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Children's Bookwatch

Volume 33, Number 6 June 2023 Home | CBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Social Issues Shelf Health/Medicine Shelf
Pets/Wildlife Shelf Science Shelf ABC Shelf
Counting Shelf Board Book Shelf Picturebook Shelf
Biography Shelf LGBT Fiction Shelf Young Adult Fiction Shelf
Mystery/Suspense Shelf Fantasy/SciFi Shelf Poetry Shelf
Graphic Novel Shelf Music CD Shelf Multimedia Shelf
Gardening Shelf Dance Shelf Botany Shelf
Christian Shelf Judaic Shelf Religion/Spirituality Shelf
Metaphysical Shelf Sports Shelf Music Shelf
Books in Series Story Monsters Ink Shelf  

Reviewer's Choice

I Dare! I Can! I Will!
Linda Olafsdottir, author/illustrator
Abrams Children's Books
c/o Harry N. Abrams
9781951836900, $18.99, HC, 40pp

Synopsis: Vera and Mamma are headed out for a march, but it's not just any march: It's October 24 in Reykjavik, and on this day in 1975, the women of Iceland took the day off, walked out of their homes and away from their jobs as farmworkers, butchers, and fisherwomen; wives, daughters, and children -- and marched to demand equality and change, chanting: "I dare! I can! I will!" And they did, inspiring and empowering girls and women to make change, not just in their country, but all around the world.

Critique: The creation of author/illustrator Linda Olafsdottir, "I Dare! I Can! I Will!" is an inspiring picture book of a real historical event called the Long Friday. It was an event that took place in Iceland that went on to inspire women around the world to stand up, walk out, and march together for the establishment of women's rights in a male dominated world. Fun, informative, inspiring, "I Dare! I Can! I Will!" is an unreservedly recommended addition to family, elementary school, and community library Social Issues and Women's History picture book collections for young readers ages 6-9.

Editorial Note: Linda Olafsdottir ( is an award-winning Icelandic children's book author and illustrator. Her books include Play?, published by Cameron Kids. She lives in Reykjavik with her husband and two children.

Chloe's Nature Journal
Min Leshem-Pelly
Creston Books
9781954354272, $18.99, HC, 38pp

Synopsis: When her teacher assigns the class to start a science journal, noting the animals they find in their yards, Chloe is sure she'll discover the most. But once she's in her yard with her journal and markers, she can't find any animals to sketch! Will she end up finding the fewest, not the most?

With a bit of patience and lots of close looking, Chloe realizes all kinds of creatures make a home in her yard. Birds, insects, reptiles, and mammals all live together, some of them eating each other. Chloe asks a lot of questions about what she sees, noting her discoveries, finding some answers, and learning some new skills from the creatures she observes.

Without realizing it, Chloe is following the scientific method. And so a young scientist is made!

Critique: With the publication of "Chloe's Nature Journal", author Min Leshem-Pelly shows young readers how writing and drawing about animals is both a scientific and creative process. Fun, original, nicely illustrated as if it were a lined notebook, "Chloe's Nature Journal" will prove an informative, 'kid and appreciated addition to family, elementary school, and community library Science/Nature collections for boys and girls ages 7-11.

Editorial Note: Miri Leshem-Pelly ( has written and illustrated more than a dozen children's books, many featuring animals and their environments. Her most recent books have been about creativity.

Dear Star Baby
Malcom Newsome, author
Kamala Nair, illustrator
Beaming Books
9781506484808, $17.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: "I knew something was wrong when Mama called me close. She held my hand and told me you would not be coming home with us. She said you went to be with the stars instead."

Written as a letter to his unborn baby sibling, "Dear Star Baby" shares how a little boy processes the grief he and his family experience after a miscarriage. He tells the baby all about how they were preparing their home to welcome them and the things he was looking forward to doing together. He processes his wonders, wishes, and sadness after this tremendous loss.

Dad says their Star Baby feels far away. Mom says their Star Baby is always in her heart. The little boy imagines his baby sibling singing and twinkling in the night sky as he sleeps.

Critique: Poignant and sensitively told, "Dear Star Baby" by author/storyteller Malcolm Newsome and artist/illustrator Kamala Nair is a picture book story will be of immense help and value for the children of families who have lost a baby to miscarriage or stillbirth -- and must grieve and move forward together. Sensitive and ideally suited to children ages 4-7, "Dear Star Baby" is a unique and unreservedly recommended addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library dealing with Death, Dying, and Grief Management themed picture book collections.

Editorial Note #1: Malcolm Newsome ( is an accomplished children's book author and cyber security expert from the Chicago area. He is a married father of five who has a deep passion for telling stories of hope and possibilities. After the first three children were born, his family suffered multiple miscarriages. He hopes his debut picture book, "Dear Star Baby", will bring healing to the millions of other families who experience this kind of grief.

Editorial Note #2: Kamala Nair ( grew up in Kerala, a small southern coastal state in India, surrounded by exotic wildlife, stunning beaches, lush green hills, and turquoise backwaters. She is a professional architect and an illustrator. Her works are inspired by a harmonious blend of nature, patterns, and architecture. In addition to Dear Star Baby, she is the illustrator of Kamala Is Speaking, by Shasta Clinch and The Leaping Laddoo by Harshita Jerath.

The Fight for Midnight
Dan Solomon
c/o North Star Editions, Inc.
9781635830866, $19.99, HC, 288pp

Synopsis: It's been a rough year for Alex Collins. In the past twelve months, he's lost his best friend, become the target of the two biggest bullies at school, and been sentenced to community service. But on June 25, 2013, he gets a call for help from Cassie Ramirez, the prettiest girl in school. At last, he feels like his luck might be changing.

Cassie is at the Texas State Capitol to protest Wendy Davis's historic filibuster of the abortion bill HB2, and she's rallying everyone she knows to join her. Until today, Alex didn't know what a filibuster was, and he'd never given a moment's thought to how he felt about abortion. But at the Capitol, he finds himself in the middle of a tense scene full of pro-life "blueshirts," pro-choice "orangeshirts," and blustering politicians playing political games as Wendy Davis tries to run out the clock at midnight.

Alex may have entered the Capitol looking to spend time with Cassie, but the political gets personal when he runs into his ex-friend Shireen in an orange T-shirt and quickly realizes that when it comes to an issue like abortion, neutral isn't an option. Over the next nineteen hours, Alex will struggle to figure out what side he's on, knowing that whatever choice he makes will bring him face-to-face with his past mistakes.

Critique: Simply stated, given the the cancellation of Roe v Wade by the Supreme Court, and the present proliferation of horrific laws banning women from having control over their own reproductive decisions that are being passed by Republican dominated state legislatures, "The Fight For Midnight" by Dan Solomon deserves as wide a possible readership among teens and young adults ages 14-18. While urgently and unreservedly recommended for middle school, highschool, and community library YA Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Fight For Midnight" is also available for personal reading lists (even in the state of Florida) in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Dan Solomon ( is a journalist based out of Austin, Texas. He's a senior writer at Texas Monthly, and his writing has appeared in the New York Times, Vanity Fair, and Details. He covered the HB2 filibuster for the Austin Chronicle, where his work was part of the alt-weekly's AAN Award-nominated coverage.

The Social Issues Shelf

The Bully Patrol: Help is On the Way
Kathy Auman
Dorrance Publishing Company
585 Alpha Drive, Suite 103, Pittsburgh, PA 15238
9798888121412, $13.00, PB, 74pp

Synopsis: "The Bully Patrol: Help is On the Way" by Kathy Auman is the story of Kathy, a girl wants to get this message out to all of the kids and adults who are experiencing being bullied physically, mentally, or cyberbullying in any of its formats.

The message of "The Bully Patrol: Help is On the Way" to the young reader is that they are not alone. Help is there if they want it. It is often said that there is safety in numbers and it is so true. Speak up-talk to others, get involved, and seek the help you need. Life can be good if you let it be.

