Return to home
page Book Reviews, Book Lover Resources, Advice for Writers and Publishers
Home / Children's Bookwatch

Children's Bookwatch

Volume 25, Number 6 June 2015 Home | CBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Art Shelf Multicultural Shelf
Bilingual Shelf Self-Help Shelf Geology Shelf
American History Shelf Easy Reader Shelf Picturebook Shelf
Board Book Shelf Graphic Novel Shelf Audiobook Shelf
Music CD Shelf DVD Shelf Fantasy/SciFi Shelf
Pets/Wildlife Shelf Fiction Shelf Cookbook Shelf
Gardening Shelf Agriculture Shelf Christian Shelf
Books in Series Donovan's Bookshelf  

Reviewer's Choice

Just Breathe
Annette Rivlin-Gutman, author
Melissa Bailey, illustrator
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781511507875, $12.94,

"Just Breathe" is an illustrated picture book story specifically intended for any young child who feels anxious or worried when facing everyday life circumstances such as going to a new school, taking a test, arguing with a friend, or trying out for a team. In this charming story, the child remembers to breathe deeply in order to find his own inner calm and successfully cope with each new situation. Thoroughly 'kid friendly' in concept and execution, "Just Breathe" is an ideal 28 page picture book that will prove to be an enduringly popular and highly recommended addition to day care, pre-school, kindergarten, and community library collections.

When Lyla Got Lost (and found)
Abbie Schiller & Samantha Kurtzman-Counter
Rubys Studio
Godfrey Sanders Public Relations
9780989407120, $12.95, 36pp,

One day, while shopping at a store with her mom and little brother, Lyla got lost. Thankfully, she remembers what to do and is soon reunited with her family. "When Lyla Got Lost (and found)" is a beautifully scripted story that educates and assures young readers ages 2 to 6 about what to do should they become one of the 7 out of 10 children that get lost in their lifetimes. Authors Abbie Schiller & Samantha Kurtzman-Counter offers care-giver language and practical tips to help prepare young children -- just in case they ever find themselves lost. "When Lyla Got Lost (and found)" is a critically important and highly recommended addition to family, preschool, and community library collections.

Devon: The Wild Adventures of Devon and Friends
Elena N. Marcus
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9780615575452, $18.00, 74pp,

"Devon, the Wild Adventures of Devon and Friends" by Elena N. Marcus is an illustrated storybook in verses for young readers ages 4 to10. Little boy Devon visits the Zoo with his friends Qi, the wise panda bear, and his hungry, not-so-wise mutt, Picco. The Panda and Picco get in trouble and Devon enlists Hot Trot and his army of strays to save them. Violence doesn't pay, and the strays are locked up as 'mean' dogs. A new friendship, a smart first grade girl will help Devon liberate all his furry friends from their scary plight. Devon has several levels of understanding, and its format is amenable to staging or character reading. "Devon, the Wild Adventures of Devon and Friends" is one long adventure story written in catchy rhyming verses, with more than 30 illustrations. It may be used by non-English speakers, children and adults, to study English, on account of its rhyming recall qualities. Reading "Devon, the Wild Adventures of Devon and Friends" to children will be a fun adventure for both listeners and readers. Some of the vocabulary is advanced but their meaning can be understood from the context. "Devon: The Wild Adventures of Devon and Friends" extols values such friendship, learning, peaceful solutions, at the expense of violence and vanity. A deftly crafted and original story, "Devon: The Wild Adventures of Devon and Friends" is very highly recommended for both school and community library collections. It should be noted that "Devon: The Wild Adventures of Devon and Friends" is also available in a Kindle edition ($2.99) and in an impressively produced CD audio book format ($6.08).

Peace, Bugs, and Understanding
Gail Silver, author
Youme Nguyen Ly, illustrator
Plum Blossom Books
c/o Parallax Press
PO Box 7355, Berkeley, CA 94707
9781937006631 $16.95

Peace, Bugs, and Understanding: An Adventure in Sibling Harmony is a children's picturebook with a message about learning to accept and transform negative emotions. Young Lily is frustrated by her younger sister Ruby, who can be annoying and seems to get all the attention. Then she reads her great-grandfather's journal, and learns that when he was a boy, he used to feel the same way about his little sister! His anger against his sister took the form of a big frog, Anger, that sat on his back and dragged down his every move. "Anger plopped to the ground and crossed his legs. 'If you want me to go away,' he said, 'you have to find Metta.' 'Who's Metta?' I asked. 'Meta's not a 'who,'' Anger said, scratching his ear." Indeed, Metta is a word from an ancient language called Pali, sometimes translated as "loving kindness"; it embodies a wish for the happiness of others. Lily's great-grandfather learned that he could free himself of Anger by focusing on a meditative wish for his sister's happiness, and Lily discovers the joy of sharing this wish. "May you be happy. May you be strong. May you be safe. May you live with peace." Peace, Bugs, and Understanding is highly recommended for sharing with young people, and for public library children's collections.

Keeping Fit from A to Z / Mantente en forma de la A a la Z
Moonstone Press LLC
c/o KSB Promotions (publicity)
9780983498353 $15.95

Keeping Fit from A to Z / Mantente en forma de la A a la Z is a bilingual English/Spanish picturebook filled with over 150 full-color photographs showcasing healthy exercise activities young people can engage in for every letter of the alphabet, from "aerobic exercises" to "outrun your pals" to "wash the car"! The final pages (also bilingual) offer quick guidelines for outdoor games children can play, including "capture the flag", "musical chairs", "crack the whip", and "run, run, la guaraca". A "Parents, Did You Know...?" page filled with facts (such as "exercise often helps relieve depression and anxiety by releasing endorphins to the brain") rounds out this jubilant celebration of physical activity!

The Art Shelf

Noah's Ark
Adapted by Linda Falken
Abrams Books for Young Readers
115 West 18th Street, New York, NY 10011
9781419713613 $17.95

Noah's Ark retells the classic Biblical parable of the Great Flood, as recounted in chapters 6-9 of Genesis. What distinguishes this adaptation is that it is illustrated entirely with full-color reproductions of classic paintings from The Metropolitan Museum of Art! The last few pages offer additional credits about each art piece, including its museum caption and a thumbnail of text about the painting and the artist who created it. A truly captivating picturebook to page through, Noah's Ark is especially recommended for public library children's collections.

The Multicultural Shelf

Sona and the Wedding Game
Kashmira Sheth, author
Yoshiko Jaeggi, illustrator
Peachtree Publishers, Ltd.
1700 Chattahoochee Avenue
Atlanta, GA 30318-2112
9781561457359 $16.95

Inspired by author Kashmira Sheth's memories of attending Indian weddings, Sona and the Wedding Game is a children's picturebook, from the perspective of an Indian-American girl whose older sister is getting married. Sona learns that she has a special role to play in the ceremony - tradition dictates that it's her job to steal the groom's shoes, and if she succeeds, she can bargain for a prize in exchange! An afterword elaborates a little more about Indian wedding customs, noting that "India is a very large country, and wedding traditions vary from one region to another. Shoe-stealing, for instance, is only done in some parts of the country". Sona and the Wedding Game is a charming, beautifully illustrated picturebook, highly recommended for multicultural picturebook and public library children's collections.

The Bilingual Shelf

Francisco's Kites / Las Cometas de Francisco
Alicia Z. Klepeis, author
Gary Undercuffler, illustrator
Arte Publico Press
University of Houston
4902 Gulf Freeway, Bldg 19, Rm 100
Houston, TX 77204-2004
9781558858046 $17.95

Francisco's Kites / Las Cometas de Francisco is a bilingual English/Spanish picturebook about Francisco, a young immigrant boy who misses his friends at his old home in El Salvador. He wants to fly a fancy new kite near his new American home, but his mother can't afford one. What to do? He resolves to craft his own kite! Francisco's talent for making kites proves to be prodigious; he's able to sell them to local children, and earn enough money to take his hardworking mother out to eat. Beautiful and heartwarming, Francisco's Kites is a delight to page through.

Finding the Music
Jennifer Torres, author
Renato Alarcao, illustrator
Lee & Low Books
95 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
9780892392919 $18.95

A Junior Library Guild selection, Finding the Music / En pos de la musica is a bilingual English/Spanish picturebook about Reyna, a young girl who accidentally damages the old vihuela (a small guitar-like instrument) that belonged to her abuelito [grandfather] when he was in a mariachi band. Reyna resolved to get the vihuela repaired before her mother notices, and combs the neighborhood in search of someone who knows how to fix it. Her journey leads her to discover the amazing power of music that her abuelito cherished. Finding the Music is especially recommended for public library multicultural picturebook collections.

The Self-Help Shelf

Stickley Sticks To It!
Brenda S. Miles, author
Steve Mack, illustrator
Magination Press
PO Box 92984, Washington, DC 20090-2984
9781433819100 $14.95

Stickley Sticks To It! A Frog's Guide to Getting Things Done is more than a picturebook; it's also a subtle guide to learning how to focus on getting tasks done, from homework to creative projects. Not only does Stickley the frog have sticky toes, he's also very good at sticking to project and seeing it through. He takes short breaks if he needs to, but he always keeps a positive, can-do attitude and perseveres! An extensive note to parents, caregivers, and teachers in the final pages of Stickley Sticks To It! has guidelines for helping a child develop their attention span, work ethic, and study skills. Stickley Sticks To It! is a choice pick for public library children's picturebook collections.

