Carmella Van Vleet, it is strikingly illustrated with striking Japanese woodblock by Jennifer Mack-Watkins.

Critique: A children's biography about the barber shop of woodcarver Elijah Pierce who was a recipient of the highest folk art honor in the United States, "You Gotta Meet Mr. Pierce!: The Storied Life of Folk Artist Elijah Pierce" is a new addition to vital Black art history and unreservedly recommended as an addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library Black History and African-American picture book collections for children ages 4-8. It should also be noted that "You Gotta Meet Mr. Pierce!" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99).

Editorial Note #1: Carmella Van Vleet ( is a former kindergarten teacher who now writes full-time. She's the author of over a dozen books including the award-winning middle-grade novel Eliza Bing Is (Not) A Big, Fat Quitter and the picture book To the Stars! The First American Woman to Walk in Space (co-authored with astronaut Kathy Sullivan).

Editorial Note #2: Chiquita Mullins Lee ( is an Arts Learning coordinator at the Ohio Arts Council (OAC) where she manages Ohio's Poetry Out Loud and Arts Partnership programs. She is a former teaching artist in creative writing on the OAC teaching artist roster, hosted the Emmy-award winning program Traditions: Ohio Heritage Fellows, and has served on the Arts Education review panel for the National Endowment for the Arts.

Editorial Note #3: Jennifer Mack-Watkins ( is a printmaker whose work investigates power through the complexities of themes like womanhood, beauty, body image, and gender roles. Her solo exhibition "Children of the Sun" at Brattleboro Museum has been featured in the New York Times, Vogue, and Essence Magazine.

The Love of the Moonlight
Sarah Buckner, author
Paula Ortiz, illustrator
Soaring Kite Books
9781953859594, $18.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: On a sleepless night, while gazing up at the skies, a young child realizes that the world would be a better place if we acted with empathy and understanding. Around the world, we all look up at the same moon and it shines down on each person equally. The moon isn't afraid to share its sky with the stars; the moon knows the stars don't take away its ability to shine.

Critique: "The Love of the Moonlight" by author/storyteller Sarah Buckner and artist/illustrator Paula Ortiz is a gentle, heartfelt, entertaining, and rhyming picture book story is a great conversation starter on kindness and equality for children with illustrations capturing all walks of life. While an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to family, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for children ages 5-9, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Love of the Moonlight" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note #1: Debut author Sarah Buckner ( always had a passion for creative writing. Sarah uses her experiences, love of nature, and wild imagination to promote love, courage, and awareness through her storytelling.

Editorial Note #2: Paula Ortiz ( lives in a coffee town in Colombia. The language of her brushstrokes is simple, candid, and sweet, creating a universe with characters who tell stories through beautiful metaphors.

New Moon's Family
Erika Adams, author
Eric Soderstrom, illustrator
Beaver's Pond Press
939 Seventh Street West, St. Paul, MN 55102
9781592986309, $17.95, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: Inspired by the phases of the moon, "New Moon's Family" is a rhyming picture book story by author/storyteller Erika Adams and artist/illustrator Eric Soderstrom about how loved ones are always in your heart, no matter how far away they might feel.

Paired with an expository section, this whimsical and entertaining moon story is also an enlightening astronomy book for children.

Critique: Original, fun, 'kid friendly' picture book for young readers ages 6-8, "New Moon's Family" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to family, elementary school, and community library picture book collections that will have a very special appeal to children (and their parents/teachers) with an interest in stories in verse, the environment, emotions and feelings.

Editorial Note #1: Erika Adams ( has degrees from Lake Superior College and the University of Minnesota-Duluth. When not writing, she hosts a storytelling radio program called The Tale Collector. She is also the author of Allie's Adventure on the Wonder, a semi-autobiographical novella inspired by the Lewis Carroll novel Alice in Wonderland.

Editorial Note #2: Eric Soderstrom is a Two Harbors native who studied art at the University of Wisconsin. Eric is a self-taught artist of many mediums, a member of numerous art boards, and a volunteer art teacher to elementary school students in Lake County. He participates each year in the ''Chalk a Lot'' event (winning a prize in 2018) and has been commissioned to chalk dragons outside the Big Lake Gallery in Grand Marais, which appeared on PBS's The Slice.

Jump In!
Shadra Strickland
Bloomsbury Children's Books
9781619635807, $18.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: It's a sunny spring day, and the tic tac tic tac sound of jump ropes hitting the ground floats through the wind.

"Jump in!"

Everyone lines up for a turn. The Delancy twins, double dutch divas. Leroy Jones with the hip-hop tricks. Even Ms. Mabel, showing the youngstas how it's done. And after a day of fun, when the street lights start to flicker, it's time to jump out!

Critique: With her bold graphic style, read-aloud enhancing gatefolds, combined with an exuberance that fairly leaps off the page, acclaimed storyteller and artist Shadra Strickland's "Jump In!" is her debut picture book for young readers. While also available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.11), "Jump In!" will prove to be a fun and enduringly popular addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library African-American, City Life, and Children's Friendship picture book collections for children ages 4-8.

Editorial Note: Shadra Strickland ( grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, with her mom and grandma and spent almost every day after school playing out in the sunshine! When she wasn't playing she was drawing and writing stories. After Shadra grew up she moved to New York to become an artist. Now she teaches other people how to draw and tell stories at the Maryland Institute College of Art. When she's not teaching, she enjoys playing with her dog, Lucky--who looks awfully like the dog in this book. She can be followed on Twitter at @Shadrieka

My Pocket Bathroom
Yan Du, author
Eriri Vanessa, illustrator
Yeehoo Press
9781953458544, $17.99, HC, 40pp

Synopsis: Po is a small girl living in a BIG, loud city who has always had to share her favorite relaxing retreat (her bathroom) with her busy family.

Po's bathroom is a place where she can be herself, enjoy quiet time, and do anything she dreams of: put on shows, dance and sing, and create whatever she imagines. But her mom, dad, and brother always barge in and interrupt her alone time. She wishes for a sanctuary all her own.

Then one night, Lady Violet, a beautiful toilet guardian, appears with a magical gift. Things for Po will never be the same. But maybe she isn't the only one who needs her very own private bathroom!

Critique: With an underlying message about the importance of self-care and having a place of one's own, with the publication of "My Pocket Bathroom", author/storyteller Yan Du and artist/illustrator Erin Vanessa collaboratively present a sweet, entertaining, and thoroughly 'child friendly' picture book story that is especially recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library collections for children ages 4-7.

Editorial Note #1: Yan 'Zoe' Du is a CSC-Cambridge Trust scholar of children's literature and culture and a lover of stories. She began translating picture books in 2018 and has translated Marc Martin's award-winning book, A Forest, and a more recent one, Max. She has published original research on children's literature since 2020. She also writes for children's magazines such as Phoenix English. "My Pocket Bathroom" is her first authored picture book.

Editorial Note #2: Erin Vanessa ( is a Canadian illustrator who hand-paints with watercolor, gouache, and pencil crayon. In addition to children's books, her art can be found on stationery, greeting cards, puzzles, and home decor products around the world. She is also a former video game producer whose inspirations include video games, beautiful food, and vintage botanical illustrations.

The Cat, the Owl and the Fresh Fish
Nadine Robert, author
Sang Miao, illustrator
Milky Way Picture Books
c/o Kids Can Press
9781990252174, $18.99, HC, 36pp

Synopsis: One day, Grey Cat stumbles upon a surprise in one of his usual fishing spots: a small wooden rowboat containing a bucket of fresh fish sitting idly. Curious and eager to snatch it up, Grey Cat seeks the help of a nearby owl, who is willing to lend a hand if Grey Cat helps him free his claw from under a log. But will Grey Cat choose to help the owl -- or is he too eager to reach the rowboat and grab his newfound treasure?

Critique: An original and modern day fable by the team of author/storyteller Nadine Robert and artist/illustrator Sang Miao, "The Cat, the Owl and the Fresh Fish" if a fun read that is especially appropriate for children ages 3-7 -- making it an ideal and highly recommended addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections.

Editorial Note #1: Nadine Robert began her career as a video-game designer and director of animated films. As the founder of the publishing house Comme des geants, she has always had a strong passion for illustrated children's books that have a powerfully built narrative approach combined with strong images. Her most recent book, On the Other Side of the Forest, was named a Best Book of the Year by Kirkus and a New York Times/New York Public Library Best Illustrated Children's Book. (

Editorial Note #2: Sang Miao ( is a freelance illustrator who graduated from the University of Brighton in the United Kingdom and has since worked on numerous fiction and children's book projects. Her most recent picture book, The Immortal Jellyfish, was a finalist for the Children's Book Council's Children's & Teen Choice Book Awards. Her work is inspired by nature, different cultures, and daily life. She currently lives in China.