Critique: The impact of bullying can be devastating, even life threatening to a child -- and is all too common whether on the playground or on social media. Exceptionally well written and timely, "The Bully Patrol: Help is On the Way" is especially and unreservedly recommended for family, elementary school, and community library Life Skills collections and the personal reading lists of children ages 8-12.

Editorial Note: Kathy Auman ( is also the author of "The Secret Bully Patrol" (9781638671138, $9.00 PB, $5.00 Kindle, 32pp) and "The Bully Patrol: The Secret is Out" (9781685373580, $11.00 PB, $3.74 Kindle, 70pp).

Why Me, Mama?
Katherine Lockwood, author
Evgeniya Erokhina, illustrator
Acorn Cottage Press
9798985563504, $24.95, HC, 48pp

Synopsis: Rose the wee owl has a birthday coming up and they are planning her birthday party but she doesn't feel excited because she feels different from her friends and is worried that the other animals won't want to come to her party.

As they travel around the park delivering invitations, Rose discovers that all the other animals have something that makes them different, too. Various disabilities are individually highlighted in this book including facial paralysis/weakness, inability to abduct the eyes (Duane syndrome), club feet, cleft palate, mild, moderate & severe hypotonia, limb differences, strabismus, Autism, Pierre Robin sequence, Poland syndrome, developmental delay, speech, hearing, vision, feeding and respiratory difficulty.

Critique: One out of every four people has something impaired. Sometimes it's obvious to children because they can see it and sometimes it isn't obvious and they can't see it. "Why Me, Mama?" by author/storyteller Katherine Lockwood and artist/illustrator Evgeniya Erokhina is a children's picture book story about the disability experience. Fun, informative, and thoroughly 'kid friendly' in presentation, "Why Me Mama?" is a welcome and unreservedly recommended addition to family, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for children ages 6-10. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Why Me Mama?" is also available in a paperback edition (9798985563511, $16.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $6.99).

Editorial Note #1: In addition to having a disability herself (Cystic Fibrosis), Katherine Lockwood's background is as a disability rights advocate, special education teacher, and school counselor. (

Editorial Note #2: Evgeniya Erokhina ( is an artist and book illustrator, as well as a mother, wife and just a dreamer in life. She was born in the USSR, and grew up in Russia on the ruins of a great power. As a child, books with illustrations were difficult to buy in those days. To get a good children's book, her mother had to work hard: get up early on a day off, drive to another area and stand in a long line of other people who wanted to buy a beautiful new book. One of Evgeniya's favorite children's books was "Fairy Tales" by A.S. Pushkin. In it one page was torn off -- and that was the only way her mother was able to buy it.

The Health/Medicine Shelf

Nurse Florence(R), What is a Heart Attack?
Michael Dow, RN, MS, MHA, MSM, author
Kelsey Tone, illustrator
Lulu Publishing
9781435780781, $27.99, HC, 62pp

Synopsis: Sometimes it seems only a nurse can bring technical information down to an understanding that an ordinary person (child or adult) can grasp. The Nurse Florence(R) book series provides high quality medical information that even a child can grasp.

By introducing young kids to correct terminology and science concepts at an early age, as with the publication of "Nurse Florence(R), What is a Heart Attack?" we can help increase our children's health literacy level as well as help to prepare them for courses and jobs in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.

Critique: We need more children to grow up and become medical scientists, practitioners, and caregivers. "Nurse Florence(R), What is a Heart Attack?" focuses on explaining what a heart attack is both scientifically accurate and kid friendly in presentation. While also available for personal reading lists in a paperback edition (9781458309662, $12.99), "Nurse Florence(R), What is a Heart Attack?" is unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library Health/Medicine collections for children ages 1-6.

The Pets/Wildlife Shelf

Versatile Vertebrates
Tom Velcovsky, author
Marie Kotasova Adamkova, author
Babora Idesova, illustrator
Albatros Media
9788000067995, $17.95, HC, 80pp

Synopsis: Vertebrates are one of the largest animal groups and it includes cartilaginous fish, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. What do they have in common? What is typical for their body? Are you shaking your head in confusion, telling yourself that you don't know?

Shaking your head is a sign that you are a vertebrate. Because backbone and cranium are typical for them. Did you know that African ostriches run at speeds of up to 55 miles per hour, which is the average speed of a car? Or that kiwi birds stopped flying because they had no natural enemies? Dive into the animal world showcased in "Versatile Vertebrates" and find out more!

Critique: The collaborative project of co-authors Tom Velcovsky and Marie Kotasova Adamkova, and supported throughout with the impressive artwork of illustrator Babora Idesova, "Versatile Vertebrates" from Albatros Media provides young readers with detailed and fascinating information about the vertebrate family in a readable and comprehensible way, while staying scientifically accurate. "Versatile Bertebrates" is a welcome, informative, fun, and recommended addition to family, elementary school, and community library Pets/Wildlife and Animal Science picture book collections.

Editorial Note #1: Tom Velcovsky ( is a graduate in Audiovisual Production from the Silesian University in Opava, 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 #2: Marie Kotasova Adamkova graduated from the Faculty of Science of Masaryk University in Brno, Czech Republic, she became a zoologist. In her precious moments of free time, when she isn't working on specialist publications, she relaxes by writing children's books. (

Editorial Note #3: Barbora Idesova ( is inspired by nature, the sun, music, meditation, myths and adventures with friends. Her drawings often depict various creatures from her own imaginary mythology. Goddesses, demigods, mythical forest beings with ordinary human qualities. They perform in strangely familiar dreamy scenes full of symbols and decorative elements. Through these creatures, she also tries to create a space to talk about topics that matter to her, like feminism and LGBTQ+ themes.

You Stole My Name
Dennis McGregor, author/illustrator
c/o Bluestar Press
9781941325988, $24.95, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: The museum quality artwork in this oversized coffee-table style volume is big and beautiful, the verses are clever and funny, but it's the concept behind "You Stole My Name" that is unique, original, and sets it apart from all other pet and wildlife picture book collections for young children.

"You stole my name", said the chicken to the chickenhawk, cat to the catfish, bull to the bulltrout and so on. How and why did some animals get named after other animals? Can the young reader figure out why? Does it makes any sense? How many more can the young reader think of?

Critique: Matching similar names given to two different species of animals, "You Stole My Name" by author/illustrator Dennis McGregor is a totally unique and immediately to be treasured addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library Pets/Wildlife picture book collections for children ages 2-6. It should be noted that "You Stole My Name" is also available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $5.99).

Editorial Note: Dennis McGregor ( is an accomplished artist, songwriter and children's book author.

The Science Shelf

We Dug Up the World
Alexandra Stewart, author
Kitty Harris, illustrator
Laurence King Publishing
9781510230415, $18.99, HC, 48pp

Synopsis: You can find simply amazing things when you dig. Things ranging from shells, to bottle tops, to slimy snails. But can you imagine what would happen if one day you dug up something extra special, something that had an amazing story to tell about what life was like a long time ago...

Archeologists have found some incredible things by digging deep underground. Magnificent mummies from long, long ago. Dinosaur bones washed up on the beach. The underwater kingdoms of great kings and queens. Beautiful cities buried by volcano ash. And mighty meteors from beyond the Milky Way.

With the publication of "We Dug Up the World" by author/storyteller Alexandra Stewart and artist/illustrator Kitty Harris, young readers will enjoy teaming up with archaeologists from around the world and travel through time to learn about fantastic historical artefacts. From Tutankhamun to the Titanic, children will discover something new on every page and delight in learning about how the world used to be.

Critique: Fun and informative, "We Dug Up the World" is a splendid and thoroughly 'kid friendly' picture book introduction to the science of Archaeology and a highly recommended addition to family, elementary school, and community library collections for young readers ages 6-8).

Editorial Note #1: Alexandra Stewart read Modern History at Oxford University before training to be a journalist. After working as a reporter on several newspapers, she crossed the floor to become a press officer for the Metropolitan Police and, later, Central Government. She lives in Wiltshire, UK. (

Editorial Note #2: Kitty Harris ( is a British illustrator who grew up in South London. Kitty graduated from Camberwell College of Arts with a distinction in her Master's degree in 2019 and was highly commended in the Macmillan Prize that same year. Her illustrations are always detailed and character-driven and she loves to explore different ways of mixing digital and traditional media.