When the Anger Ogre Visits
Andree Salom, author
Ivette Salom, illustrator
Wisdom Publications
199 Elm Street, Somerville, MA 02144
9781614291664 $18.95

When the Anger Ogre Visits is a children's picturebook offering helpful advice for dealing with unpleasant emotions such as anger. When the "anger ogre" visits, rather than attempting to squish it or hide it, children are encouraged to observe and understand their anger, breathe, relax, and pay attention to their emotions without being overwhelmed or controlled by them. "The Anger Ogre visits everybody's lives! // Just remember to be patient when it arrives." Exaggeratedly whimsical color illustrations add the perfect touch to this enlightening guide.

Whatever Wanda!
Christy Ziglar, author
Paige Billin-Frye, illustrator
Shine Bright Kids
c/o Ideals Children's Books
9780824956684 $14.99

Whatever Wanda! is a children's picturebook with a strong message about the power of a positive attitude. Young Wanda is grumpy about having to attend the local Rubber Duck Days festival, responding "Whatever" to her friends and family. A kindly grownup teaches Wanda a valuable life lesson - that sometimes changing one's attitude is crucial. Just as a negative outlook can make one's day miserable, a positive outlook can make one's day fun. Charming color illustrations (that perfectly capture the silly celebrations of Rubber Duck Days!) add just the right touch to this delightful read-aloud story.

The Geology Shelf

This Land Is Your Land
Catherine Ciocchi, author
Cathy Morrison, illustrator
Arbordale Publishing
9781628555578, $17.95,

"This Land Is Your Land" is a versed, realistically illustrated exploration of some of the magnificent landforms and geological features of Earth. Some of the scenic features presented include a forest, coasts, continents, mountains, hills, the Colorado Plateau, the Grand Canyon, valleys, plains, peninsulas, a volcano, an island, an archipelago of islands, and more. Each different terrain is lavishly displayed in layered colors of both daytime and night time scenes. Sidebars and miniature maps give additional information about each different landform. At the end of the book additional educational sections include the For Creative Minds section on Earth Movers, landform sorting activities and definitions, Map Skills, and more. Other cross curricular educational activities and quizzes can be found at, In summary, the features of descriptive narrative verse with detailed colorful illustrations and educational extra features make this a winning choice for young readers age 7 and up. An additional and outstanding educational title from the same publisher that is also highly recommended is "Primate School" (9781628555554, $17.95), by Jennifer Keats Curtis.

The American History Shelf

In the New World: A Family in Two Centuries
Gerda Raidt, illustrator
Christa Holtei, author
85 Main Street, Watertown, MA 02472
9781580896306, $17.95,

"In the New World: A Family in Two Centuries" follows the true story of a Prussian-German family named Robert and Margarete Peters and their two children Johannes and Dorothea, who emigrated from Hanover in Prussia to new Orleans, Louisiana, in the United States in 1869. After being checked through passport control, the family takes a riverboat up the Mississippi to St. Louis, Missouri, where they switch to take the train to Omaha, Nebraska. A journey by covered wagon train takes the family to their land claims, along with many other immigrants from Scandinavia, Switzerland, Ireland, and England. Finally the family arrives at their 150 acre claim and settle in to start to work after having traveled 6,000 miles over two months. The Peters family begins to build their farm with a prairie sod home, planting seeds from Germany for crops of beans, vegetables, and grain, as well as fruit trees. The family encounter different Native Americans during their first year on the farm, but the Pawnee are peaceable, and the Lakota do them no harm. Gradually the family meets new neighbors and makes many good friends. 150 years later, five generation of the Peters family have kept the farm and increased its holdings. A new descendant of the family, Olivia, decides to explore her family's history for a school project. Ending with an exciting boat trip back to Germany, the family and Olivia finally discover the original house that Maggy and Bob Peters came from to make their long journey. Coming full circle in tracing a family's background is exciting and rewarding in many ways. Detailed illustrations of the experiences and settings add depth to this true story, and maps on the inner parts of the covers show the ocean and land pathways traced by both the original Peters family and the descendants who retrace the journey. "In the New World: A Family in Two Centuries" is an exciting true story about an important German family experience of immigration from the Old World to the New. This book is suitable for children age 8 and up.

The Easy Reader Shelf

Sniff! Sniff!
Ryan Sias
Abrams Appleseed
115 West 18th Street, New York, NY 10011
9781419714900 $14.95

Sniff! Sniff! is an easy reader picturebook about a puppy whose follows his nose to adventure! The text is very simple; every two page spread is "Sniff! Sniff!" followed by single word embodying what the puppy smells, such as "Garden!", "Park!", or "Garbage!". The bold, cartoony illustrations of a friendly, mischievous little brown dog add a heartwarming touch of charm to this wonderful book to share with the very young.

The Monkey and the Bee
C.P. Bloom, author
Peter Raymundo, illustrator
Abrams Books for Young Readers
115 West 18th Street, New York, NY 10011
9781419708862 $14.95

The Monkey and the Bee is a children's picturebook featuring exuberant artwork. Its simple story is about a monkey and a bee, whose quibble over a banana turns into hostile fight. But then their bickering accidentally aggravates a dangerous lion! Can a tiny bee save Monkey from a fierce predator - and can two quarreling rivals become friends? A distinctive feature of The Monkey and the Bee is that it reads almost entirely like a pictorial graphic novel - the only story words are "The monkey", "The bee", and "The lion", interspersed among bold, vivid illustrations that speak for themselves! Highly recommended.

The Picturebook Shelf

My Grandma's a Ninja
Todd Tarpley, author
Danny Chatzikonstantinou, illustrator
NorthSouth Books
600 Third Avenue, 2nd Floor, New York, NY 10016
9780735841994 $17.95

My Grandma's a Ninja is a silly children's picturebook about a young boy whose grandma is a black-clad ninja! At first it seems amazing that she can leap through the air and teach his friends karate moves, but there are drawback. She deflates the soccer ball with one kick, and when she has him put mud and leaves on himself for camouflage, he gets in trouble with his mom. Can he
persuade his Grandma to tone down her ninja-ness without hurting her feelings? Or does she have something completely different in mind? Exuberant color illustrations add just the right dose of whimsy to this playful story.

Bright Sky, Starry City
Uma Krishnaswami, author
Aimee Sicuro, illustrator
Groundwood Books
c/o House of Anansi Press
110 Spadina Ave., Suite 801
Toronto, ON, Canada, M5V 2K4
9781554984053 $17.95

Bright Sky, Starry City is a children's picturebook about Phoebe, a young girl eagerly looks forward to stargazing, but there's a problem. Will Phoebe be able to see celestial bodies when there's so much interference from bright city lights? The last few pages are a nonfiction supplement brimming with fascinating information for budding astronomers about the solar system, telescopes, and light pollution. Highly recommended!

In a Village by the Sea
Muon Van, author
April Chu, illustrator
Creston Books
PO Box 9369, Berkeley, CA 94709
9781939547156 $16.95

In a Village by the Sea is a children's picturebook about yearning for the comforts of home. A wife and child in a Vietnamese fishing village anxiously await the return of the husband and father, who must work long hours out at sea. Author Muon Van taps into the hardworking heritage of her family, who immigrated from Vietnam to the United States when she was an infant, in this gentle and beautifully illustrated story. Highly recommended.

Too Many Tables
Abraham Schroeder, author
Micah Monkey, illustrator
Ripple Grove Press
PO Box 86740, Portland, OR 97286
9780991386611 $16.99

Too Many Tables is a whimsical children's picturebook about the grand opening of a new restaurant. Oh, no - where are the tables? Fortunately, local people everywhere are willing to help, bringing tables by wagon, pushcart, and every which means. But they bring too many tables! How can so many extra tables be returned to their proper places, and will the restaurant ever celebrate its first customers? Delightfully cartoony artwork enlivens the surreal situation, in this wonderfully charming read-aloud story.

Taffy Time
Jennifer Lloyd, author
Jacqui Lee, illustrator
Simply Read Books
74 Pease Avenue, Verona, NJ 07044
c/o Ingram Publisher Services (distribution)
9781927018620 $16.95

Taffy Time is a children's picturebook set in a winter farm with maple trees. The time has come to help Dad make maple syrup; big sister Audrey prepares to aid him, and younger sister Kate wants to join the fun. But Kate is just too little to harvest or process maple syrup - is there any way she can help out? Simple, expressively stylized color illustrations make this playful story come to life!

Buster The Little Garbage Truck
Marcia Berneger, author
Kevin Zimmer, illustrator
Sleeping Bear Press
Suite 200, 315 East Eisenhower Parkway
Ann Arbor, MI 48108
9781585368945 $14.99

Buster The Little Garbage Truck is a children's picturebook about an anthropomorphic little truck who is best friends with a cat named Kitty, and who wants more than anything to become a hardworking big truck. But Buster has a big problem - he's terrified of loud noises. Then an accident that puts Kitty's life in jeopardy forces Buster to confront his fear of horn honking once and for all! Sprightly color illustrations add a lively splash to this heartwarming story about friendship, bravery, and growing up.

Mama Bird Papa Bird
Wanda Obermeier, author
Faith Thomas, illustrator
Adnaw Publishing
934 E. Nelson Rd., Mosinee, WI 54455
9780692289020, $15.95,

A finalist in the 2015 Benjamin Franklin Awards completion in the category of Children's Picture Book (0-3 years), "Mama Bird Papa Bird" is destined to be a classic children's book about the miraculous process of hatching and parenting a baby robin. Gentle, descriptive prose is matched and graced by delicately retro water color illustrations that portray the expressive features of Mama Bird and Papa Bird. This exciting new series in a calm, traditional yet fresh format will be a favorite of parents and children alike.

