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Children's Bookwatch

Volume 33, Number 7 July 2023 Home | CBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Science Shelf Multicultural Shelf
Social Issues Shelf World History Shelf Civil War Shelf
Pets/Wildlife Shelf Board Book Shelf Picturebook Shelf
General Fiction Shelf Historical Fiction Shelf LGBT Fiction Shelf
Middle Grade Fiction Shelf Romantic Fiction Shelf Young Adult Fiction Shelf
Mystery/Suspense Shelf Fantasy/SciFi Shelf Activity Shelf
Graphic Novel Shelf Music CD Shelf Biography Shelf
Christian Shelf Books in Series Story Monsters Ink Shelf

Reviewer's Choice

The Great Banned-Books Bake Sale
Aya Khalil, author
Anait Semirdzhyan, illustrator
Tilbury House, Publishers
9780884489672, $18.95, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: Upon learning that the books with kids who look like her have been banned by her school district, Kanzi descends into fear and helplessness. But her classmates support her, and together (with their teacher's help) they hatch a plan to hold a bake sale and use the proceeds to buy diverse books to donate to libraries.

The event is a big success; the entire school participates, and the local TV station covers it in the evening news. Prodded by her classmates to read the poem she has written, Kanzi starts softly but finds her voice. "You have banned important books, but you can't ban my words," she reads. "Books are for everyone." The crowd chants, "No banned books! No banned books!" and the next week, the ban is reversed.

In "The Great Banned-Books Bake Sale", author Aya Khalil appends a note about how "The Arabic Quilt" was briefly banned from the York, Pennsylvania school system. The back-matter also includes a recipe for baklawa, the Egyptian pastry that Kanzi prepares for the bake sale.

Critique: Given the rise of book banning in public schools and community libraries across the country (mostly based on Anti-Semitism, Racism, and hostility towards the LGBTQ community), "The Great Banned-Books Bake Sale" deserves as wide a readership as possible and should be a part of every elementary school and community library picture book collections for young readers ages 7-10. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Great Banned-Books Bake Sale" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note #1: Aya Khalil ( is a freelance journalist and blogger who has taught at all levels from preschool to college. Her first book, The Arabic Quilt is based on events from her childhood, when she immigrated to the U.S. from Egypt with her parents and siblings.

Editorial Note #2: Anait Semirdzhyan ( grew up in a multicultural family and lived in several countries with diverse cultures before settling in the Seattle area with her husband and twin daughters. Her illustrations begin as pencil sketches on cold-press watercolor paper. She then inks the outlines, paints with watercolors, and scans the illustrations in order to edit them in Photoshop. She is also the illustrator of The Arabic Quilt and other works.

Where Wildflowers Grow
Ha Dinh, author
Bao Luu, illustrator
WaterBrook Press
c/o WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group
9780593578605, $14.99, HC, 40pp

Synopsis: After being uprooted from their home in Vietnam, young Ha is happy with her new life at the refugee camp. But today is Moving Day! And while the rest of the family is excited to head to their "forever home" in America, Ha doesn't want to leave.

Leaving means saying goodbye to her best friend, her loving teacher, and the beautiful wildflowers she picks daily. She's not ready for yet another change. Who will play the game O An Quan with her? What if she can't master speaking English?

Can Ha carry the best parts of her beloved camp with her? Can wildflowers grow in America too?

Critique: Inspired by author Ha Dinh's own childhood and beautifuly illustrated with the artistry of Bao Loo, "Where Wildflowers Grow" is a children's picture book that explores the emotional struggle of moving and the joy in discovering there's always hope in new beginnings. Of special note is that young readers can look in the back of the book for pictures and details about the author's journey to America, as well as rules to play the game featured in the story! With a special appeal to young readers with an interest in picture books on social situations, new experiences, and emotions/feelings, "Where Wildflowers Grow" is unreservedly recommended as a pick for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library collections for children ages 3-7.

Editorial Note #1: Ha Dinh wanted to be an author from the moment she first held a book in her hands. She is the wife of her high school sweetheart, a mother of two, the founder of the Happy Days in First Grade teaching blog, and an elementary school teacher. Ha seeks to inspire kids to share their own stories and make a positive impact in the world.

Editorial Note #2: Born and raised in Vietnam, Bao Luu ( currently lives in the United States where, as a professional artist, he loves playing with color and texture in his illustrations. The inspiration for different elements in his unique artwork comes from observing everything in life.

I Am an Antiracist Superhero
Jennifer Nicole Bacon, author
Leticia Moreno, illustrator
Bala Kids
c/o Shambhala Publications, Inc.
300 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston, MA 02115-4544
9781645470984, $18.95, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: "I Am an Antiracist Superhero: With Activities to Help You Be One Too!" is a picture book that tells the story of 6-year-old Malik, who after learning about racism in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, decides to change the world by becoming an antiracist superhero. With the help of his parents, and inspiration from historical figures like Rosa Parks and James Baldwin, Malik learns that even when he feels scared, he can still be a superhero by Looking, Listening, Feeling, and Acting!

Young readers will enjoy joining with Malik and his friends as they help other children feel safe, included, and empowered. Inviting children from all backgrounds to become superheroes, this touching story provides inspiration for children when faced with adversity.

"I Am an Antiracist Superhero: With Activities to Help You Be One Too!" also includes a practical section including a glossary of of relevant terms, as well as hands-on guided activities and practices (like creating a vision board and drawing their superpowers) that kids can do so that they can change the world around them by Looking, Listening, Feeling, and Acting like an antiracist superhero too!

Critique: The impressively collaborative work of author/storyteller Jennifer Nicole Backon and artist/illustrator Leticia Moreno, "I Am an Antiracist Superhero: With Activities to Help You Be One Too!" is a fun, timely, inspiring, and highly recommended addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library Prejudice/Racism picture book collections for children ages 4-8.

Editorial Note #1: Dr. Jennifer Nicole Bacon aka "Dr. Jenn", has a PhD in curriculum and instruction from the University of Maryland, College Park, and MEd in Special Education from the University of Virginia. Dr. Jenn is an Associate Professor in Elementary Education, an Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies, a mentor, and a writer. A former special education teacher, she currently teaches college students studying to become elementary school teachers. Committed to addressing issues of overrepresentation in special education, racial and gender equity, and writing for social justice, she participates in several professional associations and mentoring organizations.

Editorial Note #2: Leticia Moreno is an illustrator in Rio de Janeiro who holds a degree in art history and is represented by the T2 Agency in the United States. Her work focuses on the graphic representation of blackness in order to achieve a gentle and delicate form through her drawings, refusing stereotypes in order to humanize black bodies.

The Mindful Magician and the Trip to Feelings Town
Lauren Brukner
Jessica Kingsley
123 S Broad St Ste 2750, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 19109
9781839971389, $18.95 HC, $9.99 Kindle, 69pp (Ages 3-10)

The Mindful Magician and the Trip to Feelings Town provides educators and parents with a tool kit of tips and tricks to help young readers and listeners regulate their emotions. The picture book exploration of feelings is enhanced by lovely illustrations by Jennifer Jamieson as it provides an encouraging tone and invites adventure and exploration. The magician narrator of this story views a young child as a fellow magician capable of tapping into the "magic inside".

The lively purpose that evolves from this effort lies in then using that magic to help others. As the narrator carries kids and parents through Feelings Town "where kids are experiencing various strong feelings in their bodies, minds, and hearts," the detailed story follows a young musician-in-training's revelations about managing emotions with magical strength.

The result is a powerful and detailed exploration worthy of adult assistance and involvement as a young 'magician' is taught about the array of emotions available, and their insights.

The Science Shelf

Nature School
Lauren Giordano, Stephanie Hathaway, and Laura Stroup
c/o Quarto Publishing Group USA
100 Cummings Center, Suite 265D, Beverly, MA 01915
9780760378359, $24.99, PB, 144pp

Synopsis: Kids need a break from screens now more than ever. The benefit from screen-free time spent exploring and learning about the outdoors makes for happier, healthier, smarter kids. And playing in nature gives kids confidence and independence, promoting creativity and teaching responsibility. With the publication of "Nature School: Lessons and Activities to Inspire Children's Love for Everything Wild", all ages will enjoy connecting with nature and becoming inspired to discover the wild places around them.

Young readers can armchair travel through five of earth's largest biomes, studying plants, animals, and their adaptations for survival -- and learn hands-on through nature experiments explained in each lesson. From the arid desert to the salty seashore, investigate extraordinary ecosystems, discovering the role of predators and prey and learning about life cycles, climate, landscape, and more.

The chapters comprising "Nature School" by the team of Lauren Giordano, Stephanie Hathaway, and Laura Stroup explore plants, animals, and life cycles of: Temperate Forests; Deserts; Seashores; Grasslands; and Wetlands. Nature School also features numerous fun activities and informative experiments that include: Bark & Leaf Rubbings; Desertscape Diorama; Salt Dough Seashells; Tornado in a Bottle; and Nature Journaling .

Critique: "Nature School: Lessons and Activities to Inspire Children's Love for Everything Wild" is a premier destination for kid-friendly nature learning, where children can explore the natural world through engaging reading, beautiful illustrations, and more than 30 hands-on activities. While unreservedly recommended for family, elementary school, summer camp, and community library Earth Science, Ecology, Environmental, and Wildlife collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Nature School: Lessons and Activities to Inspire Children's Love for Everything Wild" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99).

Editorial Note #1: Lauren Giordano ( is an author, illustrator, and owner of Chickie & Roo, an educational curriculum and resource company for families and schools. She home educates her two children in Florida and taught in her local homeschool co-op community, where she led nature classes. Lauren is passionate about bringing children closer to nature and helping them develop a deeper understanding of our natural world. Her work has been featured in The Peaceful Press, A Year of Learning, Chickadees Wooden Toys, Wild & Free Co., FunSchooling Books, and more.

Editorial Note #2: Stephanie Hathaway ( is a Kansas City area artist who specializes in creating educational content inspired by our natural world. She believes in using beautiful, dynamic illustrations to make learning about science and nature exciting and accessible to children of all ages. She is guided by the notion that many of life's valuable lessons can be learned from nature. It is her hope that her work will inspire families to explore and learn from the natural world right outside their own door.

Editorial Note #3: Laura Stroup is the founder of Firefly Nature School, a nature study curriculum designed for homeschooling families, co-ops, and classrooms found online at Laura has a Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Ecology from Iowa State University with an emphasis in natural resource education. A former museum educator and upper school science teacher, she now directs School of the Wild, an immersive nature school that serves her local community.

The Multicultural Shelf

Raaga's Song: A Diwali Story
Navina Chhabria, author/illustrator
Running Press Kids
c/o Running Press
9780762482245, $17.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: Raaga has always dreamed of singing at the annual Diwali mela at the Royal Place. Ever since she was a little girl, her grandfather would tell her the story of how Lord Rama and his army slew the ten-headed demon Ravana (the story for which Diwali is celebrated today). While young Raaga has always suffered from stage fright, the more Raaga practices with her grandfather, the larger her audience grows, like her own little army.

When the day of the audition comes, Raaga takes to the stage in front of her family and friends. But the ten judges tower over her like Ravana and taunt her: "You are the color of a moonless night," one says. "Can you really sing?" It will take all of Raaga's courage and the support of her "army" to summon the strength of Lord Rama and prove them wrong.

Critique: Diwali is the Hindu festival of lights with its variations also celebrated in other Indian religions. It symbolizes the spiritual "victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance". Diwali is celebrated between mid-October and mid-November and generally lasts five or six days.

"Raaga's Song: A Diwali Story" is a charmingly illustrated and informatively entertaining picture book story that will be fully enjoyed by children ages 4-8. While highly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library Multicultural Holiday picture book collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Raaga's Song: A Diwali Story" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Navina Chhabria ( grew up in India. An experienced world traveler, she is particularly drawn to stories that showcase cultural diversity and shatter gender stereotypes.

Nomads: Life on the Move
Kinchoi Lam
Circadia Books Ltd.
9781800660328, $22.99, HC, 72pp (Ages 6-11)

Nomads: Life on the Move selects and profiles seven nomadic cultures around the world, from the Nenets of Siberia to the Maasai of Africa. It follows their different methods of living and the disparate environments that demand they adopt diverse survival tactics, rituals, and customs. Each group receives close inspection of their art, attitudes, and daily lives in a survey that links nomadic peoples with their connections to the land and ways of living that diverge from more rooted approaches to making a home. The result is a delightful exploration that comes with intriguing illustrations. The focus lends to classroom discussion and insights into how the nomadic way of live both differs and holds connections to environment and human endeavors.

The Social Issues Shelf

A Hero Like Me
Angela Joy & Jen Reid, authors
Leire Salaberria, illustrator
Frances Lincoln Children's Books
c/o Quarto Publishing Group USA
100 Cummings Center, Suite 265D, Beverly, MA 01915
9780711286313, $18.99, HC, 40pp

Synopsis: Co-authored by Angela Joy and Jen Reid, and illustrated by Leire Salaberria, "A Hero Like Me" is a picture book that is inspired by the events of June 7, 2020, in Bristol, England, when a statue of seventeenth-century slave trader Edward Colston was pulled down and thrown into Bristol Harbour during an anti-racism protest.

Co-author Jen Reid was one of the protesters that day, and despite being afraid of heights, she spontaneously climbed onto the empty plinth and raised her fist high above her head -- a moment that was captured on camera and shared around the world.

On the morning of July 15, a statue of Jen by Marc Quinn was added to the empty plinth. It was called A Surge of Power and it gained national attention for the 24 hours it was in place, and beyond.

"A Hero Like Me" is an inspiring picture book tells the story of these events through the eyes of a little girl who, every day, on her way to school, sees a towering statue. A statue of a man who sold freedom for cotton and tea. The world around her says this man is a hero. But she knows he's not a hero -- not a real one.