The Sky Is Not the Limit
Jeremie Decalf
Eerdmans Books for Young Readers
c/o Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
9780802856029, $18.99, HC, 64pp

Synopsis: In 1977, a space probe was built to help human beings learn a little more about outer space. Soon, along with its twin, Voyager 2 slipped through the clouds and left Earth behind. The spacecraft traveled for years through the deep, infinite night. At last Voyager 2 reached its first goal: Jupiter. Then it met the spellbinding sight of Saturn. Then, going further than any previous mission, the probe visited the blue ice giants Uranus and Neptune. Past the boundaries of our solar system, Voyager 2 continues to sail on, carrying a Golden Record for any new friends it makes in interstellar space...

Critique: "The Sky Is Not the Limit" by Jeremie Decalf is lyrical, atmospheric picture book that introduces young readers to a pioneering NASA spacecraft that has spent over forty-five years observing and exploring our galaxy. A compendium of stirring poetry, luminous art, and fascinating back matter, "The Sky Is Not the Limit" is certain to inspire future scientific innovators and foster a sense of wonder at our universe -- making it an unreservedly recommended pick for family, elementary school, and community library Astronomy and Science picture book collections for children ages 5-9. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Sky Is Not the Limit" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, 18.04).

Editorial Note: Jeremie Decalf ( is a French illustrator and photographer based in San Francisco. Since his childhood, Jeremie has been fascinated by space exploration, including the Voyager probes and their discoveries. "The Sky Is Not the Limit" has been translated into Korean, Spanish, and Italian, and is Jeremie's English-language debut. Readers can also follow Jeremie on Instagram @lomki

Science Naturally
c/o Platypus Media

An imprint of Platypus Media, Science Naturally is an independent press located in Washington, D. C. and is committed to increasing science and math literacy by exploring and demystifying these topics for young readers in entertaining and enlightening ways . Here are three of their new titles:

"This is the Sun" (9781938492815, $14.95 HC, $12.95 PB, $11.99 Kindle, 32pp.) Elizabeth Everett (author), Evelline Andrya (illustrator). From the tiniest animal to the tallest tree, everything on Earth is connected through the circle of life. But at the center of it all is a different kind of circle - the Sun! Through a charming story with rhythmic repetition, young children ages 4-7 are introduced to the bright Sun that provides energy for life on Earth. They will follow along as a young tree uses light from the Sun to make its own food, then passes its energy along the food chain... until it circles all the way back to a brand new sprout growing toward the Sun. Readers see how each living thing in the food web provides energy to the next, over and over again. The vibrant collage art grows along with the increasingly multilevel story. As you read, look for the bug, spider, lizard, fox, and more as they move through each of the pages and build a full ecosystem. This is the Sun gives readers a glimpse into how all the living things are connected through the circle of life - and the role the Sun plays in making it all possible.

"Spheres All Year" (9781958629222, $14.95 HC, $12.95 PB, 32pp) Elizabeth Everett (author), Anuki Lopez (illustrator). Kids quickly learn to recognize circles, squares, and triangles. But what about the shapes we can hold in our hands, stack, or roll across the floor? Introduce the early math concept of three-dimensional shapes with the help of charming illustrations and catchy rhymes! From a little ball of cookie dough to the huge Earth we live on, Spheres All Year teaches children to recognize the spherical objects that surround them in nature and in their everyday lives. This engaging, clever, informative book takes readers ages 2-7 on a tour of the four seasons. Rain or shine, in the summer heat or a winter snowstorm, there are always spheres to discover. With this book as their guide, curious children will set out to see how many more spheres they can find on their own. "Spheres All Year" is an inspiration for any child eager to observe and interact with the world (and the spheres) around them.

"Mole and Tell" (9781958629116, $16.95 HC, $14.95 PB, $11.99 Kindle, 40pp) Catherine Payne & John Payne II (authors), Elisa Rocchi (illustrator). This new picturebook gives kids ages 7-10 their first taste of universal standards of measurement, teaching them about scientific notation called a 'mole' in a way that's fun and easy to understand. Mr. Cantello's classroom is full of lively characters who ask the same questions a young reader is wondering -- like how can a mole of sugar be larger than a mole of water, and how is it possible to measure something smaller than you can see? "Mole and Tell" introduces readers to concepts like the periodic table, molar mass, elements, and of course, moles. Using the familiar activity Show and Tell, readers will explore several different measurements of moles. The story is grounded in fact and shows kids how science is used in the real world.

All three of these fun and informative science titles from Science Naturally are especially and unreservedly recommended for family, elementary school, and community library Introductory Science Book collections for young readers.

The ABC Shelf

The Imaginary Alphabet
Sylvie Daigneault, author/illustrator
Pajama Press
9781772782998, $22.95, HC, 64pp

Synopsis: Agile alligators attempting an arabesque are just the beginning of "The Imaginary Alphabet", an alphabetical adventure for young readers. If they keep their eyes sharp they might just spot the accordion, apple trees, and acorns hiding in the art. When they read about the sleepy sloths swinging by the sea, they should stick around to spy the sailboat, snorkel, and sandals too!

Critique: With the publication of "The Imaginary Alphabet", Sylvie Daigeault's whimsical and museum quality artwork brings the alphabet to life. Young keen-eyed readers and listeners of all ages will enjoy finding everything there is to discover in each fantastical scene. Of special note is that this unique picture book concludes with a long list of every hidden detail. Bookended by endpapers adorned with each jewel-like illustrated letter, "The Imaginary Alphabet" is a mesmerizing book for word-lovers and art and animal enthusiasts everywhere -- making it unreservedly recommended for family, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for children ages 5-10.

Editorial Note: Sylvie Daigneault, an award-winning Canadian commercial artist and author-illustrator. She studied at Montreal's Ecole des Beaux-Arts and her works were featured at a variety of venues and galleries before she began focusing on her passion for children's illustration using colored pencils. She has illustrated fifteen books, most memorably the Bruno series, The Good Garden, which won several awards and accolades, and Sarah Saw a Blue Macaw.

The Counting Shelf

How to Count to ONE
Caspar Salmon, author
Matt Hunt, illustrator
Nosy Crow
c/o Candlewick Press
9798887770246, $17.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: "How to Count to ONE: (And Don't Even THINK About Bigger Numbers!)" by the team of author Caspar Salmon and artist/illustrator Matt Hunt is an hilariously irreverent picture book about counting that children will love to outsmart!

Kids know how to count, right? That's Great! And there are a lot of fun things to count in this book rangin from whales, baboons, rainbows, pyramids, and more! There's just one rule. The young reader must only ever count to one. So don't even about think of bigger numbers. OK?!

Young readers can get ready to show off their skills in this fun new counting book! But not everything is as it seems -- is "How to Count to ONE" really only about counting to "ONE?" Because there are so many fun things that can be counted. But wait -- maybe there's a way to outsmart this picture book and count all the way up to 100!

Critique: An original, unique, fun, and interactive read-aloud experience for children ages 3-6 that is also available in a paperback edition ( 9781839941931, $14.99), "How to Count to ONE: (And Don't Even THINK About Bigger Numbers!)" is a remarkable and recommended pick for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library children's counting, humor, and animal picture book collections.

Editorial Note #1: Caspar Salmon ( is a writer who lives in leafy north London, having grown up in picturesque France. He writes and broadcasts about this and that for a living - mostly cinema - and enjoys seeing friends, swimming, and reading.

Editorial Note #2: Matt Hunt ( was born in Redditch, Worcestershire in 1988. Starting out as a fine artist, he graduated from the Birmingham School of Art, and from these roots, developed a love for children's illustration. Matt works in mixed media, utilising paint, pens, crayons, and digital. He loves to create new and interesting characters and write stories for them. He's influenced by old movies, classic illustration, cartoons and books.