The Adventures of Pettson and Findus: Findus Disappears!
Sven Nordqvist, author/illustrator
NorthSouth Books Inc.
600 Third Avenue, 2nd Floor, New York, NY 10016
9780735841840, $17.95,

From the charming children's series about a forgetful old farmer and his amazing kitten friend, "Findus Disappears!" emerges as a tale comfortably retold by Old Man Pettson for the pleasure of his talking cat, Findus. Originally a gift to the lonely old man from a kind neighbor, Findus quickly grew from a curious kitten to an intelligent cat. Pettson told Findus stories, read to him and cared for him so well that one day Findus began to talk! His first words were "I want pants like that!" So Pettson carefully made Findus clown pants with green stripes. One day Pettson awoke to see there was no Findus in the house! An anxious search ensued, with questions for chickens (who didn't know much) and another frustrating search for Pettson's socks, shoes, and clothes to dress. Meanwhile Findus was hidden nearby in a woodbox, fearful of a new furry animal who seemed threatening to him! However, Findus was comforted and helped by two small mouse-like animals he called mumbles who lived in the cracks, crannies, and hiding place in the old farmhouse. Using Pettson's shoes and socks to make a plain trail, the mumbles lead Pettson to the woodbox hiding place of the terrified Findus. As the old badger waddled away, Findus leaped into the arms of Pettson, who cuddled the cat and invited him to explore all the nooks in the farmhouse so he could safely hide if a dog or a fox came by. Findus and Pettson continued to live their comfortable, eccentric life together as best friends and companions. The delightful, chaotic, jumbled illustrations of Pettson's house and Findus' explorations convey eccentric original charm and personality, friendship, security, and warmth.

Sleep Tight, Little Bear
Britta Teckentrup, author/illustrator
NorthSouth Books
600 Third Avenue, 2nd Floor, New York, NY 10016
9780735841802, $17.95,

Originally published in Germany, "Sleep Tight, Little Bear" is a seasonal tale of the bear family's late fall preparation for a long winter's sleep. Set against contemporary -styled fall scenes of colorful trees and bushes, Mommy Bear and Little Bear hurry to gather leaves and supplies to make their cave warm and safe for the long winter's hibernation. Little Bear excitedly accompanies Mommy Bear to say good night to their forest friends, including Badger, Mommy Fox and her cubs, Deer, Rabbit, Squirrel, Owl, and Wolf. Each animal wishes the Bear family a good sleep and promises to help watch over the forest if they do not hibernate. After many reassurances, hugs, kisses, and cuddles, Little Bear fell asleep in their snug cave with Mommy Bear close cuddled by. Dreams of spring sunlight help to keep their long hibernation warm. "Sleep Tight, Little Bear" ends with more information about winter sleep habits of bears and other animals, plus an invitation to contrast these with winter habits of humans and other animals. With its dark, autumn palette of colors and ritual sleep preparations, "Sleep Tight, Little Bear" is both an ideal bedtime story and a nature exploration for young children.

See You Next Year
Andrew Larsen, author
Todd Stewart, illustrator
Owlkids Books, Inc.
1700 Fourth Street, Berkeley, CA 94710
9781926973999, $16.95,

"See You Next Year" is a sensitively illustrated children's book about treasured memories of a summer vacation ritual experience. Describing an annual family trip to a favorite motel on a beach of the ocean, "See You Next Year" captures the combined joy and sadness felt in a week long beach retreat at the same place each year. The delicate, shaded silkscreen artwork and restrained palette convey perfectly a sense of time present in time past, or transcending time. Making a new friend is part of the week long vacation experience to be treasured. "See You Next Year" is presented through a shimmery summer haze, through veils of wonder. It has comfort, invitation, and timeless appeal for children of ages 3-7, paving the way to experiencing moments and plateaus of joy in later life.

The Candy Conspiracy: A Tale of Sweet Victory
Carrie Snyder, author
Claudia Da Vila, illustrator
Owlkids Books
1700 Fourth Street, Berkeley, CA 94710
9781771470506, $17.95,

"The Candy Conspiracy" is a tempting, tongue-in-cheek tome about tough tactics in a world called Candyville. Ruled by a greedy King Juicy Jelly Worm, the entire kingdom seems made of sweet candy of all kinds. The King, Juicy Jelly Worm, consumes all the candy he can every day, proclaiming it is "Mine, all mine!" Weary, hardworking children serve him as candy and cupcake making slaves, with never a crumb of their own. One day a clever child "(Was that you?)" decided to try a different tactic. Organizing with all the other kids, she secretly planted, cultivated, and tended a hidden garden of disguised vegetables. One day King Juicy Jelly Worm discovered the secret vegetable garden, and proclaimed it was "Mine, all mine!" The vegetables looked so tempting, he believed they were sweets and candy! The clever child "(Was that you?)" struck a bargain with the king, his kingdom for their garden. "(Worms are easily fooled.)" And what happened next? "Sweet feast! cried the children. "Sugar fiesta! Popsicle party!" "Carrot carnival!!" cried the Juicy Jelly Worm. "Lettuce leaf lollapalooza!" "Candied apples on a stick!" they all cried together. And everyone lived juicily jellily everly afterly." Hilarious, luminous colorful illustrations tempt young readers ages 3-7 almost to lick the pages, and the witty sidebar comments are seeds of true wisdom, laced with fun, like the last one: "Warning: This story has no moral. Let's pretend it's about sharing. Parents like stories about sharing." With its intimate tone, delicious descriptive poetic narrative and reversed sense of justice, "The Candy Conspiracy" exudes undying appeal for kids and the adults who care for them.

Market Maze
Roxie Munro
Holiday House
425 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780823430925 $16.95

Market Maze will appeal to ages 4-8 with the fun story of eight vehicles which move through eleven intricate mazes in search of destinations. There are several things going on here: a fun story line about where food comes from and how it gets onto consumer tables accompanies an easy counting guide filled with intricate pictures in a kind of 'where's Waldo?' format kids will appreciate.

Thank You, Jackson
Niki and Jude Daly
Frances Lincoln Children's Books
74-77 White Lion Street, London N1 9PF, UK
9781847804846 $17.99

Thank You, Jackson: How One Little Boy Makes a BIG Difference tells of a donkey who refuses to take his load of vegetables uphill to market. The farmer is frustrated: how can he make the stubborn donkey budge? It takes a little boy with a secret message to make things work. Good reading skills will lend to appreciation of this fun story.

Candlewick Press
99 Dover Street, Somerville, MA 02144

Michael Rosen's The Bus is for Us! (9780763669836, $16.99) offers a delightful survey of bus riding and pairs lovely art from Gillian Tyler with a fun rhyming narrative that invites kids to go out and ride cars, trains, buses, and even horses. A whimsical celebration of the concept of going out for a ride or drive makes this a lively and unusual story kids will love. Mara Rockliff's Mesmerized: How Ben Franklin Solved a Mystery That Baffled All of France reads with the action and excitement of fiction but recounts a nonfiction event: Franklin's involvement in Paris with the enigmatic Dr. Mesmer, who convinces Parisians that he can control strange forces. While Parisians succumbed to his mesmerizing force, Franklin held out with more than a degree of skepticism - this tells of their encounter and will intrigue adults as well as children. Jonathan London's Hippos Are Huge! (9780763665920, $16.99) considers the hippo, the deadliest animal in Africa, but here also blends the lively approach of a fictional account with plenty of facts. Good-size print and large-size drawings by Matthew Trueman accompany an approach designed to impart natural history facts with the compelling language of fiction. Claire Saxby's Emu (9780763474793, $16.99) is illustrated by Graham Byrne and even though it provides nonfiction facts about the Emu's natural history, it offers a dialogue that reads like fiction with its fun insights on emus and their lives. The lively focus makes for an inviting story indeed. Ross Collins' The Elephantom (9780763675912, $16.99) tells of a little girl's dilemma when a pesky, mischievous elephantom turns up uninvited. Her parents are unable to help and don't even seem to notice the phantom or the fact that her room 'always smells like dung'. What's a girl to do? A hilarious dilemma evolves. Linda Urban's Little Red Henry (9780763661762, $16.99) is illustrated by Madeline Valentine and tells of a boy whose family insists on treating him like a baby. They do everything for him, even though he's no longer a baby but a little boy who wants to learn to do things himself. In a rework of Little Red Hen, a fun saga evolves. All are strong picture book sagas.

c/o Penguin Young Readers Group
345 Hudson Street, 15th floor, New York, NY 10014

Deborah Freeman's By Mouse & Frog (9780670784906, $16.99) tells of a mouse who wakes up easy, ready to write a new story with his friend Frog. There's only one problem - Frog doesn't make a good collaborator, and the story's always moving off track. In fact, Mouse declares it a mess. Can it be saved? Quick thinking between friends might help! Jonathan London's Froggy's Birthday Wish (9780670015726, $16.99) tells of a Froggy birthday that everyone seems to have forgotten. Even his parents don't realize it's his special day only, there's a (somewhat predictable) surprise in store. A fun tale evolves. Mallory Kasdan's Ella (9780670016754, $17.99) provides a fun parody about a little girl who lives at The Local Hotel, and tells of a six-year-old who has a nanny called Manny, who has tattoos for sleeves, a dog named Stacie, and a fish named Rasta. Ella is never bored, although in fact she's quite scheduled. A fun story evolves. Rosemary Wells' Use Your Words, Sophie! (9780670016631, $16.99) tells of Sophie, who knows lots of words, but doesn't always use them. She can speak Hyena, or Space Language - but she doesn't use the words her parents think she should until her new baby sister arrives and she discovers her true powers. A fine story evolves. Vern Kousky's Otto the Owl Who Loved Poetry (9780399164408, $16.99) is a celebration of verse and tells of an owl who prefers reading poetry to roosting. He's not a hunter, he's a literary soul - but when the other owls begin to tease him, he must find a new way of celebrating what he loves. Kids will find delightful the vivid story of the owl's celebrations. Jon Agee's It's Only Stanley (9780903739079, $17.99) presents a nighttime scene at the Wimbledon house, where everyone hears odd noises. It's the family dog, hard at work fixing the place. But he isn't just a repair dog; he's building something - something big - and his efforts not only create noise, but lead to an unexpected journey. The fun lies in its noisy, surprise ending. All are fun reads youngsters will appreciate.