The Tiny Tale of Little Pea
Davide Cali, author
Sebastien Mourrain, illustrator
Milky Way Picture Books
c/o Kids Can Press
9781771388436, $17.99, HC, 36pp

Synopsis: When he was born, Little Pea was tiny -- Teeny-tiny. His clothes were hand sewn by his mother and his shoes were hand-me-down doll shoes. As he grew older, Little Pea enjoyed climbing tomato plants, driving around in his wind-up car and riding on the backs of grasshoppers. But then Little Pea started school. And he suddenly realized just how small he was!

Too small for his chair. Too small to play the flute. Too small for gym class. What would become of wee Little Pea?

"The Tiny Tale of Little Pea" by author/storyteller Davide Cali and artist/illustrator Sebastien Mourrain is a charming picture book showcasing a contemporary fable about an unconventional hero.

As Little Pea finds a place for himself in the world despite his perceived disadvantage, he becomes a champion for younger siblings, small children and all those who are differently abled. By using ingenuity to overcome challenges, Little Pea empowers children to do the same, which makes "The Tiny Tale of Little Pea" a prized choice for a character education lesson focusing on perseverance or resilience. It also works for conversations on self-acceptance and individuality or on creativity (Little Pea is an artist).

The idea of tiny worlds is enormously appealing to young children, and Sebastien Mourrain's imaginative scenes depicting Little Pea's miniature life will draw readers in with their funny, clever details.

Critique: Unique, original, fun, and with an important underlying message, "The Tiny Tale of Little Pea" is unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for children ages 3-7. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Tiny Tale of Little Pea" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note #1: Davide Cali ( is an award-winning, internationally renowned author of numerous children's books, including I Didn't Do My Homework Because... and Piano Piano, which received a BolognaRagazzi Special Mention.

Editorial Note #2: Sebastien Mourrain ( is a graduate of the Emile Cohl School in Lyon, France. He has illustrated several picture books, and his art has also appeared on book covers for both children and adults. (

Cocoa Magic
Sandra Badley and Gabrielle Grimard
Pajama Press
9781772782656, $18.95

Cocoa Magic is a picture book that will reach young fans of chocolate. It tells of eight-year-old Daniel, who loves to help his Great-Uncle Lewis in his chocolate shop. Making chocolate is only part of the story, which embraces a bigger picture when Daniel discovers that giving chocolates to others can solve many problems. His desire to hide chocolates to secretly improve others' lives leads to surprising results when he finds himself in need, but has kept his altruistic behaviors a secret. Gorgeous illustrations and a story with a message invites all ages to partake of a lesson in giving and positivity.

Grandad's Pink Trousers
Lucie Hasova Truhelkova
9788000065922, $16.95

Grandad's Pink Trousers tells of a grandfather who isn't the usual elderly conservative man, but sports a different personality that his grandson comes to appreciate as he grows older. From a grandfather's habit of keeping buckets of water next to the toilet for flushing to wearing his wife's pink trousers, the old man is a puzzle and embarrassment to many. But his habits prove to have logic over time, and as the story explores the old man's oddities and sensibilities, picture book readers will come to appreciate these differences in a story that celebrates being a tad different from the norm.

The Moonlight Zoo
Maudie Powell-Tuck
Tiger Tales Press
9781680102918, $18.99

The Moonlight Zoo is a simply gorgeous picture book that features a lovely cover and illustrations by Karl James Mountford as it explores Eva's sleepless night and a missing cat. Her explorations lead her to a "Moonlight Zoo" (a place for all lost animals and pets), where she searches for her missing cat and discovers a host of animals and clues that her cat may have been there. The beautiful pages and illustrations are an outstanding feature of this loving story of a lost cat and a pack of zoo animals that embark on a journey to help Eva find her loved one. The Moonlight Zoo is a keepsake recommendation for adults looking for lasting stories that deserve a lasting place on the bookshelf.

Red Comet Press

Nejib is a graphic designer and illustrator of children's books who puts his hand literally to work in My Hands (9781636550428, $18.99), a picture book exploration of hands and what can be done with them. From playing with objects and getting dressed to swimming and making hand signals, My Hands provides a fun exploration of all the possibilities that can involve an adult and listening child as they explore hands through Nejib's graphics.

Charles Ghigna's Little Hearts (9781636550305, $17.99) features engaging illustrations by Jacqueline East as it explores the natural world and treasures to be found there. The smell of roses and a busy spider's "silky gift of lace" to a sweet apple's heart-shaped center are only a few examples that hearts can be found in many different places in nature. Little Hearts will delight young picture book readers with a fun story of how hearts, love, and outdoors attractions are everywhere.

Both lend to interactive adult participation in read-alouds that encourage exploration and understanding of self and the world.

Disney Press

Loud Mouse by Cara Mentzel and Idina Menzel (9781368078061, $17.99) is a the fun tale of how a little mouse discovered her big voice, and receives engaging illustration by Jaclyn Sinquett as it tells of Dee, who loves to sing ... but usually to herself. It's quite another matter to sing before an audience. Can Dee, when called upon, summon the courage to use her big voice for the first time? The results of her experiment will delight all ages of picture book reader.

Mo Williams's The Frustrating Book! (9781368074827, $12.99) presents another Unlimited Squirrels adventure. Zoom Squirrel wants to feel new emotions, and his friends work to make this happen. But what if Zoomy doesn't like them? Parents looking to teach kids about feelings will relish the opportunity to absorb the easy insights of this inviting tale.

Simon & Schuster

Picture book readers ages 4-8 and their read-aloud parents are in for a treat with these fine new choices.

Alex Willan's Yetis are the Worst! (9781665921770, $18.99) will reach picture book readers with a very different kind of monster mash-up. Gilbert the Goblin realizes that unicorns throw the best tea parties and dragons make delicious ice cream soup, but still maintains that Yetis are not cool and mysterious, but the worst of the monster group. From find-the-Yeti puzzle pages to Gilbert's first-person search to prove that they are anything but mysterious, readers will appreciate the fun of Gilbert's pursuit.

Michelle Sterling's A Sweet New Year for Ren (9781534496606, $18.99) tells of Ren's family's celebration of Lunar New Year. Will she be old enough, this time, to participate in making her favorite seasonal pineapple cakes? A fine celebration of family and tradition gives kids warm illustrations and a story that combines a girl's growth and desire to participate with a fine seasonal tradition.

Robert Quackenbush's Henry's Pizzas (9781534415591, $18.99) tells of a special birthday in which all of Henry's relatives send him a pizza to celebrate his day. Pizza is Henry's favorite thing; but how can even he consume so many pizzas at once? A wacky adventure evolves to interest kids in a particularly delicious dilemma.

Patricia MacLachlan's Snow Horses: A First Night Story (9781534473553, $18.99) receives gorgeous, colorful drawings by Caldecott Honor-winning artist Micha Archer as it tells of two horses, Tim and Tom, who pull a sleigh and love the snow. It's the last evening before the New Year, when special things happen and shared experiences bring family members together. The warmth of full-page color panels, combined with an evocative story of horses, snow, and togetherness, provides a fine story that lends to read-aloud family participation.

Candlewick Press
99 Dover Street, Somerville, MA 02144

These new picture books from Candlewick offer young leisure readers and read-aloud adults a fine array of themes and inviting stories.

How to Help a Friend by Karl Newson (9781536226676, $17.99) should be on the reading lists of children and in the libraries of those seeking to educate the young about being mindful and helpful to others. Clara Anganuzzi's lovely illustrations supplement the story of how to help a depressed friend, and how to handle emotions. The message embraces various kinds of friendships and their diverse needs and interests while helping kids understand the basics of helping others.

Paula White's The Baker by the Sea (9781536223897, $18.99) follows a young boy who notes the special roles of every busy person in town. The fishermen, he thinks, are the most important; but his father is a baker and he seems destined to follow in his shoes ... even if he would rather go to sea and contribute to the town in a different way. Themes of family legacy, business, and contributing to one's environment are accented by black and white illustrations following the boy's revelations about his world.

Jane Clarke's Tiptoe Tiger (9781536227505, $17.99) tells of Tara the tiger cub, who wants to play as the sun goes down in the jungle. However, her activities keep others around her awake. Can she tiptoe through the jungle and still have more quiet adventures? Britta Teckentrup's large-size, exceptionally colorful drawings accompany a dialogue that encourages read-aloud and interactive adventure as children are invited to observe, mimic, and understand Tara's perspective and world.

Robert Frost's classic Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening (9781536229141, $18.99) receives simply gorgeous, artistic illustrations by P.J. Lynch which bring the rhyme to life for all ages. These large-size portraits of a snowy evening's wonders evoke the images of a winter wonderland, illustrating the power of the literary written word for a younger audience than would normally absorb a Robert Frost piece.

Natalia & Lauren O'Hara's Friendleswylde (9781536225099, $18.99) tells of a mysterious boy who enters Cora and Granny's house in the woods to steal their light. Cora must follow the thief down a hole in the pond that leads to his magical kingdom, where she faces a special series of tasks required to keep water from their door. Read-aloud parents will find the intricate details in this lovely fantasy lend to numerous evenings of read-aloud enjoyment.