Heroes are hard to find. She looks for them around corners, under rocks, and on TV, but there are none that she can see. And so, the little girl marches and shouts for them instead. And that statue -- he doesn't belong. He doesn't stand for Kindness. He doesn't stand for Peace.

So maybe he shouldn't stand at all!

"A Hero Like Me" empowers children to have courage to stand up for what is right and be their own hero. It shows every child that they have a voice in their community and a say in who is on their streets. That they too have power, just like Jen.

Critique: Especially timely with its message about fighting back against the celebration of men who are not worthy of being celebrated, and in a climate experiencing a rise of book banning by racial, religious, anti-Semitic, and political bigots, "A Hero Like Me" should have as wide a readership as possible, making it an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to family, elementary school, and community library collections for children ages 5-8.

Editorial Note #1: Angela Joy currently, she writes for young people in Southern California with a focus on African American history and culture. Her upcoming book, "Choosing Brave: How Mamie Till-Mobley and Emmett Till Sparked the Civil Rights Movement" has been selected as a 2022 Junior Library Guild Book. Release date: 9/6/2022.

Editorial Note #2: Jen Reid ( is a British Black Lives Matter activist from Bristol. After the statue of Edward Colston was pushed into Bristol Harbour, Reid stood on the empty plinth and made a Black Power salute. This pose was then recreated in the sculpture A Surge of Power (Jen Reid) 2020.

Editorial Note #3: Leire Salaberria ( majored in Fine Arts in Bilbao and studied a postgraduate in Children Illustration and graphic design in Barcelona. Leire has exhibited her artwork in different countries around the world. Her work has been selected to appear in Bologna Children's Book Fair, IV Ibero-American catalog of illustration, Sharjah International Book Fair and BIB. In 2014 she won an Honorable mention at the Sharjah International Book Fair. Since 2011 when she published her first book, she's illustrated several books in Italy, Mexico, EEUU, UK, China, Chile, France and Spain.

Who Needs Friends?
Jia Liu
Nancy Paulsen Books
c/o Penguin Young Readers Group
9781984813695, $18.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: Little Merlin the owl is so eager to make friends and tell them all about himself, that he neglects to think about what they want. After a few false starts with no success, he decides he will give up - after all, who really needs friends? Fortunately, though, Merlin then meets someone who is good at making friends. Who shows him that friendship is a fun give-and-take.

Critique: Young children ages 3-7 will enjoy "Who Needs Friends?" by author/illustrator Jia Liu -- a picture book about experiencing the ups and downs of first friendships. Children will easily relate to Merlin the Owl's predicament and his funny friend-making tips -- including the gentle reminders to "share your worms" and "listen as much as you squawk!" Original, charming, and with an important message about friendship, "Who Needs Friends?" is especially and unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library Life Skills picture book collections -- and available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99).

Editorial Note: Jia Liu ( has illustrated numerous picture books, including Bugs in Danger (by Mark Kurlansky), Bedtime for Beasties (by Leslie Staub), Terrific Tongues! (by Maria Gianferrari), the Arithmechicks series (by Ann Marie Stephens), and the What Shapes Our Earth? series (by Nadia Higgins). Who Needs Friends? is her first book as both author and illustrator. She works with many different media and enjoys bringing playfulness and humor into her work. She also teaches art at the Maryland Institute College of Art and Towson University.

The World History Shelf

How the New Seven Wonders of the World Were Built
Jiri Bartunek, author
Tom Velcovsky, author
Jan Sramek, illustrator
Albatros Media
9788000068435, $17.95, HC, 56pp

Synopsis: The Great Wall of China, Petra, The Colosseum, Chichen Itza, Machu Picchu, The Taj Mahal, and Christ the Redeemer were selected as the new seven wonders of the world by over 600 million people who participated in a vote between 2000 and 2007. But have you ever wondered how these monumental structures were built centuries ago without using the modern technologies and heavy machinery that is available today?

"How the New Seven Wonders of the World Were Built" will give you the answers you are looking for.

These buildings are a unique cross-section of world architecture and "How the New Seven Wonders of the World Were Built" offers a unique opportunity to compare the approaches, but also cultures of the entire world and different historical periods. Come and armchair travel across the world and time and peek behind the curtain of the creation of the architectural monuments that have helped shape the current world.

Critique: Expertly illustrated by artist Jan Sramek in support of co-authors Jiri Barnunek and Tom Velcovsky informative narrative, "How the New Seven Wonders of the World Were Built" is large format (12.68 x 0.47 x 9.53 inches, 1.32 pounds) hardcover picture book from Albatros Media that is especially and unreservedly recommended for elementary school, middle school, and community library architecture, monument, and history themed picture book collections.

Editorial Note #1: Jiri Bartunek ( comes from the Czech Republic. He graduated in Classical Archaeology and gained his doctorate in Ancient History. He has lived in the United Kingdom, Sweden and Iceland. He works as an archaeologist and historian with interests in technical, social, military, eschatological and other, lesser-known aspects of ancient civilizations. His main professional purpose is popularization of history for the general public, which he achieves by his publications, exhibition-related work at museums, and practical demonstrations including fencing shows.

Editorial Note #2: Tom Velcovsky ( is a graduate in Audiovisual Production from the Silesian University in Opava, Czechia, where he specialized in screenwriting and storyboards. Before switching to children's books and the making of comic strips, he worked in advertising.

Editorial Note #3: Jan Sramek ( is a visual artist, illustrator and teacher from the Czech Republic. His work has been presented at galleries and festivals all over the world, notably in London, New York, Amsterdam, Seoul, and Beijing. His illustrations for the book That's Metro, Man! were selected for a prestigious exhibition at the Bologna Children's Book Fair in 2020.

People Power: Peaceful Protests that Changed the World
Rebecca June, author
Ximo Abadia, illustrator
Jose Enrique Macian, translator
Prestel Junior
c/o Prestel Publishing
9783791375403, $16.95, HC, 64pp

Synopsis: Filled with colorful, detailed illustrations and straightforward, engaging texts, "People Power: Peaceful Protests that Changed the World" by the team of author/storyteller Rebecca June and artist/illustrator Ximo Abadia is a unique picture book that uses double-page spreads to tell the story of world-changing moments when justice prevailed over intolerance, and peace overcame conflict.

Neither preachy nor pedantic, the "People Power" text offers clear-eyed information in a way that kids can relate to, helping them understand issues that they are probably already aware of, such as climate change, and introducing them to events which happened decades ago or worlds away.

Throughout this optimistic and hopeful book, the message is clear -- peaceful protest can effect change, and everyone's voice matters.

Critique: Fun, informative, and timely, and ably translated into English by Jose Enrique Macian, "People Power: Peaceful Protests that Changed the World" is a very highly recommended addition to family, elementary school, and community library Modern History and Political Science collections for children ages 6-9.

Editorial Note #1: Rebecca June is a translator, storyteller and writer. From a young age, she participated in marches and community protests. She studied Peace Culture at the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, Spain and lives in a forest on the outskirts of the city with her husband and two daughters.

Editorial Note #2: Ximo Abadia ( is an author and illustrator of children's books, graphic novels, and comics. He has illustrated numerous books and other publications. His work was selected for display at the Bologna Children's Illustrators' Exhibition in 2017. His graphic novel Frank, about the life of the Spanish dictator Franco, was awarded Best Illustrated Album at the Heroes Comic Con in Madrid in 2018. He was a finalist in the Golden Pinwheel Young Illustrator Competition in 2019. He lives in Benidorm, Spain.

Editorial Note #3: There is an extended interview with Jose Enrique Macian by Selena Brown at

The Civil War Shelf

Brendan J. Lyons
Brookline Books
c/o Casemate Publishers
1940 Lawrence Road, Havertown, PA 19083
9781955041065, $22.95, PB, 160pp

Synopsis: In early April 1861, the streets of West Chester, PA, echoed with the sound of a rattling snare drum. The orders it marked out could be heard for blocks around (about face, advance, retreat, company rest) but there were no troops in the city to hear it. The Civil War, though it loomed heavy on the minds of everyone in the nation, had not yet begun. Fort Sumter would remain in Union hands for another two weeks and the secession crisis in the south was yet still only a war of words.

But on the one hundred block of Barnard Street, the children had already mustered. The children were already marching. And Charley King, a boy of only 11, was leading them. In a matter of days, the war would start in earnest. In just a few months, Charley would march with the 49th Pennsylvania Infantry into the heat of battle. And in just under a year and a half, he would become the youngest enlisted soldier to die in the American Civil War.

Charley marched with Company F, tapping out the cadence and relaying orders as they fought in the ill-fated Peninsula Campaign, traveled in the long slog through Maryland during Robert E. Lee's first invasion of the North, and faced down enemy artillery in the woods north of Sharpsburg at Antietam Creek. That battle remains the bloodiest day in American history. Charley and twenty-two thousand other Americans were killed or wounded that day.

Charley's final resting place is unknown, but he is memorialized in West Chester at Greenmount Cemetery where his mother and father are buried. Using a wide range of sources, "Charley: The True Story of the Youngest Soldier to Die in the American Civil War" by Brenden J. Lyons is a unique history that vividly reconstructs Charley's short life and the tragedy of his claim as the youngest soldier to die in the American Civil War.

Critique: Especially appropriate and very strongly recommended for young readers ages 7-9, "Charley: The True Story of the Youngest Soldier to Die in the American Civil War" is a quite special pick for middle school, highschool, and community library American Civil War History/Biography collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Charley: The True Story of the Youngest Soldier to Die in the American Civil War" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.49).

Editorial Note: Brendan Lyons grew up just north of West Chester in Downingtown, PA. He has a degree in History Education from Villanova University. In 2004 as part of his Eagle Scout project, Lyons took up the cause of funding and building a monument to Charley, which now stands in Greenmount Cemetery in West Chester.

The Pets/Wildlife Shelf

The Puppy Adventures of Porter and Midge: Out and About
Giselle Nevada, author
Jennie Chan, author
Ann Kelble, illustrator
Raise the Woof Press
9798218138325, $24.99, HC, 38pp

Synopsis: "The Puppy Adventures of Porter and Midge: Out and About" is engaging picture book tale that follows two young children, CJ and Lora, who dream of riding on a float during the Independence Day Parade with their adorable new puppies. But there's a catch -- puppies need basic training before they can join the parade.

Children will fully enjoy joining CJ and Lora on their exciting journey as they learn how to train their puppies to be confident, calm, and open to new experiences. Will they succeed in time for the parade?

"The Puppy Adventures of Porter and Midge: Out and About" is the perfect solution!

Critique: "The Puppy Adventures of Porter and Midge: Out and About" by co-authors Jennie Chen and Giselle Nevada, with illustrations by Ann Kelble well serves as a quick, fun, and informative introduction to the early socialization and training for puppies, transforming them into outstanding canine citizens and beloved family pets. Kids will be captivated by Porter, an apricot Mastiff, and Midge, a Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, as they embark on their socialization adventure. Of special note is that "The Puppy Adventures of Porter and Midge: Out and About" includes helpful checklists that encourage real-life adventures with your furry friend. Together, children and their parents can explore the world while building a strong bond with their own pup. While a highly recommended pick for family, elementary school, and community library Pets/Wildlife picture book collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Puppy Adventures of Porter and Midge: Out and About" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note #1: Giselle Nevada ( has owned several mastiffs. Some she acquired from reputable breeders and others she rescued as adults. Fostering rescued mastiffs and helping them work through their issues led to a keen interest in socialization as a means of preventing future issues. She loves working with her dogs and has dabbled in carting, conformation, agility, rally, trick dog, nose work, and many other canine sports. Her puppy Porter is a testament to early socialization - he has achieved many performance dog titles and has done commercial work. He also has a role in a movie called Match Me If You Can directed by Marian Yeager.

Editorial Note #2: Jennie Chen ( has been active in purpose bred dogs since 2001 earning over 75 titles in conformation, competitive obedience, rally, herding, lure coursing, weight pull, drafting, water rescue, packing, and animal assisted therapy. Jennie has served on various board and committee positions in the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Club of America, the Lowchen Club of America, as well as regional Newfoundland and Bernese Mountain Dog Clubs. She is a GSMDCA draft judge and weight pull judge.

Editorial Note #3: Ann Kelble ( is a gifted artist, illustrator, and picture book maker.

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.

Critique: The bouncy text and vibrant illustrations in this sturdy board book show little nature lovers how to easily protect meadows while enjoying one of Earth's loveliest features. Delightfully entertaining and with an important message regarding the importance and fragility of the natural wilderness habitats of animals and plants, "Hello, Meadow!" is especially and unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, and community library board book collections for very young children ages 1-3.

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 the illustrator behind Eat Up, Bear! and The One and Only Wolfgang, written by Instagram sensation Steve Greig aka @wolfgang2242 and author Mary Rand Hess, and the Frankie Sparks, Third Grade Inventor series. She lives in Helsinki, Finland.

The Picturebook Shelf

Fire Shapes the World
Joanna Cooke, author
Cornelia Li, illustrator
Diana Renzina, illustrator
Yosemite Conservancy
PO Box 230, El Portal, CA 95318
9781951179137, $17.99, HC, 34pp

Synopsis: Life as we know it evolved with fire; there is no us without it. With a lyrical text grounded in the latest research, "Fire Shapes The World" is a picture book that shares the primal connection between all living things and fire. Children will understand that fire has the capability to both destroy and create, and that everything they know in the world has evolved with fire.

There is comfort in understanding the natural processes taking place all around. 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. With proper care and thoughtful planning, fire can be a benefit to Earth. We can learn from the past to help create our future. Through understanding, we will thrive.

Critique: "Fire Shapes The World" by author/storyteller Joanna Cooke and impressively enhanced for young children with the artwork of co-illustrators Cornelia Li and Diana Renzina is an encouraging and informative springboard for conversation illuminated by breathtaking paintings, and it will allow children to explore their connection to fire, one of the most elemental agents of change. While also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $17.99), "Fire Shapes The World" is an especially and unreservedly recommended pick for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library Environment/Ecology collections for children ages 4-8.