Random House Children's Books
1745 Broadway, 10-1, New York, NY 10019

LeUyen Pham's There's No Such Thing As Little (9780385391504, $17.99) has die-cut holes to peek through and is a tribute to little kids everywhere. Imagination is celebrated here, with ideas covering how something 'little' can turn into something 'big'. The idea of 'little' turns into a celebration of big ideas in this compelling story, highly recommended for any little reader. Courtney Dicmas' Home Tweet Home (9780385385350, $16.99) represents the debut effort of an author and illustrator who provides a fun new picture book in Home Tweet Home. Pippi and Burt are tired of sharing a crowded next with siblings, so they fly off to find a new home - only to discover their noisy, crowded nest is better than most. Kids who struggle with large, noisy families will find this an appealing read. Rebecca Van Slyke's Mom School (9780385388924, $16.99) receives fun, simple drawings by Priscilla Burris as it questions where mothers go to learn how to be good moms. How does she know how to build a fort out of couch cushions, bake tasty foods, or multitask, for example? At Mom School all Moms have the potential of getting an 'A' and the fun is outlined in a gentle celebration. These are good stories for young readers.

Wisdom Tales Press
PO Box 2682, Bloomington, IN 47402

Durga Yael Bernhard's Just Like Me, Climbing a Tree (9781937786342, $16.95) tells how it would feel to be up a gingko tree in china, a baobab in Africa, or a cypress tree in Mexico among others. In the course of exploring the different features of these trees and why it would be different to climb them, readers enjoy a lively account that blends tree lore into fun play experiences. Ages 5 and older will appreciate the blend of climbing trees and natural history that creates a fun survey. Demi illustrates Alexis York Lumbard's retelling of When the Animals Saved Earth (9781937786373, $16.95) also a pick for ages 5 and older. On an isolated island the animals leave in peace, until humans come to their shore and enslave them. Only a young boy named Adam can hear the animals' cries, though, so the humans don't know what they're doing. Adam escapes into the jungle to join the few free animals remaining and embarks on a bid for peace in this gentle fable of course and survival. The result is a top pick for any collection strong in multicultural story books.

Simon and Schuster
c/o Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 4th floor, New York, NY 10020

Daniel Hashimoto and Mandy Richardville's Action Movie Kid (9781476799896 $14.99) is illustrated by Valerio Fabbretti and offers up an unusual 'interactive book' that includes a downloadable app that can be activated as it tells of 'Action Movie Kid', whose adventures began on You Tube and continue here, in a saga of his daring exploits. James is a regular boy in one world, but his alter ego is Action Movie Kid, protector of family and friends. He'll successfully face down monsters, aliens and robots but his superpowers can get him into trouble in the 'real world'. A fun saga of adventure and courage evolves. Sean Ferrell's I Don't Like Koala (9781481400688, $17.99) tells of Adam, who doesn't like Koala. Koala has terrible eyes, terrible features, and Adam plain doesn't like him - but his parents don't understand, and Koala keeps turning up no matter where Adam tries to hide him. A fun story keeps readers guessing about what will happen to Adam and Koala. Both are wonderful stories.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
215 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10003

Jessica Young's Spy Guy: The Not-So-Secret Agent (9780544208599, $16.99) is illustrated by Charles Santoso and tells of a young spy who, frankly, is not very good at his craft. If only he knew the secret to being a better spy - but, where can he found out? From too-squeaky shoes to sneeze attacks when sneaking, the Chief has answers for many of Spy Guy's dilemmas in this fun story of being an effective spy. Nancy Shaw's Sheep Go to Sleep (9780544309890, $16.99) receives fine drawings by Margot Apple and provides the fun story of sheep who just can't settle down to go to bed. A helpful sheepdog wants to help, but blankets, drinks, and more don't seem to do the job. How can he get his sheep to sleep? A compelling story evolves. Both are fine picks for young picture book readers.

The Board Book Shelf

Flippy Floppy Ocean Animals
Created by Anton Poitier
Illustrated by Sophia Touliatou
Kane/Miller Book Publishers
4901 Morena Blvd, Suite 213, San Diego, CA 92117
9781610673464 $12.99

Intended for children ages 3-6, Flippy Floppy Ocean Animals is a lift-the-flap board book. Each two-page spread shows a sea creature and the words "Can you find me? I'm hiding somewhere!" on the left, and four thin paper flaps a child can lift and look under on the right. The final two-page spread encourages children to look for sea creatures pictured under the flaps. Flippy Floppy Ocean Animals is a delightful activity for the very young.

A Sailor Went to Sea, Sea, Sea
Lucy Bell, author
Asha Pearse, illustrator
Flowerpot Press
2160 South Service Road, Oakville, ON, Canada, L6L 5N1
9781486703609, $8.99,

From Flowerpot Press comes a delightful original Record Spins series of brightly illustrated fresh song lyrics for familiar nursery song tunes. Comfortably presented on brilliantly buffed board books, with jaunty rainbow colored silly verses and repetitive nonsense rhymes, "A Sailor Went to Sea, Sea, Sea" begs to be held, read, and sung together. Designed for hard use by a preschool readership, "A Sailor Went to Sea, Sea, Sea" is a perfect example of a perfectly balanced partnership between author and illustrator. A colorful collage of paste-on nautical images are contrasted against a background of dark marine colors, with white-highlighted rainbow texts of the song lyrics. The zany lyrics and the progression of sea/sailing scenes is fun, entertaining, and intriguing. Another title by the same author/artist pair that is highly recommended is "Miss Mary Mack," (9781486703579).

Rock 'N Learn
PO Box 3595, Conroe, TX 77305-3595

Educational publisher Rock 'N Learn presents two durable board books that are excellent for helping toddlers and preschool children get a head start on learning words and numbers. "Alphabet Al's ABC: Book of Words and Rhymes" (9781941722114, $8.99) is a vocabulary-boosting book; colorful illustrations help teach little ones basic words for every letter of the alphabet. For example, the page devoted to "I" has the word and a picture for "inchworm", "igloo", "icicles", "island", and "iceberg". A simple rhyme at the bottom of each page enhances the fun! "Colors, Shapes & Counting: A Point & Name Book of Rhymes" (9781941722121, $8.99) uses rhymes and colorful pictures to introduce young people to the words for colors, the concepts of shapes, and simple counting. "Hold up both hands, and count your fingers now. // We can count to ten. I will show you how." Both books are great read-aloud resources that parents can share with their children, the better to improve their readiness for school!

The Graphic Novel Shelf

Dragon and Captain
P.R. Allabach, author
Lucas Turnbloom, illustrator
Flash Light Press
527 Empire Boulevard, Brooklyn, NY 11225
9781936261338 $17.95

Dragon and Captain appears to be a children's picturebook at first glance, but the story inside is told entirely in graphic novel format. Two young boys engage in imaginative play; one thinks of himself as a blue dragon, the other as an intrepid ship's captain. Together, they embark on an adventure to win back the captain's seaworthy vessel from thieving pirates! The colorful, cartoony art almost jumps off the page, in this high-spirited adventure sure to spark a smile.

Wild Cats: Around the Globe with Suki & Finch
Rebecca Merry Murdock, et al.
Bark & Howl Press
9780992041342, $17.99, 114pp,

"Wild Cats: Around the Globe with Suki & Finch" is a graphic novel featuring the adventures and observations of Suki and Finch as they travel the globe investigating the welfare of all 36 species of wild cats. In this first volume of a planned series, Suki and Finch start in Canada. "Wild Cats" is a profusely illustrated adventure-drama exposing the threats to the wild cat population through the loss of their habitat, poaching, disease -- problems encountered by wild cats all over the world. As informative as it is entertaining, "Wild Cats: Around the Globe with Suki & Finch" will leave young readers looking eagerly toward future adventures of Suki and Finch as they showcase the plight of various animal species threatened with extinction through pollution and other forms of human encroachment. It should be noted that "Wild Cats: Around the Globe with Suki & Finch" is also available in a Kindle edition ($2.99).

The Lunch Witch
Deb Lucke
160 Broadway, Suite 700E, New York, NY 10038
c/o NBM Publishing (dist.)
160 Broadway, Ste. 700, East Wing, New York, NY 10038
9781629911625 $14.99

The Lunch Witch is a tongue-in-cheek graphic novel for young adults - though adults may also get a chortle from seeing Grunhilda, a wicked witch descended from a long line of wicked witches, turn her former boss into a turd. "Darn. I got a bit of the boss on my shoe!" Where can an eye-of-newt brewing witch find a new job? At the local school, as a cafeteria lunch lady! But when a young girl on the verge of being held back a grade blackmails Grunhilda into brewing an intelligence potion, the results turn scary wacky. Can Grunhilda undo the malign effects of her potion before its unfortunate subject becomes something else's lunch? Will Grunhilda's ghostly ancestors bully her into being every bit as wicked as they once were? Will anybody ever be able to eat the school's food again? Minimalist use of color and exaggeratedly cartoony line art add the just the right touch of black comedy to this modern-day toil and trouble!