The Board Book Shelf

This Is Music: Strings
Rekha S. Rajan, author
Tania Yakunova, illustrator
Rise x Penguin Workshop
c/o Penguin Young Readers Group
9780593387047, $9.99, Board Book, 26pp

Synopsis: What do a guitar, a harp, and a piano have in common? They are all strings! "This Is Music: Strings" is a first introduction for young children and begins with a simple explanation of what defines a string instrument. Children are then invited on a global exploration of a variety of different stringed instruments and are encouraged to find strings of their own in the world around them.

Critique: A charming, fun, and informative board book for children ages 1-3, "This Is Music: Strings" by author/storyteller Rekha S. Rajank and artist/illustrator Tania Yakunova is a children's board book that includes a bound-in string to strum, and a visual glossary. Also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99), "This Is Music: Strings" is unreservedly recommended as an addition to family, daycare center, preschool, and community library board book collections.

Editorial Note: Each title in the "This Is Music" series from the Rise x Penguin Workshop features an interactive novelty musical element that invites the a young child to "play" the book!

Lake Life with You
Cindy Jin, author
Andres Landazabal, illustrator
Little Simon
c/o Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
9781665935142, 7.99 Board Books, $7.99 Kindle, 22pp

Synopsis: when the lake is quiet / in the morning breeze / we watch the sunrise paint the sky // when the frogs are croaking / and herons take wing, / we feed the ducks wading by

Whether it's feeding ducks, looking for fish, or enjoying a peaceful nature walk, "Lake Life with You" by author/storyteller Cindy Jin and artist/illustrator Andres Landazabal, is cozy board book story proves that the best thing about lake life is making precious memories with the ones you love that last long after you leave the shore.

Critique: With its sweet, rhyming text and beautiful art "Lake Life with You" is an original and heartfelt board book that celebrates the best things about enjoying lake life with loved ones. While also available in a digital book format (Kindle, 7.99), "Lake Life with You" is unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, kindergarten, and community library board book collections for children ages 1-5.

Editorial Note #1: Cindy Jin ( edits and writes books for children.

Editorial Note #2: Andres Landazabal is an illustrator, production designer, and art director based in Colombia. His work has appeared in animation films, TV shows, and books. Andres's love for drawing and painting was instilled at a young age reading classic illustrated children's books. (

Little Dumplings
Jekka Kuhlmann, et al.
Chronicle Books
9781797216928, $8.99, Board Book, 24pp

Synopsis: There are so many different kinds of dumplings to love! "Little Dumplings" from Chronicle Books is a sweetly charming rhyming board book introducing the youngest of children to traditional dumplings eaten all over the world, from bao to pierogi, samosa, and more! Featuring more than thirty different dumplings, plus an illustrated guide to pronunciation and associated regions, "Little Dumplings" is multicultural board book that is just right for sharing diverse culinary traditions and fostering a love of good food with little ones. Everyone is welcome at this dumpling celebration!

Critique: A delightfully fun introduction to the many and varied types of dumplings there are, "Little Dumplings" is an ideal and unreservedly recommended addition to family, daycare center, preschool, and community library board book collections for ages 1-3. It should be noted that "Little Dumplings" is also available in a paperback edition (9781735212814, $6.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99).

Moms Can Do It All!
Ted Maass, author
Ekaterina Trukhan, illustrator
Children's Books Publicity
Grosset & Dunlap
c/o Penguin Young Readers Group
9780593522974, $8.99, Board Book, 18pp

Synopsis: This year and any year, celebrate Mom with "Moms Can Do It All!", an adorable board book young readers can personally inscribe and dedicate to their mom: the superhero! Beautiful illustrations by Ekaterina Trukhan and inspiring, rhyming verses by Ted Maass make "Moms Can Do It All!" the perfect gift for moms and for birthdays year-round. Young ones will love sharing this book with Mom and learning all the exciting things mothers can do -- and everything they can do, too!

Critique: Also available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.99), "Moms Can Do It All!" is a fun and highly recommended addition to family, daycare center, preschool, and community library Board Book collections for children ages 1-3.

Editorial Note #1: Ted Maass ( is a communications professional and brand storyteller. He was inspired to write children's books after the birth of his daughters.

Editorial Note #2: Ekaterina Trukhan ( is an internationally published illustrator and author of picture books, drawing inspiration from everyday life, midcentury illustration, and the books from her childhood.

The Picturebook Shelf

There's a Monster in the Kitchen!
Patricia Strauce, author
Natalia Aguerre, illustrator
Kit Maude, translator
Tapioca Stories
9781734783964, $18.95, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: No one expects to wake up hungry for toast only to find a monster in the kitchen. But one Saturday morning that's exactly what happens to Matias. Is it his imagination, or is the monster real? A hairy, gray monster with a yellow crest, pink tail, and orange paws. How scary! Enough to make even the bravest lose their appetite. So what does Matias do? What anyone would: he calls his mom. She sees it too, but differently from how Matias did.

Critique: Deftly translated into English by Kit Maude, "There's a Monster in the Kitchen" by the team of author/storyteller Patricia Strauch and artist/illustrator Natalia Aguerre explores our perceptions and how they change like a clock or a compass to show us that we each see things from our own unique point of view. The sweet, funny ending opens an unexpected window into yet another perspective: that of the monster caught cooking in the kitchen. A fun read for children ages 5-8, "There's a Monster in the Kitchen" is a highly recommended pick for family, elementary school, and community library picture book collections.

Editorial Note #1: Patricia Strauch ( was born in the city of Buenos Aires in 1978. She attended the University of Buenos Aires and is a certified public translator. Motherhood first brought her into contact with children's literature, first through reading and later writing. In addition to There's a Monster in the Kitchen, she has also published the books Emma va a la selva, and Por que dormimos?, published by Tres en Linea and Una Luna, respectively.

Editorial Note #2: Natalia Aguerre ( is a graphic designer who studied at the University of Buenos Aires. She sees illustration as her primary means of communication. In addition to illustrating There's a Monster in the Kitchen, she also illustrated Una caja de libros, published by Superpoder Editorial. Her artistic training began from a very young age with courses given by Cristian Turdera and Marcos Farina. She has given workshops on fanzines and illustrations at secondary schools, the Faculty of Architecture, Design and Urbanism (FADU, University of Buenos Aires), and at cultural centers. She currently teaches experimental illustration for the Roldan Course at the FADU.

Editorial Note #3: Kit Maude ( is a translator based in Buenos Aires. He has translated dozens of Latin American writers for a wide array of publications and writes reviews for N, Otra Parte, and the Times Literary Supplement.

Are We There Yet?
Sven Volker
Cicada Books Ltd.
9781800660373, $16.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: Bear wakes up after his long winter's sleep and joins his friend, Butterfly, on a journey. 'Where are we going?' asks bear. 'All journeys have secret destinations', says Butterfly. As they travel through forest, over hill and across a great river, Butterfly offers her wisdom about hardships, facing one's fears and living in the moment. Bear's natural impatience gradually softens into acceptance of the world around him. As the seasons change, the friends find themselves once more in front of Bear's cave. Landscapes look different with different eyes and the end of one journey is the beginning of another.

Critique: "Are We There Yet?" by author/illustrator Sven Volker is a gentle, heartwarming, and original picture book story about friendship and about circles and cycles of life and being. It is an especially sweet and calming bedtime story that introduces Buddhist philosophies and values to young readers. "Are We There Yet?" is unreservedly recommended as a very special addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library collections for children ages 3-7.

Editorial Note: Sven Volker ( is a Berlin-based author/illustrator and a professor in graphic design. His picture book A Million Dots was a New York Times 'Best Illustrated Children's Book' winner in 2019.