Editorial Note #1: Joanna Cooke ( writes about nature and our human connection with it. Joanna holds an MFA in Writing for Young People from Lesley University and writes books for young readers about people and nature. Her picture book, The Sequoia Lives On, received a starred review from Kirkus review. Call Me Floy is her debut middle grade novel.

Editorial Note #2: Cornelia Li ( is a Chinese born illustrator currently based in Toronto, Canada. She is intrigued by narrative woven into daily interaction between people and their surroundings and set out to capture the relationship by externalize the ideas and emotions into elements in her images. Her work has been recognized by Society of Illustrators, American Illustration, Communication Arts, The AOI, 3x3 Illustration, National Magazine Award, and more.

Editorial Note #3: Diana Renzina as a web page on the Astound Publishing/Art Licensing website featuring her artwork at

Sky, the Deaf Home Run Hero
Mickey Carolan
Third Culture Books
9798987992319, $19.99 Hardcover/$9.99 Paperback/$4.99 Kindle

Picture book readers who choose Sky, the Deaf Home Run Hero will find it a fine story of baseball, bullies, and problem-solving. Deaf boy Sky loves to play baseball, and discovers that his superpower is hitting home runs. Not hearing enables him to focus on the ball in a way hearing children cannot.

The presence of the bullies and their impact on his life arrives, like his superpower, without warning as Sky realizes his extraordinary skill and immediately decides to deploy it for the greater good, stating the goal that "With every home run a bully becomes a friend." Since he is not experiencing bullying himself, this declaration of power seems to arrive out of the blue.

But Sky is aware of the presence and impact of bullies on others around him, and, like a superhero, is determined to use his special talent to thwart them.

Adisa Fazlovic provides the winning illustrations that capture Sky's growth as he steps into a new role beyond merely winning a game.

Being deaf doesn't stop him; nor does his lack of verbal prowess. He must develop additional skills to win these bullies over and stop their harmful activities, and the meat of the book revolves around the problem-solving, courage, and message that being deaf does not limit one's powers or perspectives.

Parents who seek to instill in deaf children the realization that a lack of hearing won't limit their choices in the world will find Sky, the Deaf Home Run Hero invites important discussions about courage, achievement, and translating one's personal ambitions and success into strategies for supporting others.

Its important lessons on values and making the world a better place supports individual effort and responses to bullying, making Sky, the Deaf Home Run Hero a top choice for all young readers as they navigate life and face adversity with courage and strength.

A Book for Bear
Ellen L. Ramsey, author
MacKenzie Haley, illustrator
Flamingo Books
c/o Penguin Young Readers Group
9780593527245, $18.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: Bear loves books. When Bear decides he wants a book of his very own, he and his best friend, Ellen, hatch a plan. But sneaking a bear into school, a library, and a bookstore proves to be harder than they thought. Will Bear ever find a book of his very own?

Critique: Comprised of a charming, timeless, and original picture book story from author Ellen L. Ramsey and brought wonderfully to life for young readers ages 4-8 by illustrator MacKenzie Haley, "A Book for Bear" is an endearing, entertaining, and memorable tale of a determined young bear and his journey to find the perfect book. With a special appeal for children with an interest in books about libraries, reading, and friendship, "A Book for Bear" is available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.990 and an unreservedly pick for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections.

Editorial Note #1: Ellen Ramsey ( has a love of reading and writing which directly led her to careers as a teacher, a technical editor, and an author of stories for children. Her work has appeared in Highlights, Spider, Ladybug, Muse, and Fun for Kidz. One of her poems, published in Highlights High Five, won an SCBWI Magazine Merit Award for Poetry. Unlike Bear, she has never disguised herself as a furry giant, but she has dressed up as a bear. She lives with her husband and a collection of furry teddy bears in a friendly home in Pennsylvania. You can visit Ellen L. Ramsey online at or follow her on Instagram @EllenLRamseyBooks and on Twitter @EllenLRamsey1

Editorial Note #2: MacKenzie Haley ( is an award-winning illustrator of several children's books. She has been an avid reader since she was very young, and can absolutely understand Bear's love for books. She's lucky enough now to be able to create more picture books for future readers to fall in love with. You can visit follow her on Instagram @MacKenzie_Haley or on Twitter @MacKenzieLea

Cat's Seasons
Airlie Anderson, author/illustrator
Child's Play
9781786286246, $19.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: A charming and original picture book by author/storyteller and artist/illustrator Airlie Anderson, "Cat's Seasons" follows Cat and her kittens as they experience the different seasons of the year -- absorbing all that they bring.

Critique: "Cat's Seasons" is a quite charming, yet deceptively simple story for children ages 4-8 about making the most of the world around us -- and giving something back in return. Original, entertaining, and with an important social message, "Cat's Seasons" is an unreservedly recommended pick for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections.

Editorial Note: Airlie Anderson ( graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design with a BFA in illustration. She now lives in Princeton, New Jersey, in a farmhouse with a barn that serves as her studio. Her award winning books include Ten Little Ducks (Taiwan Best Children's English Language Book, 2011) and Cows in the Kitchen (Practical Preschool Award 2008). Her newest picture book, Momo and Snap Are Not Friends is also published by Child's Play International.

Anna Kang, author
Christopher Weyant, illustrator
Two Lions
9781542039611, $17.99, HC, 40pp

Synopsis: Marker is one of the teacher's go-to school supplies. Her work is tip-top, and she always makes a lasting impression. That is, until Pinking Shears, a.k.a. Pink, arrives and dazzles everyone with her sharp creations. No longer the star of the desk, Marker begins to make mistakes. The trouble is, they can't just be erased; her work is permanent, and she's not allowed to fail. Or so she thinks... until a realization helps her rediscover her Marker magic!

Critique: "Marker" by author/storyteller Anna Kang and artist/illustrator Christopher Weyant is a charming and fun picture book for children ages 3-7 about finding courage and learning that it's OK to fail when you try your best. Original, entertaining, and thoroughly 'kid friendly', Kang and Weyant's "Marker" is a highly recommended pick for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library Life Skills picture book collections.

Editorial Note: Anna Kang and Christopher Weyant are the creators of Theodor Seuss Geisel Award winner You Are (Not) Small and five more books in that series, as well as Christopher Award winner Eraser, Hudson and Tallulah Take Sides, Can I Tell You a Secret?, and Will You Help Me Fall Asleep? Christopher's work can also be seen in The New Yorker and the Boston Globe, and his cartoons are syndicated worldwide. This husband-and-wife team lives in New Jersey with their two daughters and their dog, Hudson. Visit them at and

Listening to the Quiet
Cassie Silva, author
Frances Ives, illustrator
Lantana Publishing
9781915244482, $18.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: Jacki's mama has a rare condition. She is slowly losing her hearing. Together, they are learning Sign Language so that they'll always be able to tell each other everything. But as Mama's world becomes quieter, Jacki's remains full of sound, especially on Music Appreciation Fridays. How can Jacki enjoy listening to music when her mama can no longer hear it?

Critique: A truly heartfelt story that was inspired by the author Cassie Silva's own childhood, "Listening to the Quiet" is a picture book about a young girl coming to terms with her mother's hearing loss and finding new ways to experience the world, together. The charming illustrations by Frances Ives enhance the positive and eloquently presented message about a disability in the family and it's effect on parent/child relationships. A beautifully presented and positive story, "Listening to the Quite" is especially and unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for children ages 4-9.

Editorial Note #1: Cassie Silva ( is an author and social worker of Portuguese heritage living in Vancouver, Canada.

Editorial Note #2: Frances Ives ( has an MA in Children's Book Illustration from the Cambridge School of Art. Her most abiding source of inspiration is the constant yet ever-changing sky and all its colors.

Roll, Roll, Little Pea
Cecile Bergame, author
Magali Attioghe, illustrator
Angus Yuen-Killick, translator
Red Comet Press
9781636550442, $17.99, HC, 24pp

Synopsis: When a little pea escapes a girl who is shelling peas, it rolls off the kitchen table, onto the floor, and an adventure begins. The runaway pea rolls passed several hungry animals. It manages to evade a mouse, a cat, a rabbit, a hen, a pig, and a wolf, finally resting in the perfect place. The girl will find it again after some time has passed for a surprise conclusion.

Critique: Ably translated into English by Angus Yuen-Killick, "Roll, Roll, Little Pea" by the team of author Cecile Bergame and artist/illustrator Magali Attioghe is a circular picture book story, told with repetition, predictive vocabulary, and bright colorful art, delivers a natural history lesson about plant life. Entertaining, charming, original, "Roll, Roll, Little Pea" is enthusiastically commended as an addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for children ages 3-6. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Roll, Roll, Little Pea" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note #1: Cecile Bergame is a storyteller, actress, and director of the Cafe-Crme children's performance company. She was nurtured from a very young age by unusual and fanciful family stories. She quickly realized that words. music, and stories could give her the gift of travel. She has been all over France performing and lending her warm and sweet voice to the tradition of oral storytelling.

Editorial Note #2: Illustrator, Magali Attiogbe ( was born in Atakpame in Togo, but moved to France at the age of 3. All through her life she has enjoyed painting and sculpture, and in 2002 she obtained a diploma in illustration from the Estienne school in Paris. Since then, she has worked on a variety of projects such as posters, books, and toys.

Editorial Note #3: Angus Yuen-Killick is the founder and publisher of Red Comet Press. Originally from the UK, he now lives and work in brownstone Brooklyn, New York.

The Collector of Heads
Ana Matsusaki, author/illustrator
Bruna Dantas Lobato, translator
Tapioca Stories
9781734783988, $19.95, HC, 44pp

Synopsis: There are all kinds of collections in this world including the serious, the funny, and the weird. Imagination has no limits! And Rosalia's collection might be the weirdest yet, as she collects the heads, histories, and memories of those who have died.

Critique: Latin American author/artist Ana Matsusaki's beautifully illustrated book, "The Collector of Heads" is ably translated into English by Bruna Dantas Lobato and explores the delicate and complex cultural aspects of death with great humor and invites children to reflect on the shared and unique contents inside each of our heads. Original, entertaining, thought-provoking, "The Collector of Heads" is an unusual and highly recommended addition to elementary school, middle school, and community library picture book collections.

Editorial Note #1: Ana Matsusaki ( was born in S o Paulo and has a degree in graphic design from the Centro Universitario Belas Artes. Since 2015, she's worked as an illustrator and book designer. In 2019 and again in 2021, her work was selected for inclusion in the Catalogo Iberoamerica Ilustra, which features the most important names working in illustration in the region. Her work has also been selected for the 2021 Biennial of Illustration Bratislava. The Collector of Heads is her debut book, originally published in Brazil and a finalist of the 2021 Jabuti Award.

Editorial Note #2: Bruna Dantas Lobato ( is a fiction writer and literary translator based in St. Louis. Her recent translations include Caio Fernando Abreu's Moldy Strawberries, Stenio Gardel's The Words That Remain, and Giovana Madalosso's Tokyo Suite.

Anna Walker
Scribble US
c/o Scribble
9781957363240, $17.95, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: How will Frog escape the swoops, snips, and snaps of all sorts of animals in the forest and get to the party on time? This is a delightful, gripping, and funny adventure narrative aimed at very young readers, that will no doubt appeal to older children and adults alike.

Critique: "Snap!" by author/illustrator Anna Walker features a fascinating and fun onomatopoeic text that is embellished by her distinctive and impressive illustrations in this funny and adorably charming adventure of a frog. "Snap!" is an ideal and unreservedly recommended pick for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for children ages 3-7.

Editorial Note: Anna Walker ( is an award-winning illustrator and author of many picture books for children published around the world. Her books include Florette, which was a New York Times/New York Public Library Best Illustrated Book. Anna creates illustrations with watercolor, pencil, and collage. Her stories are inspired by the quiet and sometimes joyful details of life. She lives and works in Melbourne, Australia.

I Will Swim Next Time
Emily Joof, author
Matilda Ruta, illustrator
Floris Books
9781782508298, $17.95, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: "When we went to a beach, my tummy felt tight. but it still felt wrong inside. Definitely... possibly... Perhaps I'd swim - next time."

At first the big blue sea makes them feel small and scared. Then the child visits a lake and a river, and their fear of water gradually starts to ebb as curiosity begins to flow.

Critique: A fun and effective picture book for any child who is feeling nervous about new experiences, featuring the combination of lyrical words by Emily Joof and bold, dynamic illustrations by Matilda Ruta, "I Will Swim Next Time" is a particularly pick for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library Water Sports, Swimming, Emotions and Feelings collections for children ages 3-7.

Editorial Note #1: Emily Joof ( is an African-diaspora author, education expert and mother. She writes children's books and stories with a focus on inclusion and diversity which have been translated into Swedish, French and Wolof. Born in Nigeria, Emily now divides her time between the Gambia, the UK and Sweden. I Will Swim Next Time was inspired by experiences with her daughter.

Editorial Note: Matilda Ruta ( is an illustrator and author based in Stockholm, Sweden. She has written and illustrated many books for children, and has been nominated for the Elsa Beskow Plaque and the August Award.

Tiger & Cat
Allira Tee
Berbay Publishing
9781922610508, $17.99, HC, 40pp

Synopsis: Tiger and Cat are the best of friends. So, when Tiger has to go away to Tiger camp to earn his stripes, not for a few hours, but for weeks, months, years maybe, Cat is left with an empty house and a lonely heart.

As it turns out Tiger isn't very good at doing Tiger things. And, besides, he misses drinking tea with Cat.

"Tiger & Cat" is a story about finding where you belong and someone who likes your stripes just the way they are.

Critique: "Tiger & Cat" is all the more impressive when considering that this is author/illustrator Allira Tee's debut picture book. Original, fund, and with an important message about friendship, "Tiger & Cat" is unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for children ages 2- 6.