The Audiobook Shelf

From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess
Meg Cabot
Macmillan Audio
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 315
New York, NY 10010
9781427261311 $24.99

From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess is the unabridged audiobook adaptation of one of the tremendously popular "Princess Diaries" books by Meg Cabot (which have been made into Disney movies of the same name). In From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess, Olivia Grace Clarisse Mignonette Harrison is an average twelve-year-old girl with an overly-long, princess themed name, and a talent for drawing animals. She's never met her father, and lives more-or-less happily with her aunt and uncle until one day everything goes wrong at once! The most popular girl at school threatens to beat Olivia up, the principal gives her a demerit, she's knocked down at the bus stop, and she receives a most unexpected invitation to live with the father she has never met - delivered by none other than the Princess of Genovia, who claims to be Olivia's sister. Could this invitation be a dream come true, or a source of endless new problems? A bonus interview with the author rounds out this tongue-in-cheek tale, highly recommended especially for public library children's audiobook collections.

Nancy Drew Diaries series
Carolyn Keene, author
Read by Jorjeana Marie
Oasis Audio
289 Main Place, Carol Stream, IL 60188
9781613757222 $9.99 each

Nancy Drew Diaries a new series of novels for young adults, offering a modern-day setting and a fresh new take on the classic literary heroine Nancy Drew. Now this mystery series has been adapted to unabridged audiobook format, brought to life with the skilled performance of Jorjeana Marie. Book 1, "Curse of the Arctic Star" (9781613757222) follows Bess, George, and Nancy on the maiden voyage of the Arctic Star luxury cruise ship. The assistant cruise director has received multiple threatening emails, and a bloody body turned up in the swimming pool. Could the Arctic Star be cursed? For the sake of all the passengers on board, Nancy has to work quickly! In Book 2, "Strangers on a Train" (9781613757239) the danger follows Nancy and her friends from the Arctic Star to a train bound for Denali McKinley Park. Could Nancy's cover as a detective been blown? Book 3, "Mystery of the Midnight Rider" (97816137575253) is an adventure among the top horse riders training to compete in the annual River Heights Horse Show. Payton Evans, a close friend of Ned's family, has strived for years to improve her skills, with hope of becoming worthy of joining an Olympic team. But then her horse, Midnight, tests postive for drugs - who could have drugged the animal, and why? Nancy Drew Diaries is an excellent, ongoing series that will appeal to inquisitive young adults and nostalgic older readers alike, and is highly recommended especially for public library YA audiobook collections. 3 CDs each.

The Music CD Shelf

The Harmonica Pocket
c/o Beth Blenz-Clucas (publicity)
$11.99 CD / $8.99 MP3

Parents' Choice Gold Award-winning family music stars The Harmonica Pocket presents Sundrops, an album of twelve acoustic songs that delight in the simple joys of life - splashing in rainwater puddles, digging in dirt, and unleashing the power of one's imagination. Upbeat vocals and good-natured cheer color this wonderfully fun-filled collection, sure to bring a smile to all ages. The tracks are "Sing In The Sun", "Raindrops", "It's Gotta Rain (If You Want A Rainbow)", "Sun Song", "Are You A Monster Too?", "Digga Dog Kid", "Surprise", "I Love Ukeleles", "Sundrops", "You Are My Sunshine", "Butterfly Away", and "Getting Night Now".

Merry Pranks of Master Till
Story adapted by Stephen Simon
Music composed by Richard Strauss
Performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra
Maestro Classics
c/o Waldmania! (publicity)
$16.98 CD / $9.98 digital download

Part of the delightful "Maestro Classics" CD series, Merry Pranks of Master Till is intended for listeners ages 7 to adult, and features a superb performance from the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Merry Pranks of Master Till is a tone poem - a creative blend of music and narrative, telling the story of a trickster and the pranks he plays on unsuspecting people. Adapted from an 1895 classic, which is in turn based on German folklore, the saga of Till's unabashedly cheerful mischief is upbeat, laugh-out-loud fun. A treat from beginning to end, Merry Pranks of Master Till is enthusiastically recommended for personal and public library collections alike! 48 min.

The DVD Shelf

The Magic Mirror in American Sign Language
Featuring CJ Jones, et. al.
DawnSign Press
6130 Nancy Ridge Dr., San Diego, CA 92121
c/o Andrea Blain Public Relations
9781581212587 $15.95

Part of the "Once Upon a Sign" series of DVDs featuring timeless fables performed entirely in American Sign Language (in addition to voice-over narration and English subtitles), The Magic Mirror in American Sign Language is a delightful show that encourages young people to sign along with the story. Young Alice Cogswell wants to enter the talent show, but she is unsure of her own abilities. After a lackluster audition, she gets some magical help - but is magic really what she needs to perform her ASL poetry? The Magic Mirror in American Sign Language is not only entertaining, but also an excellent tool for helping young people learn ASL! Also highly recommended are the other DVDs in the "Once Upon a Sign" series, "The New Little Red Riding Hood" and "The New Goldilocks and the Three Bears". 24 min., region-free DVD.

Pokemon Adventures in the Orange Islands: The Complete Collection
Viz Media LLC
1355 Market Street, Suite 200
San Francisco CA 94103

Pokemon Adventures in the Orange Islands: The Complete Collection offers an entire season of the popular anime (Japanese animated) television show on three DVDs. Although Pokemon is based on a wildly successful series of monster-catching video games, no familiarity with any of the games is required to understand and enjoy the lighthearted, episodic stories. An overall narrative arc follows the protagonist Ash, who after a brief stop in Pallet Town, teams up with his old friends Misty and Brock to search for a rare Poke Ball on behalf of Professor Oak. Their journey takes them to the Orange Isles, where Ash pursues his destiny as a Pokemon Master by participating the in the Orange League Tournament. Upbeat, adventurous, and packed with Pokemon-battling action, Pokemon Adventures in the Orange Islands: The Complete Collection is pure family-friendly fun. 3 DVDs, 12+ hours.

Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs
As retold by Mo Willems
Weston Woods
c/o Scholastic, Inc.
557 Broadway, New York, NY 10012-3999
9780545842679 $59.95

Intended for young viewers ages 4-8, Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs is the DVD adaptation of a children's picturebook loosely based on the classic "Goldilocks and the Three Bears", with the laughter turned up to eleven! Once upon a time, there were three hungry dinosaurs, who decided (for no particular reason) to tidy up their house and go someplace else. They most definitely were not setting a trap for a succulent, unsupervised little girl, oh no! Simple animation and a read-along option enrich this playful DVD, narrated by author Mo Willems, who also gives an interview as a bonus feature. Highly recommended, especially for public library children's DVD collections! 11 min.

The Fantasy/SciFi Shelf

War of Rain
H. W. Vivian
Lulu Publishing
3101 Hillsborough Street, Raleigh, NC 27607-5436
9781483423623, $19.99, 296pp,

In "War of Rain" by H. W. Vivian, fifteen year-old Miri lives in a desert village called Boreala, which competes with the city of Stratos for Rain - the equivalent of Holy Water. During a confrontation while gathering Rain, Miri accidentally kills a citizen of Stratos, and unintentionally starts a heinous war. Now it is up to her to find the God of Rain, Kalono, and ask Him for an invention that can bring both peace and war before Boreala is destroyed. A non-stop and riveting YA science fiction action/adventure novel that documents author H. W. Vivian as an impressively gifted and original storyteller, "War of Rain" is a solid entertainment from beginning to end. "War of Rain" is very highly recommended and would make an enduringly popular addition to high school and community library YA Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "War of Rain" is also available in a Kindle edition ($4.99).

Night Buddies Go Sky High
Sands Hetherington, author
Jessica Love, illustrator
Dune Buggy Press
To Press and Beyond
9780984741731, $7.99,

Third exciting fantasy adventure volume in a multiple- award- winning series, "Night Buddies Go Sky High" promises to provide unstoppable, zany, exciting entertainment to an audience of kids age 8 and up. Filled with quirky characters, magical midnight escapades, and cool protective devices like crocodile Crosley's "I-ain't-here-doodad" (which makes John and Crosley invisible to John's parents, enabling midnight escape adventures undetected). Crosley is John's fantasy adventure companion, a red crocodile with techno-gizmos galore . This extremely idiosyncratic book is both improbable and hilarious, making it an addictive, nonstop reading adventure, appealing even to adults as well as kids. "Night Buddies Go Sky High" begins with a spelling disclaimer and Night Buddies Uncommon Words list from Crosley, explaining that unusual, phonetic spellings are used throughout the fantasy adventure, as well as intended meanings for eccentric, made-up words. Following the earlier Night Buddies chapter book fantasy series ("Night Buddies, Impostors, and One Far-Out Flying Machine," and "Night Buddies and the Pineapple Cheesecake Scare"), "Night Buddies Go Sky High" follows the original formula for fun, fantasy, and fast moving action in a juvenile chapter adventure series. This time the Night Buddies travel into the stratosphere in a personally modified racing blimp (alias a school bus), in pursuit of a mysterious wandering UFO. Fast-moving, action packed chapters are studded with capitalized expressions and quirky black and white shaded illustrations. John is accompanied not only by Crosley, the red crocodile, but also the imaginary iguana family in his midnight quest to find the mysterious roving red wandering ship or planet. All this excitement happens in the night, when John is really not quite ready to go to sleep. Night Buddies is an award winning, ground-breaking juvenile chapter fantasy adventure series. "Night Buddies Go Sky High" is the perfect hook to command full attention from a juvenile mid-grade reading audience.