I Have Seven Dogs
Molly Horan, author
Dana Wulfekotte, illustrator
Nancy Paulsen Books
c/o Penguin Young Readers Group
9780593324356, $18.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: It's an age-old problem -- Zoe is a young girl who wants a dog but cannot have one. But that doesn't stop her from befriending all the dogs in her neighborhood -- and appreciating each one's charms and quirks. She knows which pups give high-fives, enjoy being read to, and love music. And she also knows she's good at solving problems, so when a visit to the community garden inspires a brilliant doggy idea, it's time to celebrate!

Critique: Young doggy lovers ages 3-7 will especially appreciate Zoe's predicament and thoroughly enjoy "I Have Seven Dogs", a fun picture book story by the team author Molly Horan and illustrator Dana Wulfekotte with its paws-itively pup-filled solution to a little girl's dilemma! While a highly recommended pick for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library Pets/Wildlife picture book collections, it should be noted that "I Have Seven Dogs" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99).

Editorial Note #1: Molly Horan ( also wrote the young adult novel Epically Earnest, and is a graduate of the New School's MFA program in writing for children and young adults. She has worked as a web writer and editor focusing on entertainment writing at sites like KnowYourMeme and Refinery29, and is currently an English professor teaching writing for young adults and writing for the web at NYU and SVA.

Editorial Note #2: Dana Wulfekotte (, is a freelance animator and children's book author and has illustrated numerous picture books, including the Schneider Family Honor book The Remember Balloons (by Jessie Oliveros), Squish Squash Squished (by Rebecca Kraft Rector), Awe-some Days (by Marilyn Singer), One Snowy Morning (by Kevin Tseng), and Tea Time (by Beth Ferry). As an animator/designer, she has worked on various animation projects for HBO, PBS, Google, and many others.

A Dive into the Blue
Ellie Huynh, author
Bao Luu, illustrator
Beaming Books
9781506486345, $17.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: As a small girl stands at the edge of a diving board, she fears the drain at the bottom of the pool will swallow her up. Determined to learn how to dive, she musters up her courage by imagining other possibilities of what she might find under the surface, like mermaid mazes and lantern fish.

Critique: Combining the lyrical text of author/storyteller Ellie Huynh and the simply enchanting work of artist/illustrator Bao Luu, "A Dive into the Blue" skillfully explores a young child's imagination as she learns to overcome her fears. Believing in herself, and not the shadows in the water, might be just what she needs to take the leap. While also available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.99), "A Dive into the Blue" will prove to be a welcome and enduringly popular addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for children ages 3-8.

Editorial Note #1: Ellie Huynh ( is a long-time kindergarten teacher. She writes stories and poetry with themes of friendship, perseverance, and wonder. A Dive into the Blue is her debut picture book. Besides writing, Ellie loves singing, painting, and teaching art classes.

Editorial Note #2: Bao Luu ( was born in Vietnam and currently lives in the United States. As an artist, he focuses on color and texture in his illustrations. He loves playing with color. By observing everything in life to gain inspiration, he combines different ideas to create his unique artwork.

This Old Madrone Tree
Barbara Herkert, author
Marlo Garnsworthy, illustrator
Web of Life Children's Books
9781970039047, $18.95, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: If ever a tree deserved a love letter, it is the Pacific madrone. In a new picture book for young readers, "This Old Madrone Tree", author/storyteller Barbara Herkert's poetic tale charts the life swirling around this luminous tree, from eagles to elk to hummingbirds to fungi, as it patiently stands sentinel through the seasons of the Pacific Northwest. Marlo Garnsworthy's gorgeous paintings bring the tree's scarlet berries, spangles of white flowers, and curls of russet and green bark vividly to life.

Critique: Fun, memorable, thoroughly 'kid friendly' from first page to last, "This Old Madrone Tree" will have a special appeal for children with an interest in the relationship of a tree to animals, brides, and other forms of life. "This Old Madrone Tree" is a singularly impressive, creatively original, and unreservedly recommended addition to family, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for children ages 5-9.

Editorial Note #1: Barbara Herkert ( is the author of Sleep (Imagine This!), Sewing Stories: Harriet Powers' Journey from Slave to Artist; Mary Cassatt: Extraordinary Impressionist Painter; and A Boy, a Mouse, and a Spider: The Story of E.B. White. She received a bachelor's degree in biology from UC Santa Barbara and an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Hamline University. She lives in Port Ludlow, Washington, on the beautiful Olympic Peninsula with a variety of wildlife and a madrone tree for company.

Editorial Note #2: Marlo Garnsworth ( is an Australian-American author, illustrator, editor, and science communicator. Her published works include fiction and nonfiction -- with her illustrations being featured most recently in The Turtle Dove's Journey: A Story of Migration by Madeleine Dunphy and Bristlecone: The Secret Life of the World's Oldest Tree by Alexandra Siy. Marlo works with scientists and as an advocate for polar and ocean science and climate change awareness.

Hooray for Fall!
Kazuo Iwamura
NorthSouth Books
9780735845435, $19.95, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: Mama has a surprise for her three little squirrels: three bright red sweaters to keep them warm throughout the fall. Imagine the siblings' surprise when they find that everything in the autumn woods (the leaves, the berries, even the setting sun) is red too, just like their sweaters.

"Hooray for Fall!" by storyteller and artist Kazuao Iwamura is a delightful picture book celebration of a perfect fall day will have young readers looking around for signs of autumn in their own neighborhoods. Original and fun, "Hooray for Fall!" is certain to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for children ages 4-8.

Critique: Kazuo Iwamura's books celebrating the seasons (Hooray for Spring!, Hooray for Summer!, Hooray for Fall!, and Hooray for Snow!) are perennial favorites - introducing children to the beauty and joy of each season. Iwamura masterfully captures the small wonders of nature in his illustrations and his stories with their gentle humor warm the heart.

Editorial Note: Kazuo Iwamura ( was born in Tokyo. He is one of the most famous picture book artists in Japan. His work has won many awards. He lives in Tochigi, where he founded the Museum for Picture Book Illustrations. It stands on a hill named Ehon-no-Oka, which means Picture Book Hill.

Heart Berry Bling
Jenny Kay Dupuis, author
Eva Campbell, illustrator
HighWater Press
9781774920558, $24.95, HC, 48pp

Synopsis: On a visit to her granny, Maggie is excited to begin her first-ever beading project: a pair of strawberry earrings. However, beading is much harder than she expected! As they work side by side, Granny shares how beading helped her persevere and stay connected to her Anishinaabe culture when she lost her Indian status, forcing her out of her home community -- all because she married someone without status, something the men of her community could do freely.

As Maggie learns about patience and perseverance from her granny's teachings, she discovers that beading is a journey, and like every journey, it's easier with a loved one at her side.

Critique: The collaborative work of author/storyteller Jenny Kay Dupuis and artist/illustrator Eva Campbell, "Heart Berry Bling" is a beautifully illustrated picture book with which children can learn about the tradition of Anishinaabe beadwork, strawberry teachings, and gender discrimination in the Indian Act. While unreservedly recommended for family, elementary school, and community library Native American picture book collections for children ages 6-8, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Heart Berry Bling" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $15.49).

Editorial Note #1: Jenny Kay Dupuis ( is a sought-after public speaker, best-selling author, educator, and accomplished Woodland pop artist whose focus is raising awareness about Indigenous realities. She is well-known for her exceptional knowledge of Indigenous care theories, leadership models, and engagement frameworks, and has shared this expertise to support corporations, non-governmental organizations, school districts, and post-secondary institutions around the world in shifting their organizational practices. Jenny Kay is a member of Nipissing First Nation and lives in Toronto, Ontario. She can be followed on social media: @jennykaydupuis

Editorial Note #2: Eva Campbell ( is an artist, illustrator, and teacher who lives in Victoria, British Columbia. Her work has been exhibited around the world, including in Canada, the United States, Barbados, and Ghana. She won the Children's Africana Book Award for her illustrations in The Matatu, by Eric Walters, and the Lillian Shepherd Memorial Award for Excellence in Illustration for Africville, by Shauntay Grant.

Opal's Springtime Birdhouse
Emily Matheis, author
Albert Arrayas, illustrator
Yeehoo Press
9781953458483, $17.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: Bang! Whack! Whirr! -- It's time for a birdhouse-building contest!