Editorial Note: Allira Tee ( is an illustrator and author based in Melbourne, Australia. She loves animals and people watching and discovering the uncanny behavioural similarities between the two. Animals, nature and travelling are a constant inspiration in her work.

Percy's Perfect Friend
Lana Button, author
Peggy Collins, illustrator
Pajama Press
9781772782813, $18.95, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: When Percy's new friend is picked up by other children, Percy cautiously sets out to find her. On his journey to retrieve Miss Petticomb, Percy must decide whether it is better to share his friend with his classmates or keep her all to himself. A plush cat, a tea party, and the uniting power of toys may be the secret to saving Miss Petticomb and bringing Percy out of his shell.

He may just be surprised at the new friends he makes along the way!

Critique: With the publication of "Percy's Perfect Friend", author and early childhood educator Lana Button celebrates the importance of toys in play, the power they have to help children practice social skills, language skills, and imagination, and their ability to bring children together. Artist, illustrator, and ALA Schneider Honor Book Winner Peggy Collins captures Percy's growth from uncertainty to confidence on his quest to save Miss Petticomb. Fun, 'kid friendly', and with an important message about being the new kid and making new friends, "Percy's Perfect Friend" is a welcome and recommended pick for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for children ages 3-6.

Editorial Note #1: Lana Button ( is an early childhood educator and a children's author, educator, and entertainer who is passionate about supporting and encouraging children through entertainment. Lana began writing following a career in television and theatre. Her books, including Willow Finds a Way, have been shortlisted for the Blue Spruce Award, The Shining Willow Award, the Jean Throop IODE Award, the Rainforest of Reading Award, and more. Her most recent book, The Cow Said Boo, was a Parents Approved book.

Editorial Note: Peggy Collins ( is an award-winning children's book author-illustrator with more than 35 titles to her name, including Blue Spruce Award-winner Harley the Hero, In the Snow, and In the Garden. A Sky-Blue Bench was an ALA Schneider Family Book Award Honor Book. She has also written and illustrated for animated apps teaching math, indigenous history, and education.

Molly & Nightmare
Shannon Avra, author
David Spencer, illustrator
POW! Kids Books
9781648230196, $18.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: She's lonely at school, so she decides to bring a friend. A big friend. A big, scary friend. She summons a monster called Nightmare, who tries his hardest to scare her -- but he just can't! Nightmare doesn't understand why Molly is not frightened of him... but soon Molly and Nightmare become great friends, and go on many adventures together. And he promises to protect her from the things that do scare her, like loneliness and snapping turtles.

Critique: "Molly & Nightmare" by author/storyteller Shannon Avra and artist/illustrator David Spencer is the picture book story of Molly, a little girl who turns an imaginary monster into a real friend -- and of a monster who learns that he's more than a menace under a bed.! Original, fun, and with an important message about friendship, emotions and feelings, "Molly & Nightmare" is a high value and recommended pick for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for children ages 4-7.

Editorial Note #1: Shannon Avra ( is an anthropologist, a writer, and a seeker of adventure and kindness She lives in Arkansas with her husband and daughter. "Molly & Nightmare" is her first picture book.

Editorial Note #2: David Spencer ( is an illustrator and designer with a background in licensing, product design and print media.

How to Ride a Dragonfly
Kitty Donohoe, author
Anne Wilsdorf, illustrator
Anne Schwartz Books
c/o Random House Children's Books
9780593175644, $18.99, HC, 40pp

Synopsis: Have you ever wanted to ride a dragonfly? Well, there's one problem... You're too big! But if you follow these simple steps, you'll be sure to have a fantastic journey:

Step 1: Put a rose petal in your pocket at sunrise, which will make you shrink. But don't forget: you must return by sunset -- or else you'll stay shrunk!

Step 2: Pick a blade of grass and lasso the first dragonfly that buzzes by -- we'll call her Priscilla. Climb aboard!

Step 3: Joust a bumblebee, groove to the Beetle Band, dine with fairies, and have an adventure. Watch out for the frogs! They love to eat dragonflies, and Priscilla looks quite tasty!

Oh, dear! The sun is almost touching the mountains. Can you and Priscilla zip back in time before sunset?

Critique: With an original, fun, and delightfully funny text by elementary school teacher and and author/storyteller Kitty Donohoe, supported by deliciously playful artwork by talented artist/illustrator Anne Wilsdorf, "How to Ride a Dragonfly" is the ideal picture book for any child in search of adventure! While also available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99), "How to Ridge a Dragonfly" is an unreservedly recommended pick for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for children ages 4-8.

Editorial Note #1: Kitty Donohoe ( has enjoyed teaching students in Santa Monica for many years. She received her BA as well as a Master's in Education from UCLA. Every summer, she attends institutes at Columbia University's TCRWP on teaching reading and writing to young people. Originally from the Great Central Valley of California, Kitty now lives with her husband outside of Los Angeles. "How to Ride a Dragonsfly" is her debut picture book.

Editorial Note #2: Anne Wilsdorf ( has illustrated over twenty books for children, including Pat Zietlow Miller's beloved Sophie's Squash which received four starred reviews, in addition to an Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Honor and a Charlotte Zotolow Honor. Anne also illustrated its sequel Sophie's Squash Go to School, as well as Peggy Archer's A Hippy-Hoppy Toad, Susan McElroy Montanari's My Dog's a Chicken, Elizabeth Bluemle's Dogs on the Bed, and Eileen Spinelli's The Best Story. She lives in Switzerland.

The Shade Tree
Suzy Lee, author/illustrator
Helen Mixter, translator
Greystone Kids
c/o Greystone Books
9781778400186, $18.95, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: Villagers like to come to rest and cool down in the shade of a huge, old tree. But when a young traveler decides to join them one day, a rich man on whose land the tree stands demands they leave because he owns the tree and therefore its shade. Thinking fast, the traveler strikes a deal: one that will enable him to outsmart the rich man -- and ensure that the villagers will always have access to the shade tree's shade, wherever it may fall!

Critique: With simple, elegant illustrations, The Shade Tree is an original and strikingly entertaining picture book story by artist/author Suzy Lee about one person's quest to combat greed for the greater good. Ably translated from Korean into English by Helen Mixter, this modern fable/folktale is eloquent, unique, fun, and a highly recommended addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for children ages 4-10.

Editorial Note #1: Suzy Lee ( is a Korean picture-book illustrator and author. She is also a critically acclaimed as an artist who explores the pleasures and tensions that lie between reality and fantasy and known for her remarkable achievements in the field of wordless picture books, or silent books. In 2016, Suzy Lee was shortlisted for the Hans Christian Andersen Award, regarded as the Nobel Prize for children's literature, an award which she received in 2022, and has received a number of other prestigious awards from around the world including the FNLIJ Award Luis Jardim for the Best Book without Text in 2008 and the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Excellence in Children's Literature in 2013.

Editorial Note #2: Helen Mixter ( is a writer and the translator of several children's books, including the Governor General's Award-winning Harvey.

Gotta Go!
Frank Viva
TOON Books
9781662665073, $18.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: Owen should have listened but instead he's now squirming: he's just gotta go! Luckily for him, Mom and grandpa are there to offer advice and show him silly tricks that can help flush the urge away so that Owen can be high and dry.

Critique: Frank Viva is also the acclaimed designer and author of :A Trip to the Bottom of the World with Mouse and Young Frank". With the publication of "Gotta Go!", Frank Viva shows that he is willing to create an hilarious and liberating romp of an original picture book that will help with what can be a scary topic for children. "Gotta Go!" is unreservedly recommended for family, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for children ages 5-7.

Editorial Note: Frank Viva ( is an award-winning artist and designer who lives in Toronto with his family. Viva's other books include the New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Book selection Along a Long Road, the Parents' Choice Award winner A Long Way Away, and TOON's Cybils award-winning A Trip to the Bottom of the World with Mouse. His art has appeared in many places, including regularly on the cover of The New Yorker.

The Last Tree: A Seed of Hope
Luke Adam Hawker
Ilex Press
c/o Octopus Publishing
236 Park Avenue, New York NY 10017
9781781578704, $19.99, HC, 64pp

"The Last Tree: A Seed of Hope" is a futuristic picture book story of a world without trees, which seems a bleak prospect until a young girl imagines a world of beauty and nature, making the choices to heal and sow new life into this bare environment. The last of the trees may have died long ago, but Olive cultivates hope, grows it to fruition, and gives readers of all ages inspiration to grow, realize, and persevere in their own dreams. Black and white drawings throughout accent the hopeful story of a bleak world changed by new possibilities.

Light Speaks
Christine Layton
Tilbury House Publisher
9780884489245, $18.95 HC, $9.99 Kindle, 32pp

Light Speaks is a magical picture book celebration of various kinds of light, from fireflies and fireworks to bolts of lightning and rainbows. Luciana Navarro Powell accents this celebratory approach with vivid drawings that capture the nature of various kinds of light and its changing properties, from light that "tells lies" to rays that "ask and answer" 'Are we the same?" A lovely, spirited celebration of light's diversity and impact will delight read-aloud parents and kids with a deceptively simple format that promises thought-provoking moments.

Barefoot Books

In the picture book story "The Perfect Sushi" by Emily Satoko Seo (9781646868377, $16.99 HC, $9.99 PB, 24pp), young Miko wants to make the perfect sushi as a gift for her grandmother Babi's birthday. But no matter what she does, none of her sushi efforts look good enough. Frustrated and in a temper tantrum, Miko stomps away from an effort even her helpful grandfather can't improve, until she makes a discovery about perfection and production which offers surprising revelations. Excellent art by Mique Moriuchi accents this realistic story of efforts and failures. Kids who enjoy sushi and who also want to give the perfect gift will relate to Miko's situation and solution. (Ages 4-9)

"Whatever Comes Tomorrow" by Rebecca Gardyn Levington (9781646868414, $17.99 HC, $9.99 PB, 32pp) features lovely, vivid art by Mariona Cabassa as it explores thoughts about the good and bad experiences tomorrow might bring. The contrasts of possibilities embrace a variety of tones, from "new hellos or difficult goodbyes" to "changes that are scary, strange or new. Tomorrow may bring chances to embrace your truest you." Whatever comes, kids are taught that they can not only endure, but thrive. The message in positivity will delight picture book read-aloud adults seeking stories that arrive with an encouraging outlook on life's possibilities. (Ages 4-9).

Eerdmans Books for Young Readers
c/o Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
4035 Park East Court SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49546

Two evocative picture books from Wm. B. Eerdmans deserve mention and a place in any elementary-level library collection.

Olga Fadeeva's "Wind: Discovering Air in Motion" (9780802855992, $18.99 HC, $18.04 Kindle, 48pp), is translated into English by Lena Traer and invites young readers to consider the wind's origins, incarnations, and facts. From wind speed definitions to how the wind helps plants and animals, this lovely survey invites kids to make bigger-picture connections between wind and its impact on humans and nature alike, supporting the insights with illustrations that add interest and embellishment to the science and speculations about wind properties and importance. (Ages 7-11)

Jennifer Berne's "How the Sea Came to Be and All the Creatures In It" (9780802854780, $18.99 HC, $18.04 Kindle, 56pp) is ideal ages 6-10 with its combination of inviting thoughts and vivid illustrations by Amanda Hall introducing to geology, oceanography, and marine biology in verse deftly paired with vivid imagery, and inviting young readers to better understand the sea's evolutionary process and importance to the world. Gorgeous illustrations add visual splendor to the information. (Ages 6-10).

Both of these exquisite new picture books from Wm. B. Eerdmans are top-recommended acquisitions for family, elementary school, and community library collections.

Candlewick Press
99 Dover Street, Somerville, MA 02144

New arrivals from Candlewick Press provide picture book libraries and read-aloud adults with exceptional materials suitable for a wide range of interests.

"Let's Go Puddling!" by Emma Perry (9781536228496, $17.99) represents an invitation to explore the fun of puddles during and after a rainstorm. Claire Alexander's simple but compelling illustrations bring to life the joy and exuberance of a rainy day and a child's opportunities to interact with it. John Agard's Windrush Child:

"The Tale of a Caribbean Child Who Faced a New Horizon" (9781536228533, $18.99) is illustrated by Sophie Bass and tells of a Caribbean child who moves from his home to Britain. The journey is not a singular experience, but captures the history of those that emigrated from the Caribbean to Britain and became known as the 'Windrush Generation.' Vibrant color is captured both visually and verbally as this Windrush Child embraces a new world.

Goward Calbert's "The Fastest Tortoise in Town" (9781536228359, $18.99) receives fun drawings by Karen Obuhanych as it tells of Barbara, an ordinary leopard tortoise who has entered a running race. Her owner and best friend Lorraine supports her impossible endeavor, even though on the day of the race, Barbara is tempted to hide in her shell. Use of the first person brings Barbara's fears, possibilities, and experiences to life in a delightful manner.

"A Bed of Stars" by Jessica Love (9781536212396, $18.99) addresses a small child's fear of the night through a wise Dad's idea: camping out in the desert for a rare night under the stars. A lovely story evolves that moves far beyond a child's fear of darkness to embrace the opportunities of a father and child experience and new revelations about journeys, confronting fear, and sharing life.

Mirka Hokkanen's "Kitty & Cat: Opposites Attract" (9781536223675, $18.99) tells of old Cat, new Kitty, and the many differences between them that would seem to indicate they are incompatible as friends. Surprisingly, these differences actually bring them together in unusual ways, which Hokkanen illustrates in an especially simple, fun story that will delight new readers and read-aloud parents.

Polly Faber's "Special Delivery" (9781536229851, $17.99) follows a picture book's journey around the world as it moves through warehouses on trains and in container ships to eventually arrive in a child's hands. Illustrations by Klas Fahlin provide engaging visual embellishment as the book (which also happens to hold the same title) is carefully packed, moved, and delivered by individuals charged with seeing that it is treated gently and effectively.

All of these titles from Candlewick Press are exceptional stories, worthy of library inclusion.