The Pets/Wildlife Shelf

A Children's Guide to Arctic Birds
Mia Pelletier, author
Danny Christopher, illustrator
Inhabit Media, Inc.
9781927095676 $16.95

A Children's Guide to Arctic Birds is a beautiful and educational picturebook filled with amazing facts about different species of birds found in the Arctic region (and often other places as well, since many of these birds migrate). Striking color paintings of each bird are opposite a page of information about what the bird eats, the songs or sounds it makes, its nesting habits, and much more. A delight for young birdwatchers!

The Blue Whale
Jenni Desmond
Enchanted Lion Books
351 Van Brunt Street, Brooklyn, NY 11231
9781592701650 $17.95

The Blue Whale is a nonfiction picturebook about these gigantic, enigmatic ocean mammals. As a young boy picks up a book and reads about blue whales, the readers will discover amazing things along with him - that blue whales weigh around 160 tons (that's as much as 55 hippopotami), that they feed on tiny shrimp-like creatures known as krill, and that they have a lifespan similar to that of humans. The striking, somewhat abstractly stylized illustrations nicely balance the fact-filled text in this enlightening and educational storybook.

Sweet Dreams, Wild Animals! A Story of Sleep
Eileen R. Meyer, author
Laurie Caple, illustrator
Mountain Press Publishing Company
PO Box 2399, Missoula, MT 59806
9780878426379 $12.00

Sweet Dreams, Wild Animals! A Story of Sleep is a children's picturebook featuring striking watercolor artwork and amazing true facts about how various wild animals sleep. From graceful frigatebird that can nap while soaring in the air, to the hibernating grizzly bear, horses that sleep while standing up, and the dolphin whose brain is half asleep and half awake, these amazing animal facts may astound adults as well as little ones. Sweet Dreams, Wild Animals! A Story of Sleep makes an extraordinarily educational bedtime storybook!

Humphrey the Lost Whale, A True Story
Wendy Tokuda and Richard Hall, authors
Hanako Wakiyama, illustrator
Stone Bridge Press
P.O. Box 8208, Berkeley, CA 94707
9781611720174, $9.95,

"Humphrey the Lost Whale: A True Story" tells the true story of a beached humpback whale, found trapped in the Sacramento river outreach of the San Francisco Bay area. Humphrey got lost when he turned away from his whale pod to the outlet under the Golden Gate Bridge, in the San Francisco Bay. Humphrey became further lost when he swam up the Sacramento river, away from the Bay area and the Pacific Ocean. Because Humphrey was swimming deeper and deeper into a freshwater river, his life was in danger, since he could die from lack of food and not enough salt water. People decided to work together to rescue the lost whale. Underwater, they banged pipes to scare Humphrey and played tapes of whales eating to encourage him to swim back down river towards the Bay. One obstacle course that Humphrey had to get through was the little bridge, with a forest of underwater poles and pilings to close together for Humphrey to swim through. People brought cranes to clear out some of the pilings so Humphrey could swim through. At first, Humphrey got himself stuck between pilings, but noisemakers crashed and finally Humphrey pushed down some pilings and made his way through , to a cascade of cheers from bystanders. Finally Humphrey made it back to the Bay and hung around doing impressive whale tricks for all his human fans and supporters. The story of Humphrey the Lost Whale is stunningly illustrated with colors of red, blue, yellow, green, and gray to gray black. Many interesting facts about humpback whales are included, and a pattern of positive interactions between whale and humans is the exciting focus of this true story.

Decorated Horses
Dorothy Hinshaw Patent, author
Jeannie Brett, illustrator
Charlesbridge Publishing
85 Main Street, Watertown, MA 02472
9781580893626 $17.95

Decorated Horses is a nonfiction children's picturebook about how humans have armored, decorated, shown, raced, paraded, or otherwise displayed horses throughout world history. Each two-page spread has a page of text describing these decorated horses (from circus performer horses to mounts for Japanese samurai) on the left, and a colorful, historically accurate illustration on the right. A brief bibliography, a list of website links ideal for learning more, and a simple index round out this fascinating picturebook that can be just as edifying for adults to page through as little ones! Highly recommended, especially for young horse lovers everywhere.

1,000 Animals
Edited by Jessica Greenwell
Illustrated by Nikki Dyson
Usborne Books
c/o EDC Publishing
PO Box 470663, Tulsa, OK 74146-6515
9780794529383 $14.99

1,000 Animals is book filled entirely with color illustrations of animals (not to scale, since in real life some of the animals would be gigantic compared to one another). There is a touch of anthropomorphic representation in the animals' eyes, but aside from this, the color artwork emphasizes anatomical realism. Each animal has its name listed, and the animal pictures are grouped by common elements such as "in the pond" or "under the sea"; an index will help little ones locate their favorite animal. The pages are very stiff, almost like thin cardboard, the better to stand up to the wear and tear of little hands. Young animal lovers will find 1,000 Animals delightful from cover to cover!

The Fiction Shelf

Fault Lines
Brenda Ortega
4900 LaCross Rd, North Charleston, SC 29406
9781508881483, $9.99, 184pp,

When her revenge plan goes awry, fourteen-year-old Dani Burkhart finds herself in unexpected places: the back seat of a cop car, the police station holding room, Juvenile Court. She wants her old life, the one with a family that's not falling apart. She wants to stay in her home with the woods in back, and keep her carefree dog with the windshield wiper tail, and hear her big brother laugh and shout "Sweet, D-Dawg!" when her curveball dips like a sparrow. Dani has always believed her grandmother's philosophy: Right will win. But if everything is going wrong, why not punish the neighbor who's to blame, who pulled the string that unraveled everything? Makes sense - unless there's more to the story than Dani wants to admit. "Fault Lines" is an original and deftly crafted entertainment that is very highly recommended for school and community library YA fiction collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Fault Lines" is also available in a Kindle edition ($2.99).

The Seedless Trees
Christina Waymreen
Seaway Press
Word Slinger Publicity
9780996013208, $12.95, 48pp,

Prince Lester is beside himself with grief. His beautiful wife, Anna, has fallen prey to the beguiling fruit of the forbidden trees. Taking clues from the elders in the village, he enters the forest and meets the fairies trapped into submission by the Mistress of Trees. As Prince lester continues his search to break the spell, he is met with further challenges before he comes face to face with the Mistress of the Trees herself. "The Seedless Trees" is a deftly crafted story that fully entertains from beginning to end. The debut novella of author Christina Waymreen, "The Seedless Trees" is highly recommended for YA Fiction collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "The Seedless Trees" is also available in a Kindle edition ($1.99).

Thick As Thieves
Susan K. Marlow
Kregel Publications
2450 Oak Industrial Drive, NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49505
9780825443671, $9.99, 176pp,

Fourteen-year-old Andrea Carter would rather ride her beloved palomino, Taffy, than do anything else. But life on the Circle C ranch in 1882 is busy. Between school and chores, Andi is left with little time to prepare for Taffy's first foaling. Then when the event finally arrives, it nearly ends in disaster. Returning to school keeps Andi hard-pressed to find time for foal training. And she now has a new problem on her hands--Macy Walker, who has been assigned as Andi's seatmate. The new girl's crude manners and cruel behavior bring storm clouds into Andi's life, as does the news that cattle rustlers have moved into the valley. When the cattle rustlers turn to stealing horses and strike the Carter ranch, Andi's only hope for recovering her precious colts lies with Macy. Can Andi trust this wild girl? Does she have a choice? "Thick As Thieves" is deftly written, thoroughly entertaining, and highly recommended for school and community library YA fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Thick As Thieves" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.49).

Wild Dolphin Rider
Nancy Donovan
Peter E. Randall Publisher
5 Greenleaf Woods Drive, Suite 102, Portsmouth, NH 03802-4720
9781942155041, $14.95, 80pp,

Through the magic of desire, Sean discovers he can speak with Mari, a young dolphin mother, who takes him aboard her back for a day on the ocean. But just beyond the harbor jetty, Mari's pod is scattered by a tuna fleet, and Sean soon wonders if either he or the pod will survive to tell the tale. Searching for Mari's missing son, they confront the dangers of the sea (from lost drift nets to lightning storms) and readers learn how different life is for wild dolphins from those in captivity. "Wild Dolphin Rider" by Nancy Donovan 's an extraordinary and deftly written story that will absorb and entertain young readers from first page to last. Enhanced with black-and-white graphite illustrations by Susan Spellman, "Wild Dolphin Rider" is thoroughly 'kid friendly' and recommended for both school and community collections for young readers

Michael Buckley
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
215 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10003
9780544348257 $18.99

Undertow tells of Lyric Walker, who has witnessed the arrival of the Alpha, or First Men, into her world. Fear has transformed her Coney Island home into a military zone, but when Alpha teens are forced into her high school and she becomes involved with them, more trouble brews, as neither side wants to integrate. Drawn to a troubled, violent boy and a world of danger, Lyric finds herself at the center of a struggle between human, Alpha, and what comes next in a gripping saga recommended for any mature young adult interested in dystopian futures.

Deception's Pawn
Esther Friesner
Random House
c/o Random House Children's Books
1745 Broadway, 10-1, New York, NY 10019
9780449818671 $17.99

Deception's Pawn tells of Maeve, princess of Connacht, who has won her freedom from her role and duty as her father allows her into the world outside his castle. The only problem is: her status won't protect her from the slings and arrows of the world - or from unwelcome suitors. From struggles with her father's rival to her rejection of being a pawn in anyone's game, Maeve finds herself in all kinds of trouble in this compelling story of a princess finding her way. Teens will find this an involving story of romance and self-realization.