Opal's friends all have endless ideas on how to make their constructions stand out. There are bells, pom-poms, basketballs, and many more materials to use -- and yet Opal still feels stuck.

Maybe a simple, sturdy piece wood, a few nails and some screws will be just right. But when the judges don't pick Opal's birdhouse, she may still discover that her humble home is just right for someone else.

Critique: "Opal's Springtime Birdhouse" is an utterly charming picture book tale by the team of author/storyteller Emily Matheis and artist/illustrator Albert Arrayasor showcasing how the rewards of our efforts can come from the most unexpected of places! While especially recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for children ages 4-8, it should be noted that "Opal's Springtime Birdhouse" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $5.99).

Editorial Note #1: Books by Emily Matheis ( offer the windows and mirrors we long for in our literary escapes. From her first page to the last, each of her books retains the reader within its captivating setting and enthralling characters. She is a two-time award-winning writer through the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators organization.

Editorial Note #2: Albert Arrayas ( was born in Barcelona, Spain. His work reflects a delicacy, beauty, and above all a dream world accompanied by great details and textures.

Famous Seaweed Soup
Antoinette Truglio, author
Penny Weber, illustrator
Purple Butterfly Press
9781955119399, $18.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: Beach days are the best days and Sara loves everything about the beach. Her favorite part is making her Famous Seaweed Soup. Collecting all the ingredients is a tough job but Sara thinks she's up to the task! Can she make it all by herself or will a busy family foil her recipe?

Critique: Beautifully illustrated throughout with the artwork of Penny Weber, "Famous Seaweed Soup" by author/storyteller Antoinette Truglio is an impressively original, delightfully charming, and unreservedly recommended pick for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for children ages 5-6. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Famous Seaweed Soup" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9781955119405, $16.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99).

Editorial Note #1: Antoinette Truglio Martin ( is a children's book author, memoirist, and blogger. Antoinette holds an MFA in Creative Writing and Literature from Stony Brook/Southampton University.

Editorial Note: Penny Weber ( is a full time artist and illustrator. Her works over the years have included residential murals, greeting cards, portraits, caricatures and pet portraits which she still create for my independent clients. She creates digital illustrations that have a unique hand-drawn look and started illustrating children's books in 1977.

Pout Party
Sarah McColl
POW! Kids Books
9781648230172, $18.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: When poor Rue wakes up on the wrong side of the bed, nothing makes her happy. Even her socks aren't cooperating. When she gets to school all her friends want to play, but she's not in the mood. Instead, she invites everyone to join her in a pout party. "No games, no cake. Don't be happy or excited." Unfortunately, everyone thinks Rue's party sound fun and they all come to show off their biggest pouts. In no time at all, everyone is laughing, but will Rue find the humor when all she wants to do is grumble?

Critique: Illustrated in beautiful, bright pastels by author/storyteller Sarah McColl, "Pout Party" is a sweet, funny, charming, delightful and entertaining picture book story for every kid who has ever felt out of sorts and needs a smile. Simply stated, "Pout Party" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for children ages 4-7.

Editorial Note: Sarah McColl ( is an author and illustrator from Massachusetts. She holds a B.A in art therapy and a M.L.S in library science, and has always been passionate about storytelling. She uses traditional and digital media in her work, and loves playing with color, texture and expression.

Outside Amelia's Window
Caroline Nastro, author
Anca Sandu Budisan, illustrator
Two Lions / Amazon Publishing
9781542027854, $17.99, HC, 40pp

Synopsis: Amelia is a shy little girl with a big imagination. After an injury, she finds solace in stories -- fairy tales about faraway lands and magical creatures. When two children move in next door, Amelia wonders: Can she play with them? Can she be as brave as the heroines in the stories she reads? With the help of a little bird outside her window, Amelia finds the courage she needs to embark on a journey in her new wheelchair -- where she discovers that there is magic to be found just outside her window.

Critique: With an impressively lyrical text by author/storyteller Caroline Nastro and lovely watercolor illustrations by artist Anca Sandu Budisan, "Outside Amelia's Window" is a heartfelt and inspiring picture book story about friendships, new beginnings, and embracing the beauty of the world around us. While also available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $3.99), "Outside Amelia's Window" is a memorable and prized pick for family, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for children ages 5-8.

Editorial Note #1: Caroline Nastro ( is the author of "The Bear Who Couldn't Sleep" (illustrated by Vanya Nastanlieva) which has been translated into three languages and was chosen as a Bank Street Best Picture Book of the Year in Spanish. Outside Amelia's Window is Anca Sandu and Caroline Nastro's second collaboration. Their first book, Fly, Little Bird, Fly!, was published in 2021 and has been translated into two languages.

Editorial Note #2: Anca Sandu ( was born in eastern Romania. At age 2 she was "discovered" by her grandma as a perfect circle "drawer", and subsequently started a career as the artist of the family. In school, her passion for drawing helped her overcome her introversion. This still works today. She is the author and illustrator of the picture books, Churchill's Tale of Tails and The Astonishing Case of the Stolen Stories, and is the illustrator of the Lana Lynn series, written by Rebecca Van Slyke; Gnu and Shrew, written by Danny Schnitzlein; and Fly, Little Bird, Fly, written by Caroline Nastro.

Viking Strong
Doug Cenko, author/illustrator
Viking Children's Books
c/o Penguin Young Readers Group
9780593202326, $18.99, HC, 48pp

Synopsis: Ingrid has everything a Viking could want -- a cozy home, a best friend, and very cute kittens. But she's always wanted one more thing, to win the Strongest Viking Contest. Her only problem? She doesn't know how to swim! Her best friend Stig is determined to help her learn... but along the way Ingrid learns that some things are even more important than winning.

Critique: Fun, original, and a thoroughly 'child friendly' picture book story about a young girl in a Viking sea-borne culture who doesn't know how to swim, "Viking Strong" by author/illustrator Doug Cenko will prove to be a welcome and enduringly popular addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library Norse-themed picture book collections for children ages 3-7. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Viking Strong' is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99).

Editorial Note Doug Cenko ( grew up in Indiana and one of his first jobs was at a comic book shop -- where he spent most of the money he made. Since then, he has worked at design agencies, an animation studio, and a live special-effects company. His most recent claim to fame was reading his book My Papa is a Princess to thousands of fans at Dodger Stadium.

Grandpa's Stars
Carolyn Huizinga Mills, author
Samantha Lucy Haslam, illustrator
Fitzhenry & Whiteside
9781554554638, $23.95, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: After spending a full week with grandpa in the country, a young child sees the night sky clearly for the first time and realizes all the wonderful things that can be seen there with the help of grandpa and a bit of imagination -- penguins! rubber boots! even an elephant!

When Grandpa has to go in to the hospital, the young child misses those visits a lot Then the child has an idea! With the help of craft supplies and some paper the night sky at grandpa's house can be recreated on the ceiling of the bedroom Now they can find the penguins and rubber boots and elephants from home -- and maybe even see Grandpa in those stars and constellations

Critique: Original, charming, entertaining, "Grandpa's Stars" by the team of author/storyteller Carolyn Mills and artist/illustrator Samantha Haslam is an ideal and unreservedly recommended addition to family, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for children ages 5-7. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Grandpa's Stars" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note #1: Carolyn Huizinga Mills ( is the Canadian author of "The Little Boy Who Lived Down the Drain", which was chosen as a 2018 Blue Spruce Honour Book, and gave Carolyn the opportunity to meet many excited readers through school visits and at the Forest of Reading Festival in Toronto. Her debut novel, "The Good Son:, was published in March 2021

Editorial Note #2: Samantha Lucy Haslam ( is an illustrator, graphic designer and animator from Calgary, Alberta She graduated from the Visual Communications program at the Alberta College of Art and Design in 2012, with a major in illustration

Just. Like. You.
Meredith Steiner, author
Avneet Sandhu, illustrator
POW! Kids Books
9781576879856, $17.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: "Just. Like. You." is a rhyming picture book story in celebration of diversity that introduces young readers to all the different members of a classroom, and what makes each of them uniquely who they are.