Nosy Crow

Nosy Crow has a number of fine new picture books on tap which are highly recommended for libraries and readers looking for top quality in story lines and illustrations.

Fred Small and Alison Brown's "Everything Possible" (9798887770222, $17.99) comes with a bonus audio of the encouraging, uplifting song referenced in this story. The underlying message is one of diversity and acceptance as children are encouraged to realize that "every child is unique and their future filled with possibilities." The lovely illustrations and message require only scanning the QR code at story's end for its musical incarnation.

Chris Naylor-Ballesteros's "Frank and Bert" (9798887770000, $17.99) tells of a game between friends which Bert proves terrible at winning. Both of the friends love the game, but Frank learns an important lesson in being a good friend as he comes to realize that winning isn't everything. A fine message of friendship, achievement, and celebration evolves, complete with a QR code for an audio version.

Patrice Lawrence's :Granny Came Here on the Empire Windrush" (9798887770338, $17.99) follows the Windrush experience which unfolds when granddaughter Ava finds a little cardboard suitcase with odd contents. This discovery sparks her grandmother's story of how she left her home and family in Trinidad to travel to a new life in London, England. More than another tale of immigrant experience, this forges connections between cherished objects and past and present as Camilla Sucre adds appealing visual embellishments to strengthen the story's attraction to young readers.

Karl Newson's "I'll Be There" (9798887770215, $15.97 HC, $15.05 PB) features a QR code for scanning a free audio reading of this book, pairing lovely illustrations by Rosalind Beardshaw with an animal-based story celebrating family connections. Various animals reinforce these connections with activities and interactions that cement their love for and commitment to one another in various ways.

Barry Timms and Ged Adamson's This is Not a Unicorn! (9798887770017, $15.99 HC, $14.13 Kindle) comes with a scannable QR code for a free audio recording of the book and presents an enchanting picture book story of a unicorn with a magical, flexible horn. Do these magical abilities make it any less a unicorn? The enchantment lies in the contention that "this creature's never what it seems." A delightful foray into transformation and change evolves.

Highly recommended for family, elementary school, and community library collectons, all of these new titles from Nosy Crow are delightful, spirited presentations that invite kids and read-aloud adults to enjoy.

Penguin Books

New picture books from Penguin provide young readers and read-aloud adults the opportunity to expand perceptions and enjoy life-affirming, uplifting insights about the world.

One such acquisition is E. Charlton-Trujillo and Pat Zietlow Miller's "A Girl can Build Anything" (9780593463741, $18.99), which enjoys fun illustrations by Keisha Morris as it celebrates all the ways girls can make things, from ideas on paper to brick and mortar creations. These empowering lessons encourage girls to extend their abilities from dreams to real projects.

Anna Kim's Danbi's Favorite Day (9780451478931, $18.99) tells of a Korean girl's invitation to her friends to celebrate Children's Day, as she did in Korea. The problem is that the magical embellishments she experienced in Korea are different in this country. When an event threatens to spoil the party, can Danbi adapt?

Alana Tyson's "My Red, White, and Blue: (9780593525708, $18.99) personalizes the American flag's meaning for young readers, acknowledging that what is a symbol of hope for some may represent repression and loss for others. Black history is profiled through a review of American ideals and black experience, illustrated by the vivid drawings of London Ladd in a rhyming exploration that invites discussion, celebration, and debate.

Ani DiFranco's "The Knowing" (9780593383759, $18.99) is painted by Julia Mathew and presents a lullaby about empowerment and embracing one's inner light and strengths. A gentle rhyme accompanies a first-person consideration of identity, favorite things, and a review of life and the "gifts that I am here to give" to the world.

All of these new children's books are fine and recommended acquisitions to family, elementary school, and community library collections for young readers.

Red Comet Press

"Apple Pie Picnic" by Alicia Duran and Brian Fitzgerald (9781636550619, $18.99) is the picture book story of Rosa and her familia, who experience the seasonal changes of the apple trees and celebrate the moment when apple pie comes from their cultivation efforts. Lovely illustrations by Brian Fitzgerald bring to life this bilingual story of the sun, rain, birds, and others that call the apple trees home or participate in their growth and enjoyment. Read-aloud parents will appreciate this opportunity to introduce the rich bounty of apple trees and Spanish words to the very young.

"Walter Finds His Voice: The Story of a Shy Crocodile" by Ann Kim Ha (9781636550503, $18.99) tells of an exceedingly shy croc who hides in the swamp, hoping nobody will notice him. Where most crocs hide in order to pounce on prey, this is not Walter's motivation. Picture book readers who also happen to be shy will relate to this shy croc's desire to join in with others while being too afraid that they will laugh at him, mock his differences, and reject his presence. Read-aloud adults who choose this story for its bigger-picture insights on shyness and inclusion will find its surprise events delightful, holding both entertainment value and lessons for kids who fear the world. The delightful, simple story receives visual embellishment that is revealing and fun.

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

These new picture book celebrations from Simon & Schuster are highly recommended choices for libraries seeking standout acquisitions that will withstand the test of time and attract over the years.

Barry Wittenstein's "The Day the River Caught Fire: How the Cuyahoga River Exploded and Ignited the Earth Day Movement" (9781534480834, $18.99) captures a real event and its long-ranging impact. Jessie Hartland's illustrations accompany a discourse that shows how a single pivotal moment in Cleveland's history led to a nation-wide movement and world-wide changes, providing readers ages 4-8 with a captivating, true story.

April Pulley Sayre works with Jeff Sayre to present "In Between" (9781534487819, $18.99), which uses the animal kingdom to illustrate the feeling of being "in between" that all creatures experience, albeit in different ways. From creatures that "almost landed, but not yet" to those on the cusp of "holding tight/letting go," this uncertain stage of life development is powerfully rendered using a minimum of words and maximum visual impact.

David Walker's "The Not-So-Brave Little Lion" (9781481443470, $18.99) gives readers ages 4-8 the warm story of Little Lion and his friend Bird, who are too scared and small to play with anyone bigger. If only they were big, too! Little Lion comes into his own special strength when his bird friend needs help in this gentle story of courage and ability.

Taeeun Yoo's "Love Makes a Garden Grow" (9781534442863, $18.99) gives kids ages 4-8 a warm story of a little girl and her grandfather who bond over a lovely garden until Grandfather is forced to move and the girl also moves away. What can still connect them over distance and changed circumstances? A garden, of course ... even though it becomes very different. This beautiful story of growth and change evolves a positive message.

Robin Page's "Shall We Dance?" (9781665916059, $18.99) tells of animals that dance, from leaping mudskippers and flagging frogs to clapping walruses and tangoing scorpions. Animal facts are presented in a dance of life that will intrigue, educate, and attract young readers interested in all kids of animal habits.

"I Am a Great Friend!" by Lauren Stohler (9781665918336, $18.99) tells of an adventurous capybara who thinks he is a good friend, but faces the reality that he's the only one without birds perched on his back. His antics either drive away friendship possibilities or lead him to be ignored. How can his friendship be recognized as the attraction he knows it can be? A thought-provoking story evolves.

The board book "Lake Life With You", written by Cindy Jin (9781665935142, $7.99), is a lovely celebration of nature that read-aloud adults will want to use to introduce the very young to the attractions of the outdoors. Gorgeous illustrations by Andres Landazabal provide the colorful reinforcement of lake life and togetherness that makes for a dual attraction.

Cyndi Marko's "Gilly's Monster Trap" (9781665907552, $18.99) will reach ages 4-8 with the inviting story of a monster that threatens Lighthouse Bay, and the little girl who determines to capture him. Gilly enlists the help of the townspeople to trap this menace, but the surprise that evolves changes everything.

Drew Beckmeyer's "I Am a Tornado" (9781665916745, $18.99) anthropomorphizes Tornado, who is good at spinning up trouble. Is Tornado upset about how others view him? You bet he is. His view of himself as powerful and limitless receives closer inspection and new revelations in this delightful story.

Jessie Sima's "Weather Together" (9781665916981, $18.99) returns friends Nimbus and Kelp to young reader attention as the flying pig and unicorn fill their lives and friendship with rainbows. The only problem is that Nimbus can't maintain her positive attitude like her friend does. Sometimes, she's simply cloudy. Maybe if she ignores her feelings, things will improve? Kids receive a fine picture book survey of friendships, feelings, and making clouds less frightening.

All of these new Simon & Schuster titles are highly recommended picks for discriminating children's picture books for family, elementary school, and community library collections.

The General Fiction Shelf

The Garden of Second Chances
Mona Alvarado Frazier
c/o Spark Point Studio
9781684632046, $17.95, PB, 376pp

Synopsis: Juana's life has taken a dark turn. Accused of her husband's death, she's now a seventeen-year-old mother, alone and undocumented in a prison cell. No one believes her when she claims she's innocent, not even the prison staff or the gang leader in her block who torments her relentlessly.

Her only solace is in her baby, but as Juana struggles to survive the dangers lurking in prison, the threat outside grows even more terrifying. Her husband's furious family wants to take the child away.

With no hope in sight, Juana discovers a glimmer of light in a small patch of earth in the prison yard. As she nurtures the plants, memories of her mother's strength and resilience surface, pushing Juana to fight for her freedom and her daughter's future.

"The Garden of Second Chances" is a story of courage, hope, and determination in the face of impossible odds.

Critique: Exceptionally well written by an author with a genuine flair for the kind of narrative driven storytelling style that keeps a young reader's total attention from first page to last, "The Garden of Second Chances" by novelist Mona Allvardo Frazier is a compelling, original story with a significant message. Unreservedly recommended pick for middle school, highschool, and community library YA Fiction collections for ages 13-18, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Garden of Second Chances" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.99).

Editorial Note: After decades of working with incarcerated youth and raising three creative kids as a single parent, Mona Alvarado Frazier is now fulfilling her passions of writing and traveling. When not doing either of those she's reading, volunteering, watching K-dramas, and tending the family's two cats and her succulent gardens. Mona's short stories are published in the University of Nevada, Reno anthology Basta! Latinas Against Gender Violence and Palabritas, a Harvard literary journal. She is a member of SCBWI and Macondo Writers and a cofounder of LatinxPitch, a Twitter event. She is a 2021 Mentee of Las Musas Latinx children's literature collective. (

The Historical Fiction Shelf

An Accidental Pirate
Brooks Almy
Bold Story Press
9781954805361, $17.99, PB, 326pp

Synopsis: Fanny Campbell is a fiery 18-year-old farm girl in pre-Revolutionary War Rhode Island. Her parents taught her to sail, hunt, fish, ride, fight with broadswords, and be an independent thinker. Those qualities make everyone in her small village sure she will be an old maid until a wild storm blows Will, a young naval officer, into her life. He is immediately attracted by her fierce independence and strength. After a spirited courtship involving footraces, sword fights, and pranks, they marry, and too soon, Will's ship puts back out to sea.

When she learns that Will's ship has been captured by the Spanish and he and his crew have been imprisoned in Cuba, Fanny disguises herself as a man, signs on to a broken-down merchant ship, and goes to sea to rescue him. Along the way, she signs on to the pirate crew of the Bloody Rose and thus begins Fanny's epic adventure as an accidental pirate.

Critique: Impressively original, "An Accidental Pirate: The Possibly True Adventures of Fanny Campbell" by author Brooks Almy is a fun and action packed adventure novel that will especially appeal to young readers with an interest in historical romances, pirate themed adventures, and stories set in the Colonial America era. While readily available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99), "An Accidental Pirate" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to middle school, highschool, and community library YA Fiction collections for young readers ages 14-18.

Editorial Note: After a long and varied career as an actor and singer on Broadway and off, and in TV and film, Brooks Almy ( turned to writing as a new way to explore the power of words and stories. She lives in Italy with her husband, Maurizio, and their dog and cat.

The LGBT Fiction Shelf

I Thought You Loved Me
Fieldmouse Press
9781956636161, $29.99, PB, 320pp

Synopsis: Jodie was Mari's best friend through their teens and twenties. As young Mari began to explore her identity as a bisexual, biracial outsider in a rich, white town, Jodie was her constant confidant, even kissing Mari out of the closet. The two were inseparable as they sought to gain a foothold in life and love as young feminists. Jodie is an entrepreneurial sex worker, and Mari works in the boys' club of video game development in the late '90s.

Then, suddenly and mysteriously, Jodie ends their friendship. Years later, Mari is stunned when she discovers why. Now much older, Mari is ready to forgive, but her memories of Jodie seem to have vanished. Through journal excerpts, letters, conversations with friends, and cross-country travel, she pieces together lost memories from a lost friendship in an attempt at catharsis.

The reader follows in real-time as the author unravels her own mystery, examining the expectations of friendship, the unreliability of memory, and the struggle to let go.

Critique: Of special appeal to young readers with an interest in LGBTQ+ stories presented in a graphic novel format, "I Thought You Loved Me" is based on author MariNaomi's personal life story and is a highly recommended addition to personal reading lists, as well as highschool and community library YA Fiction and LGBTQ+ Fiction collections.

Editorial Note: MariNaomi ( is the author and illustrator of the graphic memoir Kiss & Tell: A Romantic Resume, Ages 0 to 22 (Harper Perennial). They are a regular contributor to (Smoke In Your Eyes) and (Frisco al Fresco), and a Sister Spit alumni (2011).

The Middle Grade Fiction Shelf

Dumpster Dogs: Rescue and Delivery Mission
Ann Colberson Schiebert
Andrew Benzie Books
9781950562411, $9.95 Paper/$4.95 ebook

Dumpster Dogs: Rescue and Delivery Mission continues the story of rescue animals, illustrating how their efforts to "pay it forward" result in new missions, dilemmas, and satisfactions in life. It will appeal to chapter book readers who enjoy stories of canines that combine adventure with life lessons about love and friendship connections.