Lara Hawthorne's Ratty's Big Adventure (9781536226706, $17.99) is set in the rain forest and tells of Ratty, who has lived his life in the crater of an inactive volcano. When he decides to leave the predictability and comfort of his home, he discovers more about the environment around him and the importance of his roots. The adventure will attract young readers, while its underlying message will please read-aloud adults and parents.

Polly Faber's All Through the Night: Important Jobs That Get Done at Night (9781536227512, $17.99) enjoys engaging illustrations by Harriet Hobday as it surveys a host of workers who do their jobs at night. From musical concerts to 24-hour grocery stores, health services, delivery people, and paramedics, kids learn of all kinds of disparate jobs that take place when the sun goes down.

All of these picture books for children are exceptional choices for discriminating libraries and parents.

The Folktale/Fairytale Shelf

Peng's Vase: A Chinese Folktale
Michael & Angus Yuen-Killick, authors
Paolo Proietti, illustrator
Red Comet Press
9781636550466, $18.99, HC, 28pp

Synopsis: The old childless emperor gives a challenge to the children of the city to determine who will become his heir. He gathers them together, and gives them a task; take one seed each, plant it and return in one year to show the flowers that each has grown. Little Peng is determined to do his best, but despite planting and tending the seed, he fails to grow a flower. But Peng brings a flower of different kind to his meeting with the emperor, one that just might win him the challenge!

Critique: A new retelling of this classic Chinese folktale by co-authors Michael and Angus Yuen-Killick, brought to new generations of children through the exquisite illustrations by Paolo Proietti, "Peng's Vase", with its museum quality artwork is especially and unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library folklore picture book collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Peng's Vase" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99).

Editorial Note #1: Paolo Proietti ( is an award winning illustrator with several books published including two previous titles published in English by Red Comet Press, Before We Sleep and The Friendship Surprise, both written by Giorgio Volpe. Paolo is a graduate of the International School of Comics in Rome. In 2016 he was awarded a Scarpetta d'Oro, the prestigious international award for children's book illustration. Paolo Proietti lives and works in Rome, Italy.

Editorial Note #2: Angus Yuen-Killick ( is the founder, and publisher of Red Comet Press. Originally from the UK, he lived in Rome, Italy during the 1980s where he taught English. Michael Yuen-Killick is the creative director of Red Comet Press. They both live and work in brownstone Brooklyn with their two children and dog.

The Lion and the Unicorn and Other Hairy Tales
Jane Ray, author/illustrator
Boxer Books
9781914912139, $18.99, PB, 176pp

Synopsis: "The Lion and the Unicorn and Other Hairy Tales" is a compendium of stories about animals of all kinds: rough-skinned elephants, yellow-eyed tigers, hulking great bears, elegant springing antelope, wily rabbits, and more. The tales (which feature transformation, magic, empathy, kindness, and trickery) include: "The Singing Ringing Tree," "Theseus and the Minotaur," "How the Rhinoceros Got his Skin," and "The Leopard's Promise."

Critique: Especially and unreservedly recommended for family, elementary school, middle school, and community library collection for young readers ages 8-10 and grades 3-5 (and the third volume in The Story Collector series), with the publication of "The Lion and the Unicorn and Other Hairy Tales" acclaimed author and illustrator Jane Ray ventures into forests, jungles, mountains, and even imaginary worlds.

Editorial Note: Jane Ray ( has illustrated more than 70 books for children and garnered rave reviews from the world's leading national press for her many works including The Story Collector series.

Cinderella--with Dogs!
Linda Bailey, author
Freya Hartas, illustrator
Nancy Paulsen Books
c/o Penguin Young Readers Group
9781984813824, $18.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: When Cinderella wishes for a fairy godmother, she's not expecting one that barks! And this fairy dog-mother has a different agenda. Yes, Cinderella will have a new dress, but made of a cozy dog blanket. Yes, they will go to the ball, but they will run there and chase squirrels along the way. There's nothing like a canine companion to get a girl out of the house and her mind off her troubles! Yes, indeed, dogs do make everything better -- and are a reminder that you don't need "happily ever after" when you have the joy of now.

Critique: "Cinderella--with Dogs!" by the team of author/storyteller Linda Bailey and artist/illustrator Freya Hartas is a Cinderella story like no other. Children ages 3-7 will get a kick out of this unique and entertaining retelling of a classic fairytale with its lovable cast of characters and refreshing ending. While also available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99), "Cinderella--with Dogs!" is a very special and unreservedly recommended addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections.

Editorial Note #1: Linda Bailey ( is the author of more than thirty-five books for children. Her picture books and novels have been published all over the world and have won multiple awards across North America, including the California Young Readers Medal, the Ontario Blue Spruce and Silver Birch Awards, the Arthur Ellis Crime Writers Award, and the Georgia Picture Book Award.

Editorial Note #2: Freya Hartas ( is a UK-based illustrator of children's books. She lives in the vibrant city of Bristol with her partner and their ancient black cat Katsu and works from her cozy, cluttered desk in a shared studio down the road. Upon graduating from Falmouth University with a BA in illustration in 2014, Freya won The Roald Dahl Funny Prize Award.

Clotilde Perrin
Gecko Press
9781776574698, $28.99

Gotcha! A Funny Fairy Tale Hide-and-Seek may prove a shelving challenge, with its oversized presentation -- but that only means that the book needs to be displayed for its full attraction; not shelved and hidden away. Daniel Hahn translates a child's hide-and-seek picture book that excels in vivid, full-page colorful drawings as it explores a nasty hairball, hidden pigs and mice that hide in a brick house, and a gingerbread house that invites a stinkwart to crunch at its walls. The special format of this book, with its flaps and discoveries, means that it ideally will be chosen by read-aloud parents and adults for a home collection rather than the rigors of elementary-level library lending. Its fun, intriguing journey of discovery creates a tale replete with whimsical monsters, fun structures, and stories that easily lend to a child's interactive experience with adults.

The Middle Grade Fiction Shelf

Midnight at the Shelter
Nanci Turner Steveson
Quill Tree Books
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
Blackstone Audiobooks
9780062673213, $16.99, HC, 304pp

Synopsis: Rescue dog MahDi is happy helping his human partner, "MomDoc," with the important work at her vet clinic and the local animal shelter. The two of them make a good team, caring for the town's pets and matchmaking rescue animals with the families who need them.

When the shelter is suddenly down a staff member, the animals have to deal with a new caretaker: Huck, an unpleasant man who seems to have no problem threatening the animals he's supposed to care for. As more dogs crowd into the shelter than are going to new homes, MahDi begins to worry that if MomDoc isn't around, there is no telling what Huck might do.

With three perfectly good legs, the heart of a true leader, and his pack mates by his side, MahDi is willing to risk everything to save his shelter-friends from an uncertain future!

Critique: A fun read from cover to cover, "Midnight at the Shelter" by Nanci Turner Steveson will have a special appeal to young readers ages 8-12 with an interest in the lives and times of dogs. While unreservedly recommended for elementary school, middle school, and community library General Fiction collections for young readers, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Midnight at the Shelter" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Blackstone Audio, 9798212039291, $36.99, CD).

Editorial Note: Nanci Turner Steveson ( grew up in Connecticut, England, and Texas, always with a book in one hand and the reins of a pony in the other. She works as a riding instructor and as a stage manager with the Off Square Theatre Company. She is also the founder of the Literacy for Hope Project, dedicated to getting books into the hands of the homeless.

The Legend of Aguila Azul
Paul Barile, author
Julio A. Guerra, illustrator
Lexographic Press
9781734504200, $9.99, PB, 80pp

Synopsis: Lucha libre (Spanish for "freestyle wrestling") is the term used in Latin America for professional wrestling. Since its introduction to Mexico in the early 20th century, it has developed into a unique form of the genre, characterized by colorful masks, rapid sequences of holds and maneuvers, and "high-flying" maneuvers, some of which have been adopted in the United States, Japan, and elsewhere. The wearing of masks has developed special significance, and matches are sometimes contested in which the loser must permanently remove his mask, which is a wager with a high degree of weight attached. Tag team wrestling is especially prevalent in lucha libre, particularly matches with three-member teams, called trios. (Wikipedia)

All Gervasio Garcia wanted his whole life was to be a luchador like the great luchadors he read about as a kid growing up in Chicago's Little Village neighborhood. He wanted to wear a mask and fly high over the heads of adoring fans as he vanquished the villains (the ones he called rudos) and outsmarted their cheating ways.

With the publication of "The Legend of Aguila Azul" by author/storyteller Paul Barile and artist/illustrator Julio A. Guerra, young readers will enjoy entering the magical world of the Lucha Legends. In "The Legend of Aguila Azul" they will discover the sounds of matracas and cheering of the crowd, the smells of churros and sweat and all of the sensations of a night of lucha libre where dragonflies wrestle cats and the tecnicos do battle with the rudos.

Critique: "The Legend of Aguila Azul" is the first title comprising 'The Lucha Legends' series from Lexographic Press and will have a very special appeal to children ages 9-12 -- and anyone else who loves the long tradition and rich pageantry of Lucha Libre!. Both entertaining and informative, "The Legend of Aguila Azul" is especially and unreservedly recommended for family, elementary school, and community library collections. It should also be noted for personal reading lists that "The Legend of Aguila Azul" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99).