Lu speaks with her hands. Will writes down their thoughts. Ava reads along the page with her fingers glide on dots. Bella's body's narrow. Julian's is round. Elijah's legs are shortish, so his dress drags on the ground.

Written in a melodic, read-aloud ready rhyme, "Just. Like. You." is a joyful celebration of individuality and diversity. Follow a class of students throughout the school day from morning to night and discover what makes each of them unique; from different talents, abilities, and body sizes, to ethnicities, religions, gender expressions and more, there are so many things to love about being you.

Critique: Artist Avneet Sandhu's endearing, playful portrait illustrations bring author/storyteller Meredith Steiner's description of a classroom to life. Given today's discriminatory and politically motivated attacks on school and community library children's books collections "Just. Like. You." is a delightfully 'kid friendly' with an important message about accepting and understanding differences. Simply stated, "Just. Like. You." is an original, timely, and unreservedly recommended addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library collections for children ages 3-7.

Editorial Note #1: Meredith Steiner ( is an activist and advocate, committed to a more just, more joyful world. She loves playing board games that go on too long, making miniature books, and singing show tunes (when she's sure no one is around). She is a children's librarian and lives in San Francisco with her two sons.

Editorial Note #2: Avneet Sandhu ( is an illustrator and designer from Ontario, Canada. She received her Bachelor of Global Business and Digital Arts from the University of Waterloo. Her bold and colourful illustrations hope to present a world where everyone can find joy in who they are.

The Adventures of Blue Ocean Bob: A Secret in the Deep
Brooks Olbrys, author
Kevin Keele, illustrator
Children's Success Unlimited
9781736380154, $12.95, HC, 56pp

Synopsis: While snorkeling along the ocean reef, Bob senses something in the deep below. With encouragement from Cathy the crab, he trusts his intuition and assembles a team to explore a shipwreck on the ocean floor. But despite help from Al the dolphin and Molly Marine, Bob is unable to complete the descent. With Doc the turtle, Earl the clam, and Eve the octopus all weighing in, Mary Marine is called back to the Island of Roses to complete the dive team's training.

Thanks to a creative plan devised by Molly Marine and the cooperation of some jellyfish and octopus assistants, Bob and his dive team perform an unusual deep-water rescue of their new friends trapped at the bottom of the Sea of Kerchoo.

Critique: Featuring the impressive artwork of illustrator Kevin Kelle, "The Adventures of Blue Ocean Bob: A Secret in the Deep" is the fourth installment in author/storyteller Brooks Olbys' colorful and inspiring early chapter book series that introduces young readers ages 6-8 to timeless principles of achievement. While a highly recommended and fun pick for elementary school and community library picture book collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists tht "The Adventures of Blue Ocean Bob: A Secret in the Deep" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $2.99).

Editorial Note #1: Inspired by his young son, Brooks Olbrys created The Adventures of Blue Ocean Bob storybook series to share timeless achievement principles with children. A graduate of Stanford University, the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts, and the University of California at Berkeley School of Law, Brooks is also the founder of Children's Success Unlimited (

Editorial Note #2: From a young age, Kevin Keele ( has enjoyed creating artwork in many forms: drawing, oil painting, digital painting, even stained glass. His work has been featured in numerous picture books, magazines, board games, and video games. Though he lives far from any coastlines, he has always been fascinated by the ocean and enjoys illustrating its various creatures.

The Biography Shelf

Thomas H. Begay and the Navajo Code Talkers
Alysa Landry, author
Ohio University Press
9780821425053, $32.95, HC, 136pp

Synopsis: Thomas H. Begay was one of the young Navajo men who, during World War II, invented and used a secret, unbreakable communications code based on their native Dine language to help win the war in the Pacific. Although "Thomas H. Begay and the Navajo Code Talkers" by biographer Alysa Landry includes anecdotes from other code talkers, its central narrative revolves around Begay. It tells his story, from his birth near the Navajo reservation, his childhood spent herding sheep, his adolescence in federally mandated boarding schools, and ultimately, his decision to enlist in the US Marine Corps.

As a journalist and biographer, Alysa Landry relied heavily on interviews with Begay, who, as of this writing, is in his late nineties and one of only three surviving code talkers. Begay's own voice and sense of humor make this biography particularly significant in that it is the only Code Talker biography for young readers told from a soldier's perspective. Begay was involved with the book every step of the way, granting Landry unlimited access to his military documents, personal photos, and oral history. Additionally, Begay's family contributed by reading and fact-checking the manuscript.

Critique: A truly unique and collaborative project, "Thomas H. Begay and the Navajo Code Talkers" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to elementary school, middle school, and community library American Biography, Native American, and World War II history collections for young readers ages 10-13. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Thomas H. Begay and the Navajo Code Talkers" is also available in a paperback edition (9780821425060, $15.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Alysa Landry ( teaches English, journalism, and creative writing at the Navajo Nation's Dine College. She has written for Navajo Times-Dine bi Naltsoos, Indian Country Today, the Searchlight New Mexico news organization, and other publications.

Harry Belafonte
Laville Lavette author
Anastasia Magloire Williams, illustrator
Golden Books
c/o Random House Children's Books
9780593568101, $5.99 HC, 24pp

Synopsis: When Harry Belafonte was a little boy, he moved from Harlem, New York, to live with his grandmother in Jamaica. There, Harry fell in love with Calypso music. It was the seed that blossomed into a life dedicated to inspiring people through music. "Harry Belafonte: A Little Golden Book Biography" is moving biography chronicles his life and career as an actor, as a singer, and as a civil rights activist who has always sought to make a difference while encouraging people to treat each other with respect and kindness.

Critique: There are more than 200 Little Golden Books covering all genres and categories of fiction and non-fiction -- with each of them being ideal for instilling a love of reading in young children. "Harry Belafonte: A Little Golden Book Biography" is a child friendly account of a true American musical icon created by author/storyteller Laville Lavette and artist/illustrator Anastasia Magloire Williams. While with the highest possible recommendation for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library Celebrity Biography collections for ages 4-8, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Harry Belafonte: A Little Golden Book Biography" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $5.99).

Editorial Note: Lavaille Lavette ( is an author and editor, a social entrepreneur, educator, and leadership and business-development expert. She is a founding board member and the first president of the Luanda Africa Sister City Association, and she currently serves on the board of advisers for Huvr Inc. and BreakOut App.

Editorial Note #2: Anastasia Magloire Williams ( is an illustrator, a writer, and a graphic designer living in sunny Florida. Forever a student, she continues to grow in her preferred digital medium, combining traditional illustration techniques with the flexibility of computer software. With rich textures, dynamic lines, vibrant colors, and her design savvy, Anastasia uses various styles to bring her client's stories to life, as well as her own. Above all, Ana's mission is to be a vehicle for diversity and representation in entertainment and children's media - to tell untold stories that reflect the beautiful world we all share. When she is not tapping away at her tablet, she enjoys gaming with her husband, reading fantasy romance novels, tending to her plants, and enjoying ice in all her drinks.

Opening Closed Doors: The Story of Josie Murray
Linda Sittig, author
Linda King, author
Whitney Truitt, illustrator
Brandylane Publishers
9781958754429, $24.95, HC, 34pp

Synopsis: From a young age, Josie felt the supreme injustice of the Jim Crow South -- ordering ice cream inside a restaurant and continuing her education beyond the seventh grade were opportunities denied to Josie during her childhood. Josie was surrounded by closed doors, barred from opportunities available to white people.

But in 1957, when she was denied the ability to check out a book from the Purcellville Library because of the color of her skin, Josie took action. With the help of her husband, Sam Murray, a lawyer, and even President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Josie built a case and became the catalyst for all public buildings in Virginia to desegregate.