This installment leads the Dumpster Dogs from the first book into new territory as they consider what happens to abandoned animals and covers their perceptions of human involvement in events that create 'dumpster dogs' in the first place. Black and white line drawings by Jack Varonin bring simple, fun illustration to the story.

Dog Riley still has nightmares about his hard life in Dumpster City, even though he now enjoys a warm home after years of cold and hunger. These memories lead him into a new mission as he and his fellow rescued Dumpster Dogs wonder what happens to the less fortunate dogs that don't have humans to love.

As he reviews his past adversities, the fortune he and his friends enjoy in their new home, and the possibilities of other lost dogs, Riley, friend Gus, and the group tackle the hard problem of helping other Dumpster Dogs who have a hard life and home on the streets. As events become convoluted, the dogs get their day in court (literally) as a host of characters become involved in either solving or perpetuating the issues surrounding the dumpsters that have proved life-saving opportunities for street animals trying to survive.

Children who pursue "Dumpster Dogs: Rescue and Delivery Mission" will find it embedded with important messages about caring, giving, sharing fortune in the face of misfortune, and helping others.

Adults who embark on the read with their young ones will find "Dumpster Dogs" to be the perfect encouragement for discussions about homelessness, giving, and paying it forward. Social issues examinations blend with a survey about helping abandoned animals and understanding the circumstances that led them into this kind of life, creating many powerful themes and discussion points for group or parent/child reading.

All ages will find Dumpster Dogs: Rescue and Delivery Mission a fine survey of not only animal issues, but the broader message of finding and following through on purpose and happiness in healing life endeavors.

Who Wants to be Friends With a Dragon?
Linda Drattel, author
Eve Marie Little, author
Dorrance Publishing Company
585 Alpha Drive, Suite 103, Pittsburgh, PA 15238
9798887293332, $26.00, HC, 42pp

Synopsis: A dragon hides each day in the forest, watching as children and animals play together. He wants to join them but fears they will reject him because of the size of his wings, the sharpness of his nails, the power of his tail, and the fact he can blow fire.

One day, a boy approaches the dragon, accepts their differences, and invites him to play. The dragon musters up the courage to attend the boy's birthday party and, by trail and error, learns that his differences make him fit in!

"Who Wants to be Friends With a Dragon?" by co-authors Linda Drattel and Eve Marie Little is the story of a lonely dragon who overcomes his fear of rejection to find the true meaning of friendship when he meets a boy who appreciates him for who he is.

Critique: Impressively original, exceptionally charming, fully entertaining, and with an important message about the importance of the acceptance of difference for children ages 5-8, "Who Wants to be Friends With a Dragon?" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to family, elementary school, and community library collections for young readers.

Editorial Note: Linda Drattell ( Linda Drattell is a poet and writer from Northern California. She has lived and worked in three world capitals on three continents and draws from her lifetime of experiences to inform her writing. She earned a bachelor's degree in social work from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and an MBA from the American University in Washington, D.C. Deafened in her thirties, she relearned how to navigate social, professional, and family relationships, and has chronicled this process through articles in newsletters, magazines, and in an anthology. She has worked in peer support services, community relations, and as an advocate for the deaf and hard of hearing.

The Romantic Fiction Shelf

Borrow My Heart
Kasie West
Delacorte Books
c/o Penguin Young Readers Group
9780593643259, $19.99, PB, 288pp

Synopsis: Wren is used to being called a control freak. She doesn't care; sticking to the list of rules she created for herself helps her navigate life. But when a cute guy named Asher walks through the door of her neighborhood coffee shop, the rulebook goes out the window.

Asher is cute, charming -- and being catfished by his online crush. So Wren makes an uncharacteristically impulsive decision. She pretends to be the girl he's waiting for to save him from embarrassment. Suddenly she's fake-dating a boy she knows nothing about. And it's... amazing.

It's not long before Asher has her breaking even more of her own rules. But will he forgive her when he finds out she's not who she says she is? Wren's not so sure. After all, rules exist for a reason.

Critique: A YA novel about coming of age, contemporary romance, and new experiences, "Borrow My Heart" by novelist Kasie West is an original and entertaining read that is especially recommended for middle school, highschool, and community library YA Fiction collections for young readers ages 12-17. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Borrow My Heart" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.99).

Editorial Note: Kasie West ( is the author of many YA novels, including Places We've Never Been, Sunkissed, The Fill-in Boyfriend, P.S. I Like You, Lucky in Love, and Listen to Your Heart. Her books have been named ALA-YALSA Quick Picks, JLG selections, and ALA-YALSA Best Books for Young Adults.

Picture-Perfect Boyfriend
Becky Dean
Delacorte Books
c/o Random House Children's Books
9780593569917, $12.99, PB, 384pp

Synopsis: Aspiring nature photographer Kenzie Reed just can't get her straitlaced family of optometrists to take her art seriously. She's resigned to putting aside her dreams and accepting the depressing life that awaits her at the family business. She even makes up a fake, boring boyfriend (Jacob) to get her parents off her back.

But when the Reeds arrive in Hawaii for spring break, Kenzie is shocked that "Jacob" shows up at the airport -- and joins their vacation. Kenzie can't reveal him as a fraud without confessing her lie, so she's stuck playing along while trying to find out who he really is.

No way is she going to actually fall for him -- because even though he's funny, nice, smart, and cute, he's also a liar. Isn't he?

Critique: A fun read from cover to cover, Becky Dean's new novel "Picture-Perfect Boyfriend" will be of immense appeal for young readers interested in stories of new experiences, sibling fiction, and contemporary romance. While available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.99), this paperback edition of "Picture-Perfect Boyfriend" from Delacorte Press is an unreservedly recommended addition to middle school, highschool, and community library YA Fiction collections for young readers ages 12-17.

Editorial Note: As a child, Becky Dean wanted to be an author or to study whales. Now, she writes books that sometimes include whales. Still a California girl at heart, she currently lives in Texas with her husband, where their walls are covered with photos from their travels. She can frequently be found drinking iced tea, watching science fiction shows, and planning travel adventures for herself and her characters. She's never met a beach she didn't like. She is also the author of Love & Other Great Expectations. (

The Young Adult Fiction Shelf

Rain Falling on Embers
Liana Gardner
Vesuvian Books
9781645480891, $16.95 Hardcover/$5.99 ebook

"Rain Falling on Embers" follows the struggles of thirteen-year-old Katie McCabe, whose life changes when her father falls ill and she's sent away to live with an uncle she doesn't know. When her father then dies, Katie becomes part of a whirlwind of alienation and grief that is complicated by her revised living situation and the challenges it brings.

Katie was a troublemaker when her dad was the town's sheriff. Her penchant for mischief hasn't abated, but without her role in the town and her family foundation, she is lost, with only her obstinate ways contributing to her survival on various levels.

Katie's story is narrated in the first person, which allows young readers entry into her thought processes as her initial rebellions (designed to earn her a ticket home) turn into facing a bigger picture than she'd ever imagined. Eventually she has only her rebellion to call on as a source of inner strength in deeper times of trouble: "I decided on my own not to do things the McCabe way anymore."

As Katie resists the reality of her father's death and Uncle Charlie struggles with his new role as the guardian of a girl who apparently cheats and lies, the definition of family and survival come into play to further test Katie's actions and perspective.

Kids ages 9-12 will find in Katie a rebellious spirit that masks an underlay of grief and growth, and will relish her ability to survive new circumstances and demands for different reactions to life. As Rain Falling on Embers follows Katie's adaptation and spunky response to adversity, it proves a solid attraction not only for elementary-level libraries and readers seeking a blend of adventure and psychological insight, but for preteen book discussion circles, which will find much to actively debate from Katie's choices and experiences.

The Order of Things
Kaija Langley
Nancy Paulsen Books
c/o Penguin Young Readers Group
9780593530900, $17.99, HC, 288pp

Synopsis: Eleven-year-old April Jackson loves playing the drums, almost as much as she loves her best friend, Zee, a violin prodigy. They both dream of becoming professional musicians one day. When Zee starts attending a new school that will nurture his talent, April decides it's time for her to pursue her dreams, too, and finally take drum lessons. She knows she isn't very good to start, but with Zee's support, she also knows someday she can be just as good as her hero, Sheila E., and travel all around the world with a pair of drumsticks in her hand.

When the unthinkable happens and Zee suddenly passes away, April is crushed by grief. Without Zee, nothing is the way it's supposed to be. Zee's Dad isn't delivering the mail for his postal route like he should. April's Mom is suddenly dating someone new who is occupying too much space in their lives. And every time April tries to play the drums, all she can think about is Zee.

April isn't sure how to move on from the awful feeling of being without Zee. Desperate to help Papa Zee, she decides to secretly deliver the mail he's been neglecting. But when on her route she discovers a classmate in trouble, she doesn't second guess what she knows is the right thing to do.

Critique: With a unique novel-in-verse storytelling format, "The Order of Things" by Kaija Langley is a fully engaging, entertaining, emotionally compelling read from first page to last. Blending elements of friendship and loss, "The Order of Things" is an especially recommended addition to elementary school, middle school, and community library Contemporary Fiction collections for young readers ages 10-14. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Order of Things" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99).

Editorial Note: Kaija Langley ( was born in Northern NJ and raised on a healthy diet of library books, music and theater performances, and visits to the family farm in rural North Carolina. She is also the author of the award-winning picture book, "When Langston Dances".

The Mystery/Suspense Shelf

Strange Sound by the Sea
Haley Stewart, author
Betsy Wallin, illustrator
Pauline Books & Media
50 St. Paul's Avenue, Boston, MA 02130-3433
9780819891341, $24.95, HC, 80pp

Synopsis: On the shores of Lyme Regis, where G.K. Chesterton takes his holidays, a strange sound haunts the night. The sleuthing mice of Saint Wulfhilda's Abbey School are back for a seaside adventure in "Strange Sound by the Sea" -- the third installment of "The Sister Seraphina Mysteries" by Haley Stewart.

Critique: Enhanced with the color illustrations of Betsy Wallin, young readers will enjoy once again joining Sister Seraphina, Sister Alberta, Dominic, and Marigold in "Strange Sound by the Sea" as they investigate some mysterious happenings on their summer holiday -- and learn unexpected lessons about the corporal works of mercy and the gift of imagination along the way. A highly recommended pick for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library fiction collections for children ages 4-8, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Strange Sound by the Sea" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note #1: Haley Stewart ( is an award-winning author, speaker, podcaster, and the Editor of Word on Fire Spark, an imprint for young readers. She is married to a distiller and they have four children. She sometimes leads pilgrimages and she always needs more bookshelves!

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

Ellie and Lex Mysteries: The Kidnapped Canine
Laurne Kunce, author
Craig Kunce, author/illustrator
Windhill Books
9781944734596, $TBA, HC, 104pp
B0BW4YHGSD, $1.99, Kindle

Synopsis: In "Ellie and Lex Mysteries: The Kidnapped Canine", Ellie Anders and Lex are on the case! It looks like someone is up to no good in the quiet town of Oak Forest. Ellie's beloved dog, Sammy, has been kidnapped. Other dogs are missing from their neighborhood, too: a pug named Ozzie, a husky named Holly, and a chihuahua named Bruno. Ellie and Lex set out to solve this mystery. One by one, they gather clues, follow suspects, and try to find the missing dogs. Will they save the dogs in time?

Critique: Why are dogs disappearing from the sleepy town of Oak Forest? Ellie and Lex must use their minds to track clues, investigate suspects, and rescue the missing pets! Original, bright, clever, charming, and a fun read from cover to cover, "Ellie and Lex Mysteries: The Kidnapped Canine" by the team of Craig and Lauren Kunce is a very special, reader friendly, and unreservedly recommended addition to family, elementary school, and community library General Fiction collections for children ages 5-10.

Editorial Note #1: Craig Kunce ( is an author, artist, illustrator, graphic designer, and accomplished wood worker.

Editorial Note #2: Lauren Kunce ( is an author, artist, poet, and animal lover.

The Fantasy/SciFi Shelf

The Byways
Mary Pascual
c/o Spark Point Studio
9781684631902, $17.95, PB, 320pp

Synopsis: Neurodivergent high school student CeeCee Harper has a temper and a reputation for trouble. Angry at the rumors and afraid she'll never fit in, she makes a wrong move -- and lands in the byways, a world of alleys, magic, and forgotten people, including some that aren't even human. And if she doesn't escape quickly, CeeCee learns, she'll be trapped for good.

Searching for a way out, she gets lost among monsters, drug pushers, the homeless, and political upheaval, and soon finds there are those who will stop at nothing to keep her from leaving. But the byways pull people in for a reason. CeeCee must figure out why she got stuck in the first place -- and before her loved ones are put in danger and she loses them forever.

Critique: With the publication of "The Byways", novelist Mary Pascual presents a contemporary fantasy that will have a particular appeal to readers with an interest in Fairytale/Folklore with a modern twist. While very highly recommended for highschool and community library YA Fantasy Fiction collections for readers ages 15-18, it should be noted that "The Byways" is also available for the personal reading lists of dedicated dark fantasy fans of all ages in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.99).

Editorial Note: Mary Pascual ( is a writer and artist who believes finding magic is only a matter of perspective. She loves stories about characters with heart and fantastical settings that are more than meets the eye. She got hooked on reading adult science fiction and fantasy in the fifth grade.

The Defenders of Dembroch: The Widow's War
Patrick Harris
Sunburst Sagas
9781088027493, $39.99 HC, $5.99 Kindle, 474pp

"The Widow's War" is the third book in the Defenders of Dembroch series, and is highly recommended for prior teen fans of this fantasy adventure who have enjoyed the previous characters' encounters and exploits, steeped in Arthurian legend surrounding the cursed kingdom of Dembroch. Legend has it that only a child can break this curse.

Robby and Lucy fit this requirement, and make it their mission to enter the forbidden land and confront its darkness. But as brother and sister enter The Timeless Kingdom of Dembroch, they come to realize that legend and courage are only part of the myths they'll face as they confront a devastation that is not part of the legends surrounding this strange land.