Editorial Note #1: Paul Barile ( is the author of two novels, 20 or so plays, one graphic novel and is an accomplished actor and story teller.

Editorial Note #2: Julio A. Guerra ( is an award winning and independent creator. He has worked with Upper Deck/Marvel, AfterShock Comics, Floor 13 Studios, A&O Comics, Guerrilla Publishing, and more.

The Young Adult Fiction Shelf

Ann of Sunflower Lane
Julie A. Sellers
Meadowlark Press
9781956578232, $30.00, HC, 300pp

Synopsis: Fifteen-year-old Ann doesn't have much choice in the matter: It's live with the maternal grandparents she's never met in Kansas or go to a foster home when her father is found by the courts to be a neglectful parent. Still, she's positive it's only for the summer of 1989 and her father will make good on his promise to get a steady job and provide a stable home life for her.

At Sunflower Lane, Ann discovers she strongly resembles the mother she never knew and that everyone from her strict grandmother to her more understanding grandfather avoids talking about her mother. Ann's vivid imagination conjures up numerous explanations for this silence, fueled by her voracious reading and subtle clues that accumulate over the months. She finds herself torn between learning the answers to her questions and dreading what they might be.

When Grandpa gifts her an old edition of Anne of Green Gables, Ann immediately identifies with the title character, especially when her father fails to make good on his promise to get her back.

The weeks and months unfold at Sunflower Lane, and along the way, Ann makes a best friend for the first time in Corrie Addair and a temptingly handsome challenge to her grandmother's "no boys" rule in Corrie's brother, Cameron. As Ann integrates herself into the fabric of life at Sunflower Lane, she meets a community that broadens her notions of home, family, friendship, and love. But when she uncovers a difficult truth about her past, the consequences could be life-altering!

Critique: Complete with a Book Club Kit containing discussion questions, recipes, and Cameron's Mix Tape playlist, "Ann of Sunflower Lane" is all the more impressive when considering that it is author Julia A. Sellers debut as a novelist. While unreservedly recommended for middle school, high school, and community library YA Fiction collections for young readers ages 13-18, it should be noted for personal reading lists of readers with an interest in 'Coming of Age' and 'Multigenerational Family' fiction that "Ann of Sunflower Lane" is also available in a paperback edition (9781956578225, $18.99) and in a digital book format ($9.99).

Editorial Note: Julie A. Sellers ( has published three academic books and a variety of articles. Her creative prose and poetry have appeared in publications such as Cagibi, Wanderlust, Unlost, The Write Launch, 105 Meadowlark Reader, and Kansas Time + Place. Julie was the 2020 Kansas Authors Club Prose Writer of the Year. In the Kansas Voices Contest (Winfield), she was the Overall Poetry Winner (2022) and Overall Prose Winner (2017, 2019). Julie's first book of poetry, Kindred Verse: Poems Inspired by Anne of Green Gables, was published by Blue Cedar Press in 2021.

We Are All So Good at Smiling
Amber McBride
Feiwel & Friends
c/o Macmillan Children's Publishing Group
9781250780386, $19.99, HC, 304pp

Synopsis: Whimsy is back in the hospital for treatment of clinical depression. When she meets a boy named Faerry, she recognizes they both have magic in the marrow of their bones. And when Faerry and his family move to the same street, the two start to realize that their lifelines may have twined and untwined many times before.

They are both terrified of the forest at the end of Marsh Creek Lane.

The Forest whispers to Whimsy. The Forest might hold the answers to the part of Faerry he feels is missing. They discover the Forest holds monsters, fairy tales, and pain that they have both been running from for 11 years.

Critique: An original and deftly crafted work of inherently fascinating fiction, with the publication of "We Are All So Good At Smiling", author Amber McBride demonstrates her genuine flair for the kind of narrative driven storytelling style that fully engages her reader's rapt attention from first page to last. While also available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99), "We Are All So Good At Smiling" is especially and unreservedly recommended for middle school, high school, and community library YA Fiction collections for young readers ages 14-17.

Arctis Books

Three new arrivals from Arctis Books provide middle grade to YA readers with inviting stories.

Marianne Kaurin's Our Own Little Paradise (9781646900183, $15.00) tells of a looming summer after the last day of sixth grade, which Ina views with trepidation. While her classmates eagerly discuss summer vacation plans, her mother is out of work and they have no money. Unable to confess this, she lies when asked about her summer plans, inventing a trip to the tropics. It's a lie that keeps on growing until a new boy in class discovers the truth and decides to help her. The warm story that emerges will attract middle grade readers with a lesson in truth, lies, and supportive friends.

Jochen Till's gorgeous Memento Monstrum (9781646900107, $20.00) is translated by Rachel Ward and features lovely colorful drawings peppering Count Dracula's memoirs. Monsters abound in this presentation, with hair-raising stories and compelling tales of silly spider dilemmas, invisible agents and secret services, and a performance with the Beatles. The zany circumstances and tales in Memento Monstrum will attract into adult circles with its fun, original adventures.

Mats Strandberg's The End (9781646908004, $10.00) provides young adults with the story of teens Simon and Lucinda who are tackling love, mystery problem-solving, and the end of the world. As the themes dovetail and provide unexpected developments fitting for thriller and intrigue readers, The End introduces prospects and discoveries that will prove hard to put down.

All three titles are highly recommended acquisitions for libraries catering to middle grade to YA audiences.

The Fantasy/SciFi Shelf

The Hidden Dragon
Melissa Marr
Nancy Paulsen Books
c/o Penguin Random House
9780525518556 $17.99 hc / $10.99 Kindle

Synopsis: A sea-faring girl and her friends take on pirates and grown-ups, and bond with dragons, as they work to make the world a better place, in this spellbinding fantasy by New York Times bestselling author Melissa Marr.

Otter (short for Ottilie) is a girl who is most comfortable on her family's ship, the Tempest, where she and her fathers collect the dragon hides that protect the queen's guards. But all is not well in the kingdom, and it's not clear if the queen is to blame. The streets are full of homeless kids, and now one of them, a street-smart boy called London, has stowed away on the Tempest. He befriends Otter, and soon they realize that the fate of the kingdom needs to be in the hands of the kids. For in every tight spot - during pirate attacks and navigating the magical land of the Netherwhere, where they get ship-wrecked - it is the quick-witted kids who save the day. As they work to fight injustice and protect the defenseless, they earn the respect of the realm's most magical creatures - dragons and gargoyles - who all bond together as a force for good. Melissa Marr spins another fabulous fantasy, centered on family and friends, and introduces readers to the most splendid magical creatures.

Critique: Award-winning author Melissa Marr presents The Hidden Dragon, a captivating middle-grade fantasy novel set amid the high seas and magical lands. Young Otter is accustomed to life aboard her family's ship; then a homeless stowaway boy upends her usual daily routine, and the two of them must work together to face one devastating challenge after another - pirate attacks, a shipwreck, and adapting to the mysterious land where they've been marooned. The Hidden Dragon is a saga that emphasizes the all-important bonds between family and friends together, even amid the press of fantastic creatures and the threat of life-or-death crises. An emotionally engaging read, The Hidden Dragon is highly recommended for public and school library middle grade fantasy collections, and also makes an excellent gift for young fans of fantasy-adventure. It should be noted for personal reading lists that The Hidden Dragon is also available in a Kindle edition ($10.99).

Plotting the Stars 1: Moongarden
Michelle A. Barry
c/o Holiday House
9781645951261, $18.99, HC, 368pp

Synopsis: Centuries ago, Earth's plants turned deadly, and humanity took to space to cultivate new homes. Myra Hodger is in her first year at an elite school on the Moon, and she's crumbling under the pressure. She doesn't fit in and, worse, the tattoos that signal her Number Whisperer magic aren't developing. In her heart, she knows she doesn't have a Creer, and soon everyone else will, too.

Wandering the halls while cutting class, she discovers a secret lab hidden behind one of the unused classrooms and, beyond that, a secret garden overflowing with plants. Dangerous toxic plants.

As she learns more about the garden, Myra begins to wonder if she does have a Creer after all -- one that died out when the Earth did. One that could help solve the food shortages the government doesn't want anyone to know about.

Re-envisioning The Secret Garden for a new generation, "Plotting the Stars 1: Moongarden" deftly weaves together STEAM themes and intense social pressures in a stunning series starter, and introduces a dynamic heroine who might just grow a revolution.

Critique: An original, fun and thought-provoking read from cover to cover, "Plotting the Stars 1: Moongarden" by Michelle A. Barry (and her debut as a novelist) is especially and unreservedly recommended for elementary school, middle school, and community library Dystopian Science Fiction collections for young readers ages 8-14. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Plotting the Stars 1: Moongarden" is also available in a paperback edition (9781645951285, $10.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99).

Editorial Note: Michelle A. Barry has worked as a newspaper reporter, freelance writer and editor, and marketing professional. "Moongarden" is her first novel.