Scholastic, Inc.
557 Broadway, New York, NY 10012-3999

Paige Britt's The Lost Track of Time (9780545538121, $17.99) tells of Penelope, who dreams of being a writer, but can't get past her mother's preset plans for her life. Her mother believes she's unproductive, but Penelope believes she's being micro-managed - until she discovers a whole in her schedule that leaves an entire day complete unplanned. She falls into the hole in time - and encounters some amazing things. Purple/white drawings pepper a fine story of fantasy and freedom, perfect for grades 7 and polder. Michael Jensen and David Powers King's Woven (9780545685726, $18.99) tells of Nels, who has wanted to be a knight all of his life, and who has a knack for and interest in helping those in need in his little village. But he was murdered before he could achieve his goals - and now his ghost has arisen to face an impossible task. Part mystery, part supernatural fantasy, and part romance, Woven is about ties that bind and untimely actions - and will delight middle school to high school fantasy readers. Ann M. Martin's Home is the Place (9780545359450, $16.99) presents Book 4 in the 'Family Tree' series, and tells of Georgia, who faces a puzzling family, half of whom don't talk to each other. There are many secrets that could be answered in a great-great-grandmother's hidden diary in Maine - but primarily the writing makes her reflect on her own life and struggles. This concludes the Family Tree series, so prior familiarity with the other books in the series will lend a well-rounded feel to this final story. Daria Wilke's Playing a Part (9780545726078, $18.99) tells of Grisha, who has long loved the Moscow puppet theater and its trappings. For him, the stage is both magic and a refuge from his life outside the theater, where bullies plague him and his own grandfather says nasty things about him. When Grisha's world begins to change, he has nobody to turn to; especially since his best friend Sashok is facing a dangerous heart condition. This book is the first young adult novel from Russia to be translated into English and provides a riveting saga of heartbreak, growth, and change. Andrew Harwell's The Spider Ring (9780545682909, $16.99) tells of Maria, who inherits a strange, spider-shaped ring from her grandmother and the powers it brings - the power to control spiders and direct them. It's not something she ever wished for, but it's handy - until she discovers that the power comes with a high price. The web is woven tighter as Maria comes to find that the ring is a potential trap in this fine story of courage and magic. Sarah Darer Littman's Backlash (9780545651264, $17.99) tells of Lara, who is humiliated on Facebook by Christian, who says horrible things about her on her wall. But, are they true? Lara is depressed and has struggled with insecurity in the past, but this is above and beyond the norm - can a Facebook post send her over the edge? Online bullying and struggle are the center of an engrossing saga of courage and strife.

The Cookbook Shelf

Ella's Kitchen: The First Foods Book
c/o Octopus Publishing
236 Park Avenue, New York NY 10017
9780600630500 $19.99

Ella's Kitchen: The First Foods Book covers many steps of a child's discovery of new foods from six months to a year, pairing some 130 recipes from purees to flavor combinations to explore how parents can become more involved in their baby's food sensory development. It's third in a series of Ella's Kitchen Cook Books and it has been developed with young taste buds and nutrition in mind, presenting an excellent introduction to baby food that parents will find inviting and educational.

The Gardening Shelf

Charlie's Dirt Day
Andrew Larsen, author
Jacqueline Hudon-Verrelli, illustrator
Fitzhenry & Whiteside
195 Allstate Parkway
Markham, Ontario, Canada L3R 4T8
9781554553341 $18.95

Part of the "Tell-Me-More!" storybook series, Charlie's Dirt Day is a children's picturebook about a young boy who learns how much fun gardening can be. Young Charlie and his dad see their neighbors approach a big pile of dirt, but it isn't just ordinary dirt - it's compost! Mr. Martino is growing tomatoes, Mrs. Lee is raising onions, and Mr. Singh has an herb garden. Charlie wants to raise something as well - something that will add a special zest to spaghetti sauce! Charming color illustrations enrich this excellent story for getting little ones interested in gardening!

The Agriculture Shelf

The Fruits We Eat
Gail Gibbons
Holiday House
425 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780823432042 $17.95

The Fruits We Eat presents a lively survey of fruits and how they are grown, transported, and wind up on the table. Kids in grades 4-8 will find the pages packed with fun gardening specifics that also cover the basics of cultivation, from how certain plants may go dormant over the winter to how fruits are harvested and brought to market. Both large and small-scale farming ventures are explored in the course of consider plants and fruit management processes.

The Christian Shelf

H is for Holy
Nika Boyd, author
Heather Hayward, illustrator
Ancient Faith Publishing
PO Box 748, Chesterton, IN 46304-0748
9781936270194 $18.95

H is for Holy is an alphabet book created especially for Orthodox Christian children. Ever letter of the alphabet is given a corresponding word, which is elaborated upon with a brief sentence and simple color artwork. "E is for Epistle - 'Epistle' means 'letter'. The Bible contains many letters written by Christ's apostles. Do you write letters to your friends? Listen for the epistle next time you're in church." H is for Holy is an excellent tool for educating little ones about the basics of the Orthodox faith as well as their ABCs.

Pig and Sheep
Mike Breen, author
Blake Berg, illustrator
3DM Publishing
PO Box 719, Pawleys Island, SC
c/o Karen Campbell Media (publicity)
9780990777557 $19.99

Intended for young readers ages 3-6, Pig and Sheep is a picturebook that uses allegory to explore the Christian concepts of grace, forgiveness, and redemption. Author and church pastor Mike Breen tells the story of a Little Pig, who was once happy with his ordinary life of rolling in mud and eating slop, but eventually longs to join the sheep on the beautiful green pastures. The shepherd (a kindly sheepdog) helps Little Pig join the sheep flock; Little Pig gains the heart of a sheep, and slowly begins to transform into a sheep. But then Little Pig is tempted to rejoin his old pig friends for a party, and falls back into the ways of being a pig! He thinks he can never be a sheep again, until the kindly shepherd tells him, " can always make a good decision after a bad one, right? Come home with me!" Pig and Sheep is a gentle, heartwarming story that subtly conveys the timeless message of Jesus.

Books in Series

Straight Talk About Dealing with Loss
James Bow, author
Shutterstock, photography
Crabtree Publishing Company
PMB 59051, 350 Fifth Avenue, 59th Floor, New York, NY 10118
9780778722014, $30.60,

A very relevant teen mental health series titled "Straight Talk About..." helps grieving teens learn to face and begin to cope with serious loss, dealing with mourning, sadness, the role of family and friends, and the experience of grief. Exploring different grief reactions and situations, this mental health resource offers straight talk about some things to expect, when to ask for help from adults, peers, or professionals, and other resources. Many constructive suggestions for taking some meaningful actions or being patient with your own process for grieving are given. One of the ending chapters is Hot Topics Q & A, offering typical questions of teens experiencing loss and grief, asking what is "normal," or to be expected, and how to deal with survivor guilt. Also helpful is a list of other resources in the United States and Canada including phone numbers and web sites. A Glossary of terms adds technical definitions, and generally user friendly language makes "Straight Talk About..." a helpful, accessible series for teens and young adults. This is an excellent resource in an up-to-date juvenile mental health series, with no use of short cut psycho babble for filler. Other titles in this series that are also highly recommended include: "Straight Talk About... Binge Drinking", by James Bow, (9780778722007, $30.60), "Straight Talk About... Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity", by Rachel Stuckey, (9780778722038, $30.60), and "Straight Talk About... Digital Dangers", by Rachel Stuckey, (9780778722021, $30.60).

From Farm to Restaurant
Colleen Hord
Rourke Educational Media
PO Box 643328, Vero Beach, FL 32964
9781634300575 $25.64

Part of the "Little World Communities and Commerce" series, From Farm to Restaurant is an easy reader educational picturebook filled with colorful photography, describing in simple terms how the food grown or raised, processed, packaged, and shipped so that it can be served at restaurants that may be located hundreds or thousands of miles away. "Some crops, like potatoes, are hauled to warehouses. // Crops that must be sold fresh are quickly taken to grocery stores or farmer's markets so they won't spoil." From Farm to Restaurant is a simple yet accessible and inviting book for beginning readers, ideal for public library children's collections. Also highly recommended are the other books in the "Little World Communities and Commerce" series, "From Accident to Hospital", "From Empty Lot to Building", "From Factory to Store", "From Power Plant to House", and "From Tow Truck to Auto Body Shop".

The Wolf Who Wanted to Change His Color
Le loup qui voulait changer de couleur, original title
Orianne Lallemand, author
Eleonore Thuillier, illustrator
Susan Allen Maurin, translator from French
Auzou Publishing
24-32 rue des Amandiers, 75020 Paris, France
9782733832363, $14.95,

Part of an innovative juvenile series in French from Square Picture Books, "The Wolf Who Wanted to Change His Color" explores the idea of learning to accept oneself (through trial and error). Lavishly illustrated with contemporary wolf portraits in seven different colors, this charming animal fable presents a memorable example of a path to self acceptance. Young children will enjoy reading this book with an adult, responding to the humor and colorful self portraits of the Wolf, who is indeed a very lovable character. The Wolf is unhappy with his dull gray color, so he decides to try to change it. Every day of the week he tries out a new color disguise, using green paint, brown mud, orange peels, pink rose petals, a red sweater and scarlet stockings, an icy water bath that turned him blue with cold, and finally a cape of plucked peacock feathers in rainbow hues. The Wolf is dissatisfied with every alternate color/costume he tries, for various funny reasons. Finally, the Wolf del cares: "I don't want to be green, red, pink blue, orange, brown, or even multicolored! I am happy being just the way I am... a gray wolf!". Other fun titles in this series by the same author and artist include "The Wolf Who Didn't Want to Walk Anymore" (9782733821497, $6.95), "The Wolf Who Wanted to Travel the World" (978-2733823149, $6.95), "The Wolf Who Wanted to Be an Artist" (9782733827031, $6.95), and "The Wolf Who Traveled Back in Time" (978-2733829851, $6.95).