A grandfather's sacrifice to reach his grandkids and the legacy he gives them introduces the mission to bring timelessness back to the realm and break the poison coursing through his veins. They need to do so at a young age, before adulthood slams the door shut on their ability to save Dembroch.

Also at stake is Lucy and Robby's ability to see their parents again (they are also lost). The history of how Nick and his friends saved Dembroch while unwittingly delivering evil to its door powers a prologue which nicely recaps past events while cementing the lure of action and adventure that lead grandkids Robby and Lucy, into similar challenges beyond their familiar world.

Grandpapa may be immune to the curse, but he can't break it. Only a long night of blood and horror experienced by a young person will work. It looks like only Robby and Lucy can enter this fray and possibly win.

The third-person prologue that sets past and present scenes evolves nicely into a first-person dialogue about The King's Killer and a confrontation that places Sir Nicholas in the position of being the final sacrifice in a festival of bloodshed celebrated by murderers. Wry humor permeates his observations: "As the future third king of Dembroch, I was one of them. Yea."

A cast of disparate characters, from Lady Katya to Mudryy of Kitezh, Page Trey, and Meghan evolve with a mission to destroy Necrosis and harvest the trapped souls, and the Arthurian world of Merlin and his contemporaries receives fascinating twists. These both build on the prior books and add further enlightenment and adventure into the bigger picture of Dembroch's future and the forces pulling it apart.

As the Seers who are instrumental in the fate of this war struggle with the forces both within them and outside, chapters that shift the viewpoints between first and third person create an interplay of action and observation that come from different people and purposes. This succeeds in creating a spectacle of action and explanation that enlightens readers about the political power struggles on all sides.

Author Patrick Harris keeps the action swift and the inspections thought-provoking through vivid description and a "you are here" feel: "Necrosis in my gut, Merlin on my mind, I arrived at the castle. It no longer stood regally over the kingdom, but stuck out of the rubble like the last teeth of a timeworn skull." Monsters, men, and special purposes intersect, absorbing one another and evolving into something different, with the flavors of psychological and physical transformation that permeate this adventure bringing the story to life in unpredictable ways. It should be cautioned that newcomers expecting a fantasy tale steeped in Arthurian tradition may be challenged by the epic nature of The Widow's War.

While Harris does a fine job of reminding past readers about its history and setting, The Widow's War is especially recommended for prior series fans that have the grounding of past events and characters to appreciate their resurrection and revised purposes in this conclusion to the story of friendships, magic, and evolution.

Libraries and young adult to adult readers seeking an epic fantasy world that is powerfully rendered and which expands the Arthurian environment in unexpected ways will relish the depth and attraction of The Widow's War.

Fall of the School for Good and Evil
Soman Chainani
HarperCollins Children's Books
Blackstone Audiobooks
9780063269538, $19.99, HC, 384pp

Synopsis: In exchange for power and immortality, two brothers (one good. one evil) must watch over the Endless Woods and rule the School for Good and Evil. Yet as School Masters, each of them must face a test.

Theirs is loyalty. But what happens when loyalty is corrupted? When the bonds of blood are broken? Who will survive? Who will die? And what will become of the school and its students?

Critique: "Fall of the school for Good and Evil" is the thrilling conclusion to novelist Soman Chainani's fantasy saga duology that began with the "Rise of the School for Good and Evil" and brings the tale of the twin School Masters to the brink of war in a shocking conclusion that will change the course of the school forever. Riveting, original, fun, "Fall of the school for Good and Evil" will prove a welcome addition for middle school, highschool, and community library YA Fantasy Fiction collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of dedicated fantasy fans that "Fall of the school for Good and Evil" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Blackstone Audio, 9798212709033, $41.99, CD).

Editorial Note: Soman Chainani ( is the author of a book of retold fairytales, "Beasts & Beauty". A graduate of Harvard University and Columbia University's MFA Film Program, Soman has been nominated for the Waterstone Prize for Children's Literature, been named to the Out100, and also received the Sun Valley Writer's Fellowship.

Bristlecone Magic
Dennis De Rose
Privately Published
9781737404200, $15.95, PB, 190pp

Synopsis: Today is Jimmy and Johnny Honeycutt's twentieth birthday and everything is right with the world. What could go wrong? As fate would have it, the worst thing happened.
Consumed by guilt, Jim blames himself for his brother's death. To avoid reality, he retreats inside himself because he doesn't know what to do until he stumbles over a root from the oldest largest tree he's ever seen near Honeycutt Haven. It is there that the magic of the Bristlecone begins.

Critique: "Bristlecone Magic" is inherently fascinating, entertaining, original. Its author, novelist Dennis De Rose, has a genuine flair for the kind of narrative storytelling style that immediately engages the reader's total attention and holds it firmly throughout. Certain to be of special interest to fans of Contemporary Fantasy, "Bristlecone Magic" will prove a welcome and appreciated addition to highschool and community library YA Fantasy Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Bristlecone Magic" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $2.99).

Editorial Note: Dennis De Rose ( has been editing mostly fiction for over ten years.

Jade Shyback
Xeno Books
c/o Red Hen Press
9781939096098, $14.95, PB, 288pp

Synopsis: On the eve of Earth's collapse, young Marisol Blaise is taken to live on an underwater 'mersation' known as Aqueous with parents not her own. There, she must compete in the trials, grueling tests designed to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of each trainee, hoping to be assigned to the all-male elite diving team known as the Cuviers.

Desperate to prove to herself, the residents, and all of her parents, dead and alive, that she is worthy of this prestigious placement, she works tirelessly to shatter misogynistic beliefs, only to discover that it was not only the men who constrained her -- A much uglier untruth exists.

Critique: "Aqueous" by new novelist Jade Shyback is the first volume of her new and ground-breaking fantasy series. Original, deftly crafted, and a riveting science fiction story that all dedicated Sci-Fi action/adventure fans will particularly appreciate, "Aqueous" is especially and unreservedly recommended for community library Science Fiction & Fantasy collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Aqueous" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.99).

Editorial Note: Jade Shyback ( is an outdoor enthusiast and avid beekeeper, who left a financial services career in the Middle East to return to Canada and pursue endless hobbies, including writing, by which she finally utilized her English Literature degree to create her debut fictional novel, Aqueous.

The Activity Shelf

Eye Spy
Ruth Brown, author/illustrator
Scallywag Press
9781912650903, $18.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: "Eye Spy" is a child's picture book by author/illustrator Ruth Brown which invites children to come along on a playful journey in a gorgeous countryside landscape through the day from dawn to dusk. The young reader must solve a riddle to guess which animal is hiding, and then search for it in the beautifully detailed illustrations.

"Eye Spy" is a picture book version of the favorite childhood game uses a text with rhyme and will provide hours of entertainment. The page turn confirms the answers, and there is a satisfying bedtime ending.

Critique: Fun and informative, "Eye Spy" is a unique and fun picture book that is especially and unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library collections for children ages 4-9. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Eye Spy" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Ruth Brown is the creator of some of Britain's best-loved children's books. Her prizes include the Earthworm Award, English Association Award, the Prix Sorciere, and three Kate Greenaway Medal shortlistings. An extensive listing of her books can be found at:

The Graphic Novel Shelf

Underground, Volume 1: Fight Club
JR De Bard, author/artist
Rockport Publishers
c/o Quarto Publishing Group USA
400 First Avenue North, Suite 400, Minneapolis, MN 55401-1722
9780760382363, $13.99, PB, 208pp

Synopsis: Seeking revenge against the violent gang who attacked him and ended his Olympic dreams, Karim is determined to battle every colorful combatant in his path.

His only obstacle is the illness brought about by the violent attack, which could kill Karim if he becomes too reckless -- and serving as his conscience is his nurse, who is trying to push him into changing his lifestyle but is learning more about the danger and the allure of secret mixed martial arts contests.

Critique: Created by black belt martial artist and author JR De Bard, "Underground" is sports manga provides a fictional but fact-based detailed look into the world of underground fight clubs. Exploring fighters from various disciplines with realistic tactics and movements this deftly crafted graphic novel will thrill and educate readers and is unreservedly recommended for highschool and community library Graphic Novel collections for martial arts and manga comics fans ages 16 to 26. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Underground" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99).

Editorial Note #1: JR De Bard, known as JRamaManga, is an illustrator based in New York. He graduated from Binghamton University with a bachelor's degree in graphic design and is the creator of the popular Saturday PM series Underground.

Editorial Note #2: Saturday AM is a unique digital comics brand featuring an ever-growing catalog of popular, exclusive, and diverse action manga-style webcomics by independent creators from around the world. Among the nearly 50 visionary artists on the Saturday AM team are @WhytManga (Apple Black), @JeyOdin (Hammer), and @saigaimiproject (Saigami). To learn more about Saturday AM, visit, or find them on Instagram (@saturday_am), YouTube (, and Twitter (@saturday_am).

The Music CD Shelf

Todd 'n' Tina
Avenpitch Music, LLC
$7.00 CD / "name your price" digital

Children's music duo Todd 'n' Tina present Kaboom!, a family-friendly album packed with lively songs, whimsical lyrics, and pure rollicking fun. Not only is the physical CD very reasonably priced, the buyer can choose to name their price for the streaming-or-download digital version on Bandcamp! A delight for listeners of all ages, Kaboom! is ideal for family car trips, children's parties, and public or school library children's music collections. Highly recommended! The tracks are Tennis Racket Guitar, Jellyfish Chicken, Pirates & Parrots, Confetti Spaghetti, Life-Saving Pig, Baby Python, Friends, December 26th, Box Life, and Minimum Parenting.

The Biography Shelf

King Charles III
Jen Arena, author
Monique Dong, illustrator
Golden Books
c/o Random House Children's Books
9780593706435, $5.99, HC, 24pp

Synopsis: "King Charles III: A Little Golden Book Biography" by author Jen Arena and artist/illustrator Monique Dong is a Little Golden Book about the newly crowned British King Charles III, former Prince of Wales. As the oldest monarch to take the English throne Charles III is an inspiring read-aloud biography with an important underlying royal lesson in patience.

Critique: "King Charles III: A Little Golden Book Biography" is an ideal introduction to the current British monarch and a highly recommended addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library Biography collections for children ages 4-8. It should be noted that "King Charles III: A Little Golden Book Biography" is also readily available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $5.99).

Editorial Note #1: Jen Arena ( is a former editorial director at Random House BFYR. She has written over 50 books for kids, including Queen Elizabeth II: A Little Golden Book Biography, My Little Golden Book About the Statue of Liberty, and My Little Golden Book about The White House.

Editorial Note #2: Monique Dong is a freelance illustrator whose passion is creating images that encompass light, life, warmth, and color. She currently lives in China with her husband. (

The Christian Shelf

The World God Made
Hannah Anderson, author
Nathan Anderson, illustrator
B&H Kids
c/o B&H Publishing Group
9781087769806, $14.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: Celebrating the wonders of nature, "The World God Made" by Hannah and Nathan Anderson is a retelling of Psalm 104 inviting young children to enjoy and explore the world God made.

Moving from one feature of the natural world to the next (from the sky and earth to the animals and oceans), the lyrical language of "The World God Made" introduces questions from a child's view such as: What about when strong winds blow? When birds fly far away? When the night is long? Each uncertainty is met with a truth about God's character to comfort children and give them the confidence they need to explore the world around them.

Critique: Author/storyteller Hannah Anderson's stirring words are joined by artist/illustrator Nathan Anderson's soft, realistic watercolors. With the publication of "The World God Made" they have successfully collaborated to create an impressive picture book with a timeless aesthetic and readability -- and one that will resonate with families who celebrate the beauty of nature and the wisdom that comes from the world God made. "The World God Made" is especially and unreservedly recommended for family, Sunday School, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, homeschooling, and community library picture book collections for children ages 4-8.

Editorial Note #1: Hannah Anderson lives with her family in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. An author and speaker, Hannah is captivated by the story of creation and hopes to help readers encounter nature with fresh curiosity and wonder. When not writing, she often finds herself running after her golden retriever, Benjamin, or enjoying long philosophical conversations with her cat, Francis.

Editorial Note #2: Nathan Anderson grew up on a dirt road in the mountains of rural Virginia. As long as he can remember, nature and art have been sources of solace and inspiration. On a given day, you can find him working in his garden, sketching the details of a fern, or out on a bird walk with binoculars in hand. A church administrator by profession, Nathan has a keen eye for detail and loves to travel. He hopes to eventually visit all seven continents in the world God made.

Books in Series

The Sparkles Within
Aditi Wardhan Singh
Raising World Children LLC
9781956870039, $19.99 HC, $9.99 PB, $4.99 Kindle, 39pp

The Sparkles Within is the fifth picture book in the 'Sparkling Me' series, and promotes cultural inclusion and understanding, ideals of cooperative teamwork, and tapping one's unique talents and gifts.

The story evolves through the experiences of Indian girl Tanvi, who faces the challenge of a talent show with the conviction that she doesn't have a talent that can display well, in comparison to others. Her wise mother advises her to "use part of your culture" in exploring her options, but Tanvi still struggles with a presentation idea that will sparkle and shine.

Her supportive friends find good things in even her flawed attempts, leading Tanvi to realize that "Everyone sees sparkles in different things."

Aditi Wardhan Singh explores important messages that parents can use to inject positivity and wisdom into a young child's life and experiences. Colorful illustrations by Noor Alshalabi capture the Indian culture as helpful parents both teach and assist Tanvi in her efforts. Teamwork is promoted as a disparate group joins in to help Tanvi learn and succeed, which is another important theme in a story that sparkles in and of itself.

Libraries and read-aloud adults looking for culturally inclusive picture books that cover Indian celebrations, art, and bigger-picture insights about working together to achieve goals and recognizing each individual's "inner sparkle" will find the vivid messages and celebratory feel of "The Sparkles Within" powerful. It promotes connections and understanding, empowering youngsters to not only recognize their inner abilities, but tap into support systems around them for mutual encouragement and success.