Hidden Enemies
Leonie Waithman
Greenleaf Book Group Press
9781626349841, $20.95, HC, 344pp

Synopsis: When Lucas awakens disoriented one morning on a riverbank, he has no memory of the evening before, and evidence of a poisoned dart is visible on his neck. Although Lucas is now undoubtedly someone's target, when King Itan asks him to spy on a rival ruler, Lucas readily obeys.

During his dangerous journey, young Lucas will be reunited with his friends in the traveling circus, escape a dreadful attack, and learn the truth of his existence. But when a plot by the maniacal King Boran to seize control of Itan's land is discovered, and Lucas experiences the loss of a friend, he realizes that the only way to save his people will be to surrender himself to the enemy.

As he fights to fulfill his destiny, Lucas can only hope that King Boran won't kill him -- believing the prophecy that anyone who kills Lucas will also perish.

Critique: A true and compulsive page-turner of a read, "Hidden Enemies" by Leonie Waithman is a carefully crafted young adult heroic fantasy novel. The second volume in the author's 'The King's Chosen' series, "Hidden Enemies is a very highly recommended addition to middle school, high school, and community library YA Fantasy collections for young readers ages 14-17. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Hidden Enemies" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: When not writing, Leonie Waithman ( is an avocational archaeologist and volunteers her time at a state historic site educating students about the Texas Revolution.

The Extraordinary Adventures of Alice Tonks
Emily Kenny
Rock The Boat
c/o Oneworld Publications
9780861542079, $9.99, PB, 352pp

Synopsis: Alice Tonks desperately wants to make friends at boarding school but, being autistic, she's always found it hard to fit in. Then she discovers she is a"switcher" and can talk to animals. As she starts to explore her newfound abilities, to her horror she learns that creatures are going missing. Only Alice holds the key to solving the mystery and finding the culprit, but she'll need to harness her full powers first. And to do that she'll need a bit of help from her new friends -- both human and animal.

Critique: An original, entertain, deftly scripted, and thoroughly 'kid friendly' story about finding your voice, friendship, and unlikely heroes, "The Extraordinary Adventures of Alice Tonks" by author/storyteller Emily Kenny is a fun read with a critically important underlying message with subtle reference to autism. While especially and unreservedly recommended for family, elementary school, middle school, and community library collections for young readers ages 8-12, it should be noted for the personal reading lists that "The Extraordinary Adventures of Alice Tonks" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99).

Editorial Note: Like Alice, Emily Kenny ( is autistic and wanted to write her debut novel about an autistic child protagonist. Emily studied English Literature and Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia, completed the MA in Children's Literature at Roehampton University, and was part of the Spark Mentor scheme with WriteMentor. Emily works as a secondary school English teacher and Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator, and lives in London.

The Blood of Faeries
Dan Rice
The Wild Rose Press, Inc.
9781509246489, $19.99 Paper/$5.99 ebook

The first book in the YA fantasy series The Allison Lee Chronicles, Dragons Walk Among Us, sets the stage for adventure by portraying a budding high school photojournalist who experiences bullying so savage that she is blinded. An experimental procedure restores her sight, but comes with a heavy price: she can now see dragons in the world. Their invisibility to others proves a power she never wanted, and struggles to control.

Allison's saga continues in The Blood of Faeries, which takes the next step into fantasy by following her down the rabbit hole of personal empowerment and deeper into a world transformed by her abilities. The story opens with Allison's struggle with the reappearance of her mother in her life. What do you do with your life after you've saved humanity as a teenager? How do you handle being a global celebrity who always stands out from the crowd and never blends in? Young Allison's future lies before her -- but it's tainted by a past she can never escape from, the heritage of being both half-skaag (shapeshifter), and the prosthetic eyes that lend her a different form of vision.

Both come to her aid in unexpected ways, yet both plague her life and hinder her desire to be a normal girl. Allison struggles with the side effects of drugs and magic and embarks on a new adventure, finding herself endangered by others who perceive her as a "monster girl" and want to study and dissect her. When she then loses the peculiar strengths she has constantly struggled against, Allison must draw on new abilities to confront her oppressors in a different way.

Once again, Dan Rice has crafted a YA fantasy that goes beyond the usual adventure story to delve into the roots of growth, prejudice, adversity, and the process of becoming involved with faeries. It should be advised that there are torture scenes during this process. While they aren't overly graphic, there is enough innuendo and description to prove daunting to sensitive readers. This comment aside, The Blood of Faeries represents a powerful study in threats, struggles, and friendship where Allison learns the meaning of close relationships and embracing her biggest fears about not being completely human by choosing an unexpected new direction.

Young adults who enjoy fantasy adventure and rapid action tempered by thought-provoking growth will find The Blood of Faeries a powerful study. It unfolds all kinds of changing relationships that prompt Allison to walk into new possibilities and her own inherent identity. Its gripping mercurial scenarios will keep YA readers thoroughly immersed as the revelations unfold.

We Arrive Uninvited
Jen Knox
Steel Toe Books
9781949540383, $19.99, PB, 218pp

Sporting a compelling title that attracts attention, We Arrive Uninvited provides readers with the gripping story of a girl's coming-of-age, a dubious gift, and generational mysteries.

Emerson was twelve when she lost her mother to madness. Five years later, teetering on the same edge of confusion, Emerson is motivated to investigate the history of women in her family and the mental health challenges which seem to plague them. Is it madness - or was it always magic? As she deals with her panic, new revelations, different kinds of friendships and their challenges, and truths that rock her perception of the world and her place in it, Emerson tests her abilities and bets her life on the results.

Supported by mother stand-in Grandma Grodzki and increasingly immersed in the world of boyfriend Jake, Amelia recounts her own strange journey, sifting through legends and truth. Is Emerson destined to reconcile the legacy of women in her family? Readers who join Emerson and Amelia on this wild ride will find We Arrive Uninvited a solid blend of fantasy, romance, psychological inspection, and evolving relationships that pulls from the beginning and doesn't let go until story's end.

Jen Knox creates a tale spun on the wishes, dreams, and revised visions of a girl who comes into her own abilities while facing a family history of madness. Her passionate voice lends authority and insights to Emerson's first-person journey to create a compelling read highly recommended not just for young adults, but many an adult reader interested in a very different kind of coming-of-age story.

The Pets/Wildlife Shelf

At Home with the Prairie Dog
Dorothy Hinshaw Patent, author
William Munoz, photographer
Web of Life Children's Books
9781970039061, $17.95, HC, 34pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "At Home with the Prairie Dog: The Story of a Keystone Species" by author Dorothy Patent and photographer William Munoz, children will enjoy learning that Prairie Dogs are dubbed a keystone species for good reason because the burrows they dig are used by dozens of other animals, from insects and spiders to rattlesnakes, salamanders, owls and more.

The highly endangered black-footed ferret depends almost completely on prairie dogs for food, and may also live in their abandoned burrows. In addition, prairie dog activity makes the grass areas around their burrows especially nourishing for grazing animals like bison and pronghorn.

With up to 150 species associated with prairie dogs, this keystone species plays a pivotal role in keeping the prairie healthy and thriving.

Critique: A fun and informative way to learn about the role of prairie dogs in nature, "At Home with the Prairie Dog: The Story of a Keystone Species" is an ideal and unreservedly recommended addition to family, elementary school, and community library Wildlife collections for children ages 5-9. Two other outstanding titles comprising in the 'Keystone Species' series from Web of Life Children's Books are: "At Home with the Gopher Tortoise: The Story of a Keystone Species" and "At Home with the Beaver: The Story of a Keystone Species".

The Music CD Shelf

Made To Bloom
Stephanie Leavell
Music For Kiddos, Inc.
$15.00 CD, $10.00 Digital, 33 minutes

Synopsis: Music therapist, multi-instrumentalist, and award-winning songwriter Stephanie Leavell uses tried and true music therapy techniques to write captivating and engaging songs for kids. Her songs comprising "Made To Bloom" fun, kid friendly, and features instrumentation ranging from harp and upright bass, to a variety of mandolins, ukuleles, and soothing vocal harmonies. The songs comprising "Made To Bloom" include: Moon Above, It's a Good Day, Grizzly Bear Grup, All I Wanna Do, Slow Down, If You Need To Cry; I Need A Break, Get Back Up Again, Grateful heart, and the title piece, Made To Bloom.

Critique, Melodic, original, entertaining, and thoroughly 'kid friendly' in concept and performance, "Made To Bloom" by singer/songwriter Stephanie Leavell is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library CD music collections for children ages 4-8.

The Native American Shelf

Wiijiwaaganag: More Than Brothers
Peter Razor
Michigan State University Press
1405 South Harrison Road, Suite 25, East Lansing, MI 48823-5245
9781938065224, $29.99, PB, 240pp

Synopsis: Niizh Eshkanag is a member of the first generation of Anishinaabe children required to attend a U.S. government boarding school -- schools infamously intended to "kill the Indian and save the man", or forcibly assimilate Native students into white culture.