AC Writings
322 Punta Baja Drive, Solana Beach, CA 92075

Allan Westcott Chapman is the author of a five volume series of stories that begins with "Adventures with Mr. Wugidgem" (9780979678028, $7.99, 29pp) and introduces two ten year old fraternal twins, Debby and Michael Clark. Mr. Wugidgem is a long-time family friend who is blessed with magical powers which he uses to propel Debby and Michael through Time and Space on their first magical journey. "Mr. Wugidgem and the Dark Journey" (9780979678035, $7.99, 26pp) continues the twins' adventures when Mr. Wugidgem teletransports them to an oasis in the African Desert which is all that is left of the Garden of Eden. One local tribe has kidnapped children from another tribe, and the twins, along with their mentor, strive to free them. In the third title, "Mr. Wugidgem and the Phoenix Journey" (9780979678042, $7.99, 66pp), the twins discover a mano bird that was long thought to be extinct. Mr. Wugidgem, along Debbie and Michael again journey through Time and Space to aid a Phoenix Tribe girl who is in trouble. In the fourth title, "Mr. Wugidgem and the Snow Queen" (9780979678073, $7.99, 94pp) Debby and Michael art struck gravely ill at the hands of Malefic. Mr. Wugidgem uses his medical skills to health them and realizes how serious a threat the dark forces have become to the twins. He must teach the children far more than they know to defend themselves against the new perils. Concluding the series thus far, "Mr. Wugidgem and the Faces of Freedom (9780979678080, $7.99, 117pp), Debby and Michael learn about a confrontation between the Venezuelan Army and Farmers from their classmate Hugo's phone video. Mr. Wugidgem also receives a call for help from Carib, a long time friend from Venezuela. Soon the trio find themselves in the thick of massive demonstrations for freedom. Through this series of five adventures, Debbie and Michael learn to overcome failure and self-doubt, thereby enabling themselves to unleash their own magic powers. Author Allan Chapman is a talented and original children's writer whose skills as crafting interesting stories will entertain young readers and are recommended for both school and community library Fantasy Fiction collections.

Donovan's Bookshelf

The Alien Logs of Super Jewels
BK Bradshaw
Goldminds Publishing, LLC
ISBN (print): 9781942905097
ISBN (eBook): 9781942905394
$14.99 (print), $6.99 (eBook) 150 pages!alien-logs-of-super-jewels/c1xyd

The Alien Logs of Super Jewels presents a solid middle-grade novel centering upon Jewels, who has always felt different from her classmates. Something is obviously going on: but is she an alien, a super-heroine, or something more? Her exploration of psyche and self against the backdrop of ordinary peer interactions may surprise readers who expect a fantasy about aliens, but young hearts will quickly warm to the story of a girl who is in fourth grade "and almost teenager", who perceives the world quite differently than most - and is labeled as being strange, because of it.

Jewels is special - and so she identifies with the lost alien E.T. in many ways: "I felt sorry for that little guy. He didn't fit in. He didn't look like earthlings. He didn't eat the same things as earthlings. He didn't walk the same or talk the same. He had trouble living on Earth, and if he didn't get back to his home planet, he would die. E.T. was like me."

But unlike E.T., she presumably is with her people in a place where she doesn't fit in, and having Asperger's Syndrome means that likely she never will feel completely at home in her world. Her quest involves exploring her own unique abilities - and The Alien Logs of Super Jewels is all about finding these strengths in a world of hurt and puzzling social interactions.

There are books on the market about Aspergers, featuring protagonists who have Aspergers - but few with the intimate first-person approach that reels in readers to make the perceptions, thoughts, and emotions of the Aspergers individual feel realistic and personal.

In the search for evidence of her alien-ness or super-abilities, Jewels moves beyond logging evidence of her life on Earth and begins to understand a little more about herself and the nature of her peers, through accepting new experiences - such as camp - and incorporating them into her worldview.

It's not fantasy and it doesn't feature extraterrestrial life - but The Alien Logs of Super Jewels does do an outstanding job of introducing kids to the mindset of Asperger's child Jewels and how she navigates her puzzling world. As she comes to discover her 'surprise weapons', Jewels arrives at a different kind of approach to life that truly makes the most of her superpowers.

The story lies in the 'how', and that piece is beautifully done in this compelling story, recommended for advanced elementary to middle grade readers and many an adult who will come to understand Asperger's from a more sympathetic viewpoint than most stories provide.

A Time To Be Brave
Holly Moulder
White Pelican Press
132 Marcella Ave., Sharpsburg, GA 30277
9780979040580, $8.99 185 pages,

A Time To Be Brave is historical middle grade and young adult fiction at its best, and opens with a compelling scene that captures reader interest immediately: "This behavior is unacceptable!" roared the Colonel. "No daughter of mine will participate in such disgraceful activities with those appalling women! Is that clear?" The sound of his voice stopped me dead in my tracks. Grandfather and my mother were at each other's throats. Again."

But the subject isn't history alone (which is woven into the plot) so much as a murder mystery, as best friends probe the murder of twelve-year-old Theo's father in 1910. And within this context are plenty of social issues of the times that bring the whole concept of 'American history' to life with family and friend interactions: "My mother replied in her calm, reasonable manner. "Father, this is 1910, not the Dark Ages, and women should have the right to vote just as men do. I understand your concerns, but--"

First-person perspectives alternate between best friends Theo and Macie, which creates a satisfying juxtaposition of impressions and attitudes of social changes and events. One of the issues - women's suffrage - is brought to life against a backdrop which involves young readers in the atmosphere and sentiments of the times by placing Macie and her mother square in the middle of struggles to vote: "Petitions like these are being circulated throughout our country by women just like you, women who believe as we do that females should be able to exercise their right to vote." Miss Paul passed a stack of petitions to her assistant, who walked among the crowd, handing them out. I was both shocked and delighted when one of the papers ended up in my hands."

Burning changes, burning buildings, and burning questions: all these lend drama and action to a story that succeeds in capturing the major issues of early America and how they affect two friends' lives.

Elizabeth's Constellation Quilt
Olivia Fu
Tumblehome Learning
P.O. Box 171386, Boston MA 02117
9780990782919, $16.99 32 pages,

Elizabeth's Constellation Quilt offers an engaging picture book about a little mouse who worries that she can never be a sailor because she can't remember the stars - and thus, can't navigate.

Her mother's solution is to make Elizabeth a 'constellation quilt' so she can live her dreams - and so an engaging story of a little mouse who " wanted to be a sailor, just like her father" emerges to offer something different to parents who read aloud and kids who like warm, different stories.

Elizabeth's Constellation Quilt excels in both illustration and story line: a special feature because the author is both writer and illustrator, here. The engaging little mouse drawings are perfect accents to this story of a mouse who perceives the stars as "all the same, "and who steps up to the plate when her father is seemingly lost at sea.

It turns out that Elizabeth's greatest liability will become her only asset in finding her father, holding a gentle conclusion that, while not entirely unexpected, is still warm and involving.

Parents looking for a special read-aloud bedtime story won't want to pass by this tale: it chronicles the courage of a young mouse who isn't afraid to dream or tackle life's challenges.

Mickey and the Plow Horse
Edward A. Dreyfus
Edward A. Dreyfus, Publisher
1421 Santa Monica Boulevard, Santa Monica, CA 90404
$9.95 Paperback, $1.99 Kindle 172 Pages

On the face of it, Mickey and the Plow Horse is another story about a boy and his horse - but in actuality it holds a deeper message and is about fitting in, isolation and loneliness, and two lost souls (a horse and a boy) finding each other and, during the course of their relationship, becoming greater because of it.

Twelve-year-old Mickey is a nerd and a loner, immersed in technology and outside of the usual circles of friendship (aside from the Internet, the only realm where he feels connected to the world - albeit, from a safe distance). His health struggles don't help matters, and when his parents decide to send him to camp, Mickey wonders what could be of interest there.

Plenty, it turns out: a beaten-down plow horse offers him a friendship others cannot, and as Mickey comes to empathize with something outside of his self, he also comes to form the kinds of emotional connections (even with an animal) that will lend to his entry into the world at large.

Mickey and the Plow Horse offers up a horse that has uncommon intelligence at times ("Mickey shook his head to clear it and placed the brush back on the shelf. "I'll never be a horseman, Jackson. But...I'll always be your friend." Jackson flipped the brush off the shelf with his muzzle. "Why'd you do that?" Mickey picked up the brush. "You want me to brush you again?" Jackson vigorously nodded his head up and down."). The point isn't to present an animal with human intelligence; it's to outline a scenario by which two creatures come to make important connections leading them to believe more in themselves - and to communicate better.

As marvelous things begin to happen ("Well, I'll be danged! That's amazing! Incredible! I wouldn't believe it unless I saw it with my own eyes. I knew that you and Jackson had a special bond, but I never expected this!"), advanced elementary to early middle grade readers with an affection for horses and nerds will see the transformation happening - and will come to realize the power of acceptance, love, and what it means to be exceptional in a book that masquerades as another horse story but offers so much more.

Diane C. Donovan, Senior Reviewer
Donovan's Literary Services

James A. Cox, Editor-in-Chief
Diane C. Donovan, Editor
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575-1129
phone: 1-608-835-7937

Copyright ©2001

Site design by Williams Writing, Editing & Design