The Story Monsters Ink Shelf

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

Special Delivery: A Book's Journey Around the World
Polly Faber, author
Klas Fahlen, illustrator
9781536229851, $17.99

Dr. Dawn Menge

It's Jay's birthday and he is receiving a very special book. But first it must travel around the world to get to him. Has your child ever wondered where all their colorful books come from and how they are produced and delivered to their doorstep? This is a fun and educational book that will explain the production and delivery of your child's favorite reads. (Ages 2-5)

Kitty and Cat: Opposites Attract
Mirka Hokkanen
9781536223675, $18.99

Christine Irvin

Kitty is happy and energetic. Cat is grumpy and exhausted. With only one or two words per page that accompany expressive illustrations, very young readers and listeners will learn the difference between the words. What a delightful way to teach children opposites. (Ages 2-5)

Look What I Found at the Beach
Moira Butterfield, author
Jesus Verona, illustrator
Nosy Crow
9781536223972, $15.99

Deb Greenberg

Take a walk along the beach and stumble upon all sorts of treasures, from sea shells and pebbles to crabs and bird feathers. Kids will be dazzled by the bright and colorful artwork, as they learn about marine plants and creatures in this field guide packed with fun facts. But the most important ocean lessons are: Only collect things that have washed up onshore and always pick up after yourself. (Ages 2-5)

What Does Little Crocodile Say at the Beach?
Eva Montanari
Tundra Books
9781774881552, $17.99

Cynthia Kern OBrien

A little crocodile explores the beach and campsite in this colorful, noisy book filled with sounds and new experiences that are sure to delight toddlers. It may be for toddlers, but I must be honest and say it made me laugh! The illustrations are fantastic, and parents and children will both find the joy and humor in this story. (Ages 2-5)

Edward and the Horse
Ann Rand, author
Olle Eksell, illustrator
Thames & Hudson
9780500653029, $17.95

Deb Greenberg

First published in 1961, this classic reissue is about a small boy named Edward who wants a pet. But on the 21st floor of his New York city apartment building, dogs and cats are not allowed. But what about horses? Romp along with Edward as he meets Smitty, unhitches him from a vegetable cart, and attempts to take him back to be his pet. This delightful story with bold illustrations is bound to captivate your little one. (Ages 3-5)

The Fastest Tortoise in Town
Howard Calvert, author
Karen Obuhanych, illustrator
9781536228359, $18.99

Christine Irvin

This is a creative twist on the old story of the Tortoise and the Hare. In this version, the tortoise has a name - Barbara Hendricks (yes, really) - and a human companion. The story is sweet, the illustrations are wonderfully kid-friendly, and the lesson (You knew there had to be one, right?) is one we can all embrace. Enjoy! (Ages 3-7)

We Are One
Jackie Azua Kramer, author
Raissa Figueroa and Nina Mata, illustrators
Two Lions
9781542016940, $17.99

Cynthia Kern OBrien

Two girls - one from a city who lives with her mom, and one who lives by the beach with her dads and brother - come together at a lantern festival in a beautiful story of how we are all one, whether near or far, friend or newcomer. Wow, this book stopped me in my tracks. Buy this book for your children and your family, young and old alike. The message is simple but strong "we are one" not just as people, but as well the sky, water, earth, and the animals. Throughout the book each page has its own heartwarming message that will give you pause. The illustrations are amazing, you must take the time to look at the details on every page. Bravo! (Ages 3-7)

Turkey's Sandtastic Beach Day
Wendi Silvano, author
Lee Harper, illustrator
Two Lions
9781662508356, $17.99

Christine Irvin

In this sixth addition of the Turkey series, Turkey gets to visit the ocean for the first time. He thinks he will have a beachside seat, but instead, he is supposed to stay on the boardwalk at Farmer Jake's petting zoo. He longs to sneak away to the waterfront, and his friends help him make hilariously funny costumes. Full of humor, puns and just plain fun, you'll find yourself rooting for Turkey all the way. (Ages 3-7)

Black Boy Hair Joy
Tiffany Obeng, author
Eris Aruman, illustrator
Sugar Cookie Books
9781959075042, $10.99

Christine Irvin

Author Tiffany Obeng encourages Black boys to be proud of who they are, and one way to show that pride is with their hair. Bright, colorful illustrations showcase many hairstyles, promoting a positive self-image, self-love, self-esteem, and self-confidence. The text is written in rhyme, and the illustrations and descriptions of the hair styles make this a valuable addition to any classroom or home library. (Ages 4+)

Sammy Learns to Keep Calm
Sara Israel
Independently Published
9798375405070, $10.99

Deb Greenberg

The newest book in the Sammy Learns series teaches some all-important strategies for appropriately expressing feelings of anger. Israel uses different scenarios to teach ways for kids to regulate their emotions in stressful or frustrating situations. Rhyming text and soft, colorful artwork present a wonderful approach for learning these techniques. A definite keeper in your child's collection. (Ages 4-8)

Ken Wilson-Max
Candlewick Press
9781536228090, $17.99

Deb Greenberg

Eve's favorite way to spend the day is in the forest with the baobab trees, as she longs to communicate with them. Join Eve among the leafy giants, as she gets to plant her very own baobab seedling, one she'll get to nurture like her family has done. Introduce your young readers to the importance of environmental responsibility, and the joys of giving back. Lovely illustrations and interesting tree facts complete the story. (Ages 4-8)

The Night Frolic
Julie Berry, author
Jaime Zollars, illustrator
Little, Brown
9780316591836, $18.99

Cynthia Kern OBrien

This mythological, Sendak-inspired romp to the top of the world and back home again is a bedtime classic-in-the-making. A magically wonderful must-read! The illustrations are amazing. This is the book your child will ask for you to read at bedtime over, and over again! (Ages 4-8)

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

Christine Irvin

Prolific author, Michael Rosen, entertains young readers with his newest book about a squirrel that is REALLY hungry. Playing off the phrase, "I'm so hungry I could eat a _______," Rosen has the squirrel thinking about eating ordinary foods - rice and a gingerbread man - as well as chocolate mice and a frying pan. The text is written in rhyme, which enhances the silliness. (Ages 4-8)

You So Black
Theresa tha S.O.N.G.B.I.R.D., author
London Ladd, illustrator
Simon & Schuster
9781665900348, $18.99

Christine Irvin

Based on the author's poem of the same name, this is a lyrical ode to the beauty of being Black and about Black history. The text, coupled with powerful illustrations by London Ladd, create a moving depiction of what it means to celebrate your heritage. (Ages 4-8)

Welcome to Monsterville
Laura Shovan, author
Michael Rothenberg, illustrator
9781627204774, $17.99

Christine Irvin

Children deal with emotions and fears they can't always put into words. Author Laura Shovan has created a whole cast of characters who inhabit Monsterville, a place where looking and feeling and being quirky is perfectly acceptable. Each monster is described in its own poem, and each one is illustrated by colorful line drawings. This book can be read just for fun, or it can be used as a starting point for discussions about feelings and emotions. (Ages 5+)

Great White Shark
Claire Saxby, author
Cindy Lane, illustrator
9781536225037, $18.99

Cynthia Kern OBrien

Follow a female shark as she heads to warm waters for the sake of her young in a lyrical, fact-filled look at one of the ocean's top predators. If your child is interested in marine life, then this book is for you! This book contains beautiful illustrations and interesting facts about great white sharks. (Ages 5-8)

Bear and Bird: The Picnic and Other Stories
Candlewick Press
9781536228328, $15.99

Deb Greenberg

Introduce your little readers to an adorable collection of four short stories about a cuddly brown bear and a sweet little bluebird. Each tells a tale about these true best friends and the affection they have for each other. Silly and witty dialogue and crayon-like and colorful illustrations combine for meaningful messages in each story: The Flower, The Picnic, The Painting, and The Blanket. Highly recommended and one you'll want to read again and again. (Ages 5-9)

Water: How We Can Protect Our Freshwater
Catherine Barr, author
Christiane Engel, illustrator
9781536228861, $18.99

Dr. Dawn Menge

Did you know there is a world water day and a world toilet day? In Catherine's fascinating book, you learn all about where our water originated, how much is freshwater, saltwater, frozen, and how much water it takes to make a single hamburger. Fresh water sustains all of us and it is becoming harder to find due to pollution. This book is a wonderful teaching tool to foster clean water. (Ages 5-9)

The Tree and the River
Aaron Becker
9781536223293, $18.99

Dr. Dawn Menge

This is a beautifully illustrated book that depicts the very different scenarios that a tree survives. A lush forest, a forest that has been devastated by pollution or wildfire, a lone tree amongst a busy city street. The gift of life for the mighty tree starts with one lone acorn in the river. The tree and the River is a heartfelt story about hope and sustainability for nature. It's a wonderful opportunity to speak to your child about nature and how our world changes over time. (Ages 5-9)

A is for Asian American
Virginia Loh-Hagan, author
Tracy Nishimura Bishop, illustrator
Sleeping Bear Press
9781534111370, $17.99

Deb Greenberg

Each letter of the alphabet features traditions in food, family, and social celebrations, and historical achievements of Asian Americans, highlighting the importance of their continuing role in the shaping of America. D is for Dishes, M is for Movements, P is for Pioneers, W is for Writers... read about the many contributions and cultures of Asian Americans. Front and back matter information and a glossary completes this interesting and informative package. (Ages 6-9)

Love Your Amazing Self
Ofosu Jones-Quartey, author
Ndubisi Okoye, illustrator
Storey Publishing
9781635865479, $17.99

Deb Greenberg

Offering mindfulness and self-empowerment for kids, this collection of lyrical verses that can be spoken, recited, or sung aloud is bound to strengthen kids' self-confidence. Each verse from Ofosu Jones-Quartey, a meditation teacher and hip-hop musician, presents a meaningful theme for kids: Be True to Yourself, Stand up for Kindness, Ask for Help, and many others, each with energetic and vivid illustrations. A must-read for you and your children. (Ages 7+)

Trees: Haiku from Roots to Leaves
Sally M. Walker, author
Angela Mckay, illustrator
9781536215502, $19.99

Dr. Dawn Menge

From the giant tree ferns of the forests primeval to the hardy sycamores of today's urban forests, experience the essence of trees through poems that engage with every season and stage of the life cycle, from seed to photosynthesis. A beautifully illustrated book teaching about the importance of our trees and how they help sustain life for all of us. (Ages 7-9)

Babble! And How Punctuation Saved It
Caroline Adderson, author
Roman Muradov, illustrator
Tundra Books
9780735265837, $14.99

Deb Greenberg

Told in a fairy-tale format, this creative story teaches a lesson about the necessity of proper punctuation. In the village of Babble, no one is heard or understood as they fight and yell, until a little girl appears with something strange that looks like a freckle... the village members soon learn it's called a period, and along with question marks, exclamation points, and quotation marks, they learn the ability to communicate. A unique and amusing way to present the way we communicate with each other, with simple yet delightful illustrations. (Ages 7-10)

Road Trip! Camping with the Four Vagabonds
Claudia Friddell, author
Jeremy Holmes, illustrator
Calkins Creek
9781684372720, $18.99

Christine Irvin

I didn't know this, but Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone, and John Burroughs were all good friends. As such, they took some road trips during the early 1900s, road trips that resulted in inventions and innovations we still use today. Edison set up strings of camp lights and Ford turned his truck into a "kitchen on wheels," the forerunner to an RV. The illustrations are fun and a bit quirky, with the book laid out somewhat like a diary or a journal with lots of color used throughout. The author has included extra pages in the back of the book with more information about the "Four Vagabonds" including actual photographs and comments from each of the four adventurers. (Ages 7-10)

Soccer Queens
Charles R. Smith Jr.
9781536225334, $15.99

Christine Irvin

Author/illustrator Charles R. Smith, Jr. shines a spotlight on some great names of women's professional soccer players, women like Rose Lavelle and Megan Rapinoe. He does it with poetry that literally creates motion on the pages, making the words part of the illustration. He also incorporates photographs of each player into the illustrations. The author includes notes at the end of the book with more information about what he wrote. This is a creative book that would make a great addition to any library, particularly for someone who is a major women's soccer fan. (Ages 8-12)

The Genius Kid's Guide to Mythical Creatures
Sara Novak
North Star Editions
9781952455124, $16.99

Dr. Dawn Menge

This is an amazing book filled with facts, history, and the legends of Trolls, Unicorns, Genies, Fairies and many more. If you've ever wondered where they came from, this book will inform and delight. I highly recommend this book for the adventuresome and curious reader. (Ages 8-14)

Pippa Park Raises Her Game
Erin Yun
Fabled Films Press
c/o Simon & Schuster (distribution)
9781944020286, $9.99

Deb Greenberg

Korean American Pippa Park receives a mysterious scholarship to play basketball at Lakeview Private in this middle school book about friendships, bullying, crushes, academic and athletic pressures, and family. While trying to keep her family's laundromat a secret from her new classmates, she starts to receive mean, anonymous social media messages. Struggle along with Pippa as she confronts many challenges in trying to stay true to herself. Discussion questions, an author Q&A, and a Korean Language Glossary with Pronunciation Guide are all part of this wonderful package. (Ages 9-12)

Undercover Latina
Aya de Leon
Candlewick Press
9781536223743, $18.99

Deb Greenberg

Andrea Hernandez-Baldoquin is only 14 when the Factory, a private international organization working to protect people of color, deems her ready for her first solo assignment. She straightens her hair and goes undercover as a white girl at an Arizona high school to befriend the estranged son of a dangerous white supremacist. In the process, she delves into the son's interests in gaming and develops a crush on his best friend, eventually leading to an action-packed adventure as she tries to trap the white nationalist. A suspenseful spy novel that offers thought-provoking discussions of race and belonging, while addressing issues of discrimination in an effective way for teens to grasp... definitely a keeper. (Ages 12-14)

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