At the Yardley Indian Boarding School in northern Minnesota, far from his family, Niizh Eshkanag endures abuse from the school staff and is punished for speaking his native language.

After his family moves him to a school that is marginally better, he meets Roger Poznanski, the principal's white nephew, who arrives to live with his uncle's family and attend the school. Though Roger is frightened of his Indian classmates at first, Niizh Eshkanag befriends him, and they come to appreciate and respect one another's differences.

When a younger Anishinaabe student runs away into a winter storm after being beaten by a school employee, Niizh Eshkanag and Roger join forces to rescue him, beginning an adventure that change their lives and the way settlers, immigrants and the Anishinaabe people of the Great Lakes think about each other and their shared future.

Critique: Having a very special appeal to young readers with an interest in Native American history and fiction, "Wiijiwaaganag: More Than Brothers" by Peter Razor is a deftly crafted, impressively original, and fully engaging novel that will prove to be a welcome and prized addition to middle school, high school, and community library YA fiction and Native American Studies collections for young readers ages 8-12. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Wiijiwaaganag: More Than Brothers" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $16.17).

Editorial Note: Peter Razor is the author of "While the Locust Slept", a memoir chronicling his time as a ward at the State Public School in Owatonna, Minnesota, in the 1930s and the farm indenture he suffered thereafter. He is an enrolled member of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa (Nahgahchiwanong).

The Architecture Shelf

100 Things To Know About Architecture
Louise O'Brien, author
Leanne Daphne, author
Dalia Adillon, illustrator
Happy Yak
c/o Quarto Publishing Group USA
100 Cummings Center, Suite 265D, Beverly, MA 01915
9780711272682, $21.95, HC, 112pp

Synopsis: From columns to pyramids, each of the carefully chosen 100 words comprising "100 Things to Know About Architecture" has its own 100-word long description and colorful illustration, providing a fascinating introduction to amazing architecture from throughout history.

From the familiar to the jaw-dropping, the medieval to ultra-modern, "100 Things to Know About Architecture is an inspiring look at some of architecture's greatest developments.

With a clean, contemporary design by co-authors Louis O'Brien and Leanne Daphne, each word occupies a page of its own. A large striking illustration neatly encapsulates the accompanying 100 words of text.

Critique: A fascinating introduction (including a Glossary) to architectural elements of diverse buildings in a fun and accessible format, and charmingly illustrated by artist Dalia Adillon, "100 Things to Know About Architecture" is perfect for aspiring architects or curious young minds! While also available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99), "100 Things to Know About Architecture" is especially and unreservedly recommended for family, elementary school, and community library collections for children ages 5-8.

Editorial Note #1: Louise O'Brien lives in Sydney, Australia and is a registered architect who has taken her skills across the world having worked in London, Hong Kong and Shanghai. She has her own design firm called Apsara Collective. Louise's passion for design and the opportunities it provides to inspire and empower young people has led her to education and she now lectures at a tertiary level and runs the 'Architecture for Kids' school based in Sydney (

Editorial Note #2: Da?lia Adillon ( is an illustrator from Barcelona. She studied Fine Arts at University of Barcelona, Illustration at Massana School and she did the Final Degree Project at ISIA Urbino, Italy. Her elegant artwork creates a unique synthesis of shapes and colors, with vibrant tones and a distinctive and characterful style. She has been recognized with several national and international awards, and her work has been exhibited worldwide.

The Christian Shelf

God's Big Crayon Box
Mickey Scotto
Archway Publishing
9781665711692, $14.95, HC, 24pp

Synopsis: When God created the earth, He made it beautiful and close to perfect until He realized something was missing: people! Using His big box of crayons, He created man and woman and used colors like white, black, brown, and more. He used different colors for their eyes, too, and used all the other crayons in His box for nature, the animals, and insects.

God's people had different languages and came from different places on the earth, but He loved them all the same. He was pleased with the uniqueness He created, making people of different colors and shapes, each special in their own way. When you see someone who looks or sounds different than you, remember God's big crayon box and how much fun He had using all of His colors and how much He loves all the differences in His creations!

"God's Big Crayon Box: We Are All So Much More Alike Than We Are Different!" embraces diversity, while keeping the lesson on the most simplistic level, for even very young readers to understand. It encourages a creative and basic way to educate children about diversity and the non-issue that it should be. We are all from the same source, despite our differences in appearance, the languages we speak, or where we are born.

Critique: "God's Big Crayon Box: We Are All So Much More Alike Than We Are Different!" is a charming counter to racial prejudice and all other kinds of toxic discriminations. Gentle and thoroughly 'kid friendly' in its inclusionary message, "God's Big Crayon Box" by Mickey Scotto is especially and unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, Sunday School, elementary school, and community library collections for children ages 4-7. It should be noted that "God's Big Crayon Box" is also available in a paperback edition (9781665711685, $10.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $2.87).

Editorial Note: Mickey Scotto ( is a first time writer and the mother of three boys. She is a wife, bonus mom to two girls, and grandmother of five. Look for her future books about God and family!

Bless Ye the Lord
Frances Tyrrell
World Wisdom
1501 E. Hillside Dr., Bloomington IN 47401
9781937786977, $17.95

Bless Ye the Lord: Praise Song of the Three Holy Children provides Frances Tyrrell's lovely illustrations as it uses a praise song to accompany the journey of three children who call upon all of creation to glorify the Lord. Fine art blends with lovely, colorful illustration that provides artistic embellishment to this poem/prayer song that will especially appeal to adult read-aloud interest in developing spiritual stories for the very young.

The Self-Help Shelf

It's OK: Being Kind to Yourself When Things Feel Hard
Wendy O'Leary, author
Sandra Eide, illustrator
Bala Kids
c/o Shambhala Publications, Inc.
300 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston, MA 02115-4544
9781645470953, $17.95, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: All too often young children get down on themselves when they experience things that make them sad, angry, guilty, or jealous. It's amazing how powerful it can be to move past a difficult emotion when we think about all the other people feeling that same way and show ourselves some much need kindness.

Sometimes I have to do something I don't want to do.
I feel really angry....
Then I remember that everyone feels angry sometimes.
I put my hand on my heart, and here's what I say:
"It's OK - I love you. I'm with you today."

The main story in "It's OK: Being Kind To Yourself When Things Feel Hard" by author Wendy O'Leary and illustrator Sandra Eide is followed by 10 'kid friendly' and effective exercises focused on ways to develop self-compassion, such as Kind Voice, Kind Body, Kind Touch, and Hugging Breath.

Critique: Especially appropriate for children ages 3-7, "It's OK: Being Kind To Yourself When Things Feel Hard" is a unique and unreservedly recommended addition for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library Self-Help and Life Skills picture book collections.

Editorial Note #1: Wendy O'Leary ( is a mindfulness educator and a certified meditation and yoga teacher with a long-standing personal meditation practice. Wendy's books are based on her 15-plus years of experience teaching mindfulness and skills for emotional awareness and regulation to children and "their adults". She is a certified parent educator and an online contributor to Mindful Magazine. She is also the co-author of Breathing Makes It Better (Bala Kids, 2019).

Editorial Note #2: Sandra Eide ( is an illustrator living in Las Vegas, Nevada with her husband and Border Collie. As a child, she either had her head in a book or was doodling her own stories. She is endlessly inspired by animals, nature, and friendships. She can be followed on Instagram @sandralynneide

Whatever Comes Tomorrow
Rebecca Gardyn Levington, author
Mariona Cabassa, illustrator
Barefoot Books
9781646868414, $17.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: We might not know what the future holds, but the lyrical rhyming text by author/storyteller Rebecca Gardyn Levington in this beautiful picture book reassures young readers that they have the resilience and strength to face whatever comes their way. Whimsical illustrations by artist Mariona Cabassa make for a captivating read-aloud or bedtime story. Inspired by the author's own experience with anxiety, Whatever Comes Tomorrow" offers gentle wisdom applicable to both children and adults. Of special note is the end matter which includes a discussion guide and activity ideas for managing worries.

Critique: Especially appropriate for children ages 4-9, "Whatever Comes Tomorrow" is an unreservedly recommended addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library emotional life skills and feelings/self-esteem picture book collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that there is also a paperback edition (9781646868421, $9.99) readily available from Barefoot Books.

Editorial Note #1: Rebecca Gardyn Levington ( is a children's book author, poet and journalist with a particular penchant for penning both playful and poignant picture books and poems -- primarily in rhyme. Rebecca's award-winning poems and articles have appeared in numerous anthologies, newspapers and magazines.

Editorial Note #2; Mariona Cabassa ( is a native of Catalonia, Spain, who has illustrated over 80 children's books. She studied at art school in Barcelona, followed by further research in Strasbourg, France. Her many subsequent years of working as an illustrator, painter, installation maker and tattoo artist reflect her fascination with form and her desire to explore different palettes. Mariona's technique combines water-based paints, pencils and a digital touch to create rich and detailed illustrations, bursting with color and movement.

I'm Going to Have a Good Day!
Tiania Haneline, author
Scarlett Gray Smith, author
Stephanie Dehennin, illustrator
c/o HarperCollins Children's Books
9780310771296, $18.99, HC, 40pp

Synopsis: Every morning as her mom brushes her hair, Scarlett recites her daily affirmations. Those powerful words travel with her throughout her day, helping her replace negative thoughts with positive ones and live out the truth that she is beautiful, strong, brave, kind, and worthy of love.

Critique: "I'm Going to Have a Good Day!: Daily Affirmations with Scarlett" is fun-filled and inspiring children's picture book that also includes a list of uplifting and child-friendly statements children can use to create their own daily affirmation routine. With fun illustrations from Stephanie Dehennin that make the story come alive, young readers will discover how much words matter in your own lives. While available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99), "I'm Going to Have a Good Day!: Daily Affirmations with Scarlett" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library Children's Self-Esteem picture books for children ages 4-8.

Editorial Note #1: Tiania Haneline and Scarlett Gray Smith make up one of TikTok's most positive (and self-love-centric) mother/daughter duos. The East Coast-based pair is well-known for their sweet affirmation videos, with their most viral moments attracting the attention of Good Morning America, POPSUGAR, USA Today and more. Growing up in an affirming household herself, Tiania was determined to pass the same values onto Scarlett and her two sons, Walker and Reice. She began repeating affirmations with Scarlett while doing her hair every morning, teaching her to embrace the beauty of her skin, curls, kindness and every trait in between. With the power of TikTok, Tiania and Scarlett are spreading that joy and self-love to an audience of more than four million.

Editorial Note #2: Stephanie Dehennin ( is an illustrator based in Antwerp, Belgium. After studying illustration at Saint Lukas in Ghent, she became a freelance art director in the magazine world, but never stopped drawing and painting. The love for illustration was too strong to ignore, so she decided to dedicate the rest of her career to drawing and painting for children.

Books in Series

Throne of Glass Box Set
Sarah J. Maas
Bloomsbury Children's Books
9781547603930, $97.92, Boxed Set, 5008pp

Synopsis: When magic has gone from the world, and a vicious king rules from his throne of glass, an assassin comes to the castle. She does not come to kill, but to win her freedom. If she can defeat twenty-three killers, thieves, and warriors in a competition to find the greatest assassin in the land, she will become the king's champion and earn her freedom. Beautiful, deadly, and destined for greatness, her name is Celaena Sardothien.

But as dark forces gather on the horizon (forces which threaten to destroy her entire world) Celaena must fight to protect everything she holds dear, thrusting her into the epic, heart-stopping fantasy series by novelist Sarah J. Maas.

Fans new and old will dive into this box set that contains a 4-color poster and paperback editions of the entire series: The Assassin's Blade, Throne of Glass, Crown of Midnight, Heir of Fire, Queen of Shadows, Empire of Storms, Tower of Dawn, and the thrilling finale, Kingdom of Ash.

Critique: A spellbinding and inherently fascinating saga by a master of the YA Fantasy genre, the Throne of Blood boxed set is unreservedly recommended for personal, high school, and community library YA epic sword and sorcery collections. It should be noted for dedicated teenagers and young adults that each of the eight volumes comprising this series are also available separately in a paperback edition, in a digital book format (Kindle), and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Brilliance Audio).

Editorial Note: Sarah J. Maas has an informative website dedicated to her work and literary accomplishments at

Readers' Favorite(R) Shelf

Readers' Favorite(R) is owned and operated by authors for authors. Authors need feedback and exposure, and Readers' Favorite(R) provides this through free quality reviews and a free feature rich review page, the opportunity to obtain recognition through a respected annual book award contest, and free Monthly Book Giveaway, Book Exchange, and Book Donation programs.

Lois Wickstrom
Look Under Rocks
9781954519411, $15.99

Liz Konkel, Reviewer
Readers' Favorite(R)

Dream-Shifter by Lois Wickstrom is a magical coming-of-age story that finds a young girl trapped in the form of an elk. Gwendolyn has a unique ability: at night when she's dreaming, she can turn into various animals. When she wakes up in the morning, she returns to herself, but a problem arises due to an unfortunate alarm. She wakes up still in the form of an elk and unsure of how to return to normal, just as the hunting season approaches. Though she may look like an elk on the outside, she still feels like herself on the inside but that won't help her get to journalism camp. She only has one option: to seek help from a magician that will train her and help her find a way back to herself.

The plot revolves around Gwendolyn's ability, with the story going from a dream adventure full of wonder to an obstacle she has to overcome. Her coming-of-age journey stems from an ability that's used as a metaphor for growing up, understanding death, and self-discovery. Learning to control this ability allows her to discover more about who she is and how this gift defines her. Lois Wickstrom's story brings to life the magic of dreams and a love of animals through Gwendolyn. Aged twelve, she's dealing with what growing up means such as telling herself that she's supposed to have outgrown being squeamish. By being trapped as an elk, Gwendolyn starts to learn more about herself while also coming to have a new appreciation for animals and their lives, including the plight of an elk during the hunting season.

Humor is casually incorporated into the story such as how Gwendolyn deals with simple tasks when she's an elk such as turning the pages of a book with her hooves. Her desire to go to journalism camp creates an underlying desperation to remove this obstacle as she can't get to her interview and go camping if she's an elk. This delivers a fun plot woven with magic and humor in a story that children will love. A delightfully original adventure, Dream-Shifter breathes life into a magical exploration of dreaming, growing up, and animal rights; a story that's humorous and creative.

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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.

Mister Kitty Is Lost!
Greg Pizzoli
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
9780316056540, $16.63

Cynthia Kern OBrien

Mister Kitty is missing somewhere inside this book! Will you help find him? Join the hunt for five yellow spots, four orange paws, three purple bells, and more, exploring numbers and colors along the way in an interactive countdown. Cutouts interacting with Greg Pizzoli's vivid artwork reveal a surprise after each page turn, all leading up to the biggest twist of all at the end! A great book for fun, engagement and playtime with toddlers and preschoolers! (Baby-3)

Do Baby Elephants Suck Their Trunks?
Ben Lerwill, author
Katherine McEwen, illustrator
9781536224047, $17.99

Deb Greenberg

What could baby animals possibly have in common with young children? A lot, actually... as you'll see in this educational Q&A style picture book, full of adorable illustrations depicting ten animals and their similarities to kids. Puppies' teeth fall out when they start growing, orangutan infants are carried everywhere, baby giraffes (calves) wobble when they start to walk, and whale calves drink a lot of milk. These animals and many others will make young readers think about what makes them different from and similar to babies in the animal kingdom. (Ages 2-5)

I Will Always Be Proud of You
Michael Wong, author
Zina Iugai, illustrator
Picco Puppy
9781922638038, $12.99

Christine Irvin

Author Michael Wong encourages kids to be their best, and tells them no matter what, you will always be proud of them. Vivid, expressive, colorful illustrations featuring a diverse set of characters combine with a fun, rhyming text that kids will enjoy. The book is interactive as there are instructions in the back of the book to find pictures throughout the pages. This would make a great gift for a special child in your life. Enjoy! (Ages 2-9)

Party Pooper
Huw Lewis Jones, author
Ben Sanders, illustrator
Thames & Hudson
9780500652831, $16.89

Christine Irvin

This third book in the Bad Apple series will have you laughing out loud as you follow the antics of Bad Apple at a birthday party. How will he try to spoil the fun, and what will happen to him when he does? As in the other books in this series, minimal text and simple yet expressive illustrations tell a story youngsters will certainly be able to relate to. (Ages 3-5)

Magnificent Mocha Monty
Holland Jordan
Independently Published
9781734851809, $3.99 Kindle


Monty knows his skin is so magnificent and brown. He recognizes his mocha mouth makes such a magnificent sound, and his magnificent mocha feet love dancing to a beat. This book will inspire kids to love the skin they're in, build self-esteem, and encourage self-acceptance. It is important for children to see and read about other children who look like them and how magnificent they really are. My granddaughter loved this book! (Ages 3-6)

My Lala
Thomas King, author
Charlene Chua, illustrator
Tundra Books
9780735269347, $18.99

Deb Greenberg

Accompany little Lala as she makes her mark on the world using the red dots in her box of treasures. She sticks them on everything she sees, from her bear and her book to her boots and her blankie, until she runs out of dots. Join Lala on her creative quest to conquer the world in this adorable picture book about learning to be confident from an early age. (Ages 3-7)

Arab Arab All Year Long!
Cathy Camper, author
Sawsan Chalabi, illustrator
9781536213959, $18.99

Deb Greenberg

Get a glimpse of Arab traditions old and new, as seen through the eyes of these busy kids while they make things and hang out with their friends and family. Food, clothing, music, art, and history... tag along as they learn to write Arabic, pick out costumes for a comic convention, and bake with Sitti. Various stories are based on the author's own experiences, and an author's note and glossary complete this interesting and educational look at Arab culture. (Ages 3-7)

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

Christine Irvin

During a bright winter night, all the forest creatures gather to build something together. Even though these wild creatures would normally be mortal enemies, on this bright winter night, they are united on a mission. This is a story of friendship and cooperation. The illustrations work well with the text, as the reader can tell that it is nighttime, but the forest is lit with a special light. (Ages 3-7)

So Much Snow
Kristen Schroeder, author
Sarah Jacoby, illustrator
Random House Studio
c/o Penguin Random House
9780593308202, $18.99

Christine Irvin

When it starts to snow, children often wonder how much snow there will be. In this story, the forest creatures wonder the same thing: "On Monday, it starts to snow. Silent swirling. How high will it go?" This continues all through the week until the snow ends on Sunday. Then after everything is buried in snow, the creatures wonder, "When will it all go?" The story comes back full circle at the end. A text with a child-friendly theme, written with gentle rhymes, repetition, and alliteration, is tied all together with lovely illustrations, creating a sure-to-please book for everyone. (Ages 3-7)

The Blanket Where Violet Sits
Allan Wolf, author
Lauren Tobia, illustrator
9780763696658, $17.39

Christine Irvin

Author Allan Wolf starts with this sentence: "This is the blanket where Violet sits, eating a sandwich, an apple, and chips." The base sentence is built upon to include the city where Violet lives, the planet Violet lives on, the moon Violet can see in the sky, expanding all the way to the galaxies and beyond. The text doubles back to the beginning, creating a warm, safe ending to the book. Expressive illustrations, gentle rhymes, and repetitious text make this a delightful book to end the day. (Ages 3-7)

Night Lunch
Eric Fan, author
Dena Seiferling, illustrator
Tundra Books
9780735270572, $18.99

Christine Irvin

Where do the creatures of the night get their nighttime lunches? The night lunch cart comes around when the sun goes down and the streets otherwise empty out. Night Owl operates the night lunch cart, serving up tasty dishes like mince pie and ham sandwiches and pudding for Fox and Badger and little possums. But poor little Mouse, the street sweeper, longs for just a crumb of food from the cart. When Night Owl spots him, will he share his lunch? Dark, moody illustrations set the tone for the narrative, which is written in short, descriptive sentences, with a helping of repetition. The book is a nod to friendship as well as to the bygone era of horse-drawn food carts. (Ages 4-8)

A Bucket of Questions
Tim Fite
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
c/o Simon & Schuster
9781665918312, $18.99


Why do kids lose their teeth? Why do seals clap? What is at the bottom of the ocean? Quirky questions, written in a fun way, leading to multiple choice answers. Sure to keep kids entertained as they puzzle through the twist-and-turn answers! (Ages 4-8)

The Mouse Who Carried a House on His Back
Jonathan Stutzman, author
Isabelle Arsenault, illustrator
9781536216790, $18.99

Christine Irvin

Vincent, a seemingly ordinary mouse, travels the pathways of life with a house strapped to his back. When he feels drawn to a certain place, he stops and puts the house down on the ground. Then, he offers food and shelter to any who need it, as the magical, tiny house keeps expanding to accommodate all who enter. It's a book about friendship and caring for others, themes that all can relate to. The illustrations are delightful. The die-cut house on the cover is copied throughout the book to give readers a glimpse into the upcoming pages. (Ages 4-8)

Outside Amelia's Window
Caroline Nastro, author
Anca Sandu Budisan, illustrator
Two Lions
9781542027854, $17.99

Christine Irvin

Amelia sits in front of her window and watches the world go by, but she doesn't go outside because she is too afraid. So, she spends her time looking out the window and reading fairy tales. But, when she sees two children playing in the yard next door, she begins to wonder if she might be strong enough to go outside and play with them. The heroines in her books are strong and brave. Can she be, too? This is a lovely book with muted but expressive illustrations, and filled with descriptive prose. Some science and geography has also been woven into the text. There is also a pleasant twist at the end that explains Amelia's fears. (Ages 5-8)

The Big Buna Bash
Sara C. Arnold, author
Roberta Malasomma, illustrator
Brandylane Publishers
9781951565015, $22.95

Deb Greenberg

When Almaz's classmates don't understand her Ethiopian culture, she tries to think of a way to use her family traditions to make friends. So she invites them to a big buna bash. Learn what "buna" is, introduce your kids to another culture, and let them see that accepting new friends with different customs is important and can bring us together. (Ages 5-8)

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

Deb Greenberg

Marky uses kindness to teach about confidence and acceptance in this tale about a woodland fairy with one small wing. When the other woodland creatures tease her about her small wing, red hair, glasses, and freckles, Marky does something magnificent by helping them understand that everyone has unique characteristics and that's what makes each of them magnificent. The story's message is to believe in yourself and be kind to others. What more could you want from a book for your little ones? (Ages 5-10)

Hope and Fortune
Marissa Banez
Black Rose Writing
9781685131173, $22.95

Cynthia Kern OBrien

A children's story which follows a young girl who is lost in the forest and needs help to find her way back home. Through the journey she receives wisdom from several forest fairies who each provide inspiration and guidance. Hope and Fortune is a children's book with positive and frank messages about empowerment and self-discovery, designed to stay with a child well beyond childhood. (Ages 5-10)

How to Spacewalk
Kathryn Sullivan, author
Michael J. Rosen, author and illustrator
MIT Kids Press
c/o Candlewick
9781536226218, $19.99

Cynthia Kern OBrien

Aspiring astronauts will be ready for liftoff with this thrilling guide to preparing for and doing a real spacewalk with the first American woman to walk in space as their partner. Have kids interested in space travel? Then this is the book for you! Real stories about space training and travel that will have them fascinated! (Ages 7-9)

Zara's Rules for Record-Breaking Fun
Hena Khan
Simon & Schuster
9781534497580, $6.99

Diana Perry

Meet Zara Saleem, the queen of the neighborhood. Zara's in charge of it all: she organizes the games, picks the teams, and makes sure everyone has a good time... and they always do. When a new family moves in across the street, suddenly Zara's reign is threatened by Naomi, who has big ideas of her own about how the neighborhood kids can have fun. Zara starts to wonder if sharing the crown and making a new friend might end up being the best rule of all. Middle graders will learn important life lessons as Zara has the biggest decision of her life and struggles with feelings and emotions that make her less than proud of herself. (Ages 7-10)

Always, Clementine
Carlie Sorosiak
Walker Books
c/o Candlewick
9781536228847, $17.99

Diana Perry

Clementine is different from other mice: she can calculate the speed of light and she dreams in Latin. The scientists say she's a genius and put her through test after test. Clementine is proud of being a good lab mouse, but she's lonely. Her only snatches of friendship occur during her late-night visits with a chimpanzee named Rosie. When a compassionate lab technician frees Clementine, the mouse discovers an outside world full of wonders: Brussels sprouts, games of speed chess, television fame, and a chance for a real home. Middle graders will not only love reading this delightful story, they will understand the life of lab animals. (Ages 8-12)

Haven: A Small Cat's Big Adventure
Megan Wagner Lloyd
9781536216578, $17.99

Deb Greenberg

Follow a little cat on a big adventure as she goes off into the forest to get help for her human. With a savvy fox to assist, they tackle the wildness of the forest. This action-packed story is bound to keep readers turning the pages while also teaching the importance of helping others. A definite keeper for animal fans. (Ages 8-12)

Merci Suarez Plays It Cool
Meg Medina
Candlewick Press
9781536219463, $18.99

Deb Greenberg

In this conclusion to the Merci Suarez trilogy, Merci navigates the trials and tribulations of middle school drama, evolving friendships, and changes at home. Follow Merci as she takes on new responsibilities and independence, learning many lessons along the way, most importantly, being authentic and true to oneself. Young readers and fans of the series won't be disappointed. (Ages 9-12)

The Pear Affair
Judith Eagle, author
Jo Rioux, illustrator
Walker Books
c/o Candlewick Press
9781536217032, $18.79

Diana Perry

Penelope Magnificent spends as little time as possible with her awful parents - a grocery-mogul father and a fashion-obsessed mother who loves expensive purses more than she does her daughter. But when they mention an important trip to Paris, Nell begs to come along. Paris holds something very dear to her: her old au pair Perrine Pear - who lives there. Pear used to write to Nell every week, promising to come to her rescue, but recently the letters stopped. With the help of a savvy bellboy named Xavier, Nell sets out from her parents' ultra-fancy Parisian hotel to find her beloved Pear. Young readers will feel as if they're on an adventure in Paris! (Ages 10-14)

Swift and Hawk: Cyberspies
Logan Macx
Walker Books
c/o Candlewick Press
9781536224153, $17.99

Diana Perry

Caleb Quinn and Zenobia Rafig are exceptional geniuses at artificial intelligence and robotics. Their lives were great until their parents are kidnapped and must use all their intellect and bravery to follow the clues to find and rescue them. There are many dangers along the way and as they often must travel in scary underground tunnels. Finally, they're getting very close but are they about to see their parents or are they walking right into the enemy's trap? Young adults will find this story right up their alley as it has all the interests for their age group - technology, AI, robotics, danger, adventure, teamwork and a face-paced, well-plotted tale with a twist or a turn around every corner. (Ages 10-14)

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