Critique: "Opening Closed Doors: The Story of Josie Murray" highlights an unsung hero of the early Civil Rights movement whose courage helped to force the desegregation of public libraries in Virginia. A timely biography (especially given the efforts by several individual states to erase Black history and the role of African-Americans in advocating for equity, justice, and the abolition of racism from school and community libraries) of Josie C. Murray, a woman of color who led the fight to desegregate a community library in the face of endemic racial discrimination and bigotry. Also available in a paperback edition (9781958754412, $14.95), "Opening Closed Doors: The Story of Josie Murray" deserves as wide a readership as possible and is unreservedly recommended for family, elementary school, middle school, and community library American Biography and Contemporary Social Issues themed picture book collections for young readers ages 8-12.

Editorial Note: An award-winning writer with pieces in the Washington Post, Chicken Soup for the Soul, and other publications, Linda's commitment to literacy led her to write columns, articles, and books on how to raise life-long readers. She combined her passion for history and strong women by creating a blog,, which over 1450 readers follow in 64 countries.

The LGBT Fiction Shelf

Fake Dates and Mooncakes
Sher Lee
c/o Random House Children's Books
9780593569955, $10.99, PB, 272pp

Synopsis: Dylan Tang wants to win a Mid-Autumn Festival mooncake-making competition for teen chefs -- in memory of his mom, and to bring much-needed publicity to his aunt's struggling Chinese takeout in Brooklyn.

Enter Theo Somers: charming, wealthy, with a smile that makes Dylan's stomach do backflips. AKA a distraction. Their worlds are sun-and-moon apart, but Theo keeps showing up. He even convinces Dylan to be his fake date at a family wedding in the Hamptons.

In Theo's glittering world of pomp, privilege, and crazy rich drama, their romance is supposed to be just pretend -- but Dylan finds himself falling for Theo. For real. Then Theo's relatives reveal their true colors, but with the mooncake contest looming, Dylan can't risk being sidetracked by rich-people problems.

Can Dylan save his family's business and follow his heart -- or will he fail to do both?

Critique: Original, deftly written, entertaining, "Fake Dates and Mooncakes" by author Sher Lee will have a very special appeal to young readers ages 12-17 with an interest in teen and young adult LGBTQ contemporary romance novels. While also available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.99), "Fake Dates and Mooncakes" is unreservedly recommended and appropriate for middle school, highschool, and community library YA Fiction collections.

Editorial Note: Sher Lee ( writes rom-coms and fantasy novels for teens. Fake Dates and Mooncakes is her debut. Like the main character, she has made mooncakes with her favorite aunt and has an abiding love for local street food (including an incredible weakness for xiao long bao). She lives in Singapore with her husband and two adorable corgis, Spade and Clover.

Robin and Her Misfits
Kelly Ann Jacobson
Three Rooms Press
9781953103314, $14.00, PB, 280pp

Synopsis: Robin and her four Misfits (Little John, White Rabbit, Daisy Chain, and Skillet) have run away from their families in order to live off the grid on their own terms. For a while, they're hidden, safe, and happy as they commit petty crimes that provide enough to get by. All that matters is keeping their small clan alive.

Then, one mission proposed by an unfriendly associate from their past reminds them of their former lives and motivates the group to a new purpose. The five Misfits develop into a league of strong individuals united by a fresh goal: do whatever it takes to help queer girls rise above oppressive laws and attitudes.

Critique: With the publication of "Robin and Her Misfits" from Three Rooms Press, YA fiction author Kelly Ann Jacobson is back, this time with a diverse and entertaining twist on a popular legend in a YA novel about a roving female gang of fun-loving rebel bikers and street racers who, led by Robin, agree to give back to other girls in need of help in an original LGBTQ blending of Robin Hood and Fast and Furious. While also available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.99), "Robin and Her Misfits" is unreservedly recommended for highschool and community library LGBTQ fiction collections for young readers ages 14-18.

Editorial Note: Dr. Kelly Ann Jacobson ( is the author or editor of many published books, including, most recently, her young adult novel Tink and Wendy (Three Rooms Press), winner of the 2021 Foreword Indies Gold Medal for Young Adult Fiction and her contest-winning chapbook An Inventory of Abandoned Things (Split/Lip Press). Kelly's short fiction has been published in such places as Best Small Fictions, Daily Science Fiction, Northern Virginia Review, Iron Horse Literary Review, New Plains Review, and Gargoyle. Kelly received her PhD in fiction from Florida State University. She is an Assistant Professor of English at University of Lynchburg.

The Young Adult Fiction Shelf

The Garden of Second Chances
Mona Alvardo Frazier
9781684632046, $17.95, PB, 376pp

Synopsis: Juana's life has taken a dark turn. Accused of her husband's death, she's now in a prison cell -- a seventeen-year-old mother, alone and undocumented. 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.

Critique: Touching on themes ranging from physical/emotional abuse, emigration/immigration, and adolescent motherhood, "The Garden of Second Chances" by novelist Mona Alvardo Frazier is an unforgettable novel of courage, hope, and determination in the face of impossible odds. While available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.99), "The Garden of Second Changes" is an especially recommended pick for middle school, highschool, and community library Contemporary YA Fiction collections for young readers ages 13-18.

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. 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 co-founder of LatinxPitch, a Twitter event. She is also a 2021 Mentee of Las Musas Latinx children's literature collective.

Your Dream For Me
Alison Schaffir
Level Best Books
9781685122140, $16.95, PB, 244pp

Synopsis: Seventeen-year-old Scarlett, unlike her theatrically gifted parents, is not one to spend time near a spotlight. Scarlett dreams of becoming a renowned fashion designer, where she can flex her creative talents away from a crowd. So it's no surprise when she sneaks into her school's costume shop to explore the racks. Unexpected, however, is coming face-to-face with Nathaniel Wilder, a talented theater student who piques a new interest.

With fashion still as her main priority, Scarlett vows to learn how to make a 50s-inspired dress for her best friend, Macie. After all, she needs a strong portfolio of work to help her get into her dream school, the Fashion Institute of Technology. The one problem? She has no idea how to operate a sewing machine. Thanks to Nathaniel's encouragement, Scarlett decides to shadow the school's drama teacher to practice her skills, hoping to fuse her passion for fashion with theater...and be closer to him for the spring play.

Scarlett's designs are unfolding, but a distressing event involving Macie shakes everyone in Scarlett's world-causing their friendship to falter and Nathaniel to unexpectedly pull away. With building stressors threatening the rest of the year, including a rival who wants to tarnish Scarlett's reputation, Scarlett must rely on her determined spirit and newfound sewing skills to keep her fashion dreams (and her most important relationships!) from unraveling.

Critique: An original and fun read that is all the more impressive when considering that it is the debut novel for author Alison Schaffir and will have a very special appeal to readers ages 14-18 with an interest in coming of age novels, as well as issues of particular concern to young women, "Your Dream For Me" will prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular pick for highschool and community YA Romance Fiction collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists that "Your Dream For Me" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $5.99).

Editorial Note: Alison Schaffir ( is a social media strategist and young adult author currently residing in New York City.

The Other Side of Infinity
Joan F. Smith
Feiwel & Friends
c/o Macmillan Children's Publishing Group
9781250843388, $19.99, HC, 336pp

Synopsis: It was supposed to be an ordinary day at the pool, but when lifeguard Nick hesitates during a save, seventeen-year-old December uses her gift of foreknowledge to rescue the drowning man instead. But that action comes at a cost. Not only will Nick and December fall in love, but also, she envisions that his own life is now at risk. The other problem? They're basically strangers.

December embarks on a mission to save Nick's life, and to experience what it feels like to fall in love -- something she'd formerly known she'd never do. Nick, battling the shame of screwing up the rescue when he's heralded as a community hero, resolves to make up for his inaction by doing December a major solid and searching for her mother, who went missing nine years ago.

As they grow closer, December's gift starts playing tricks, and Nick's family gets closer to an ugly truth about him. They both must learn what it really means to be a hero before time runs out.

Critique: An original, carefully scripted, and compulsive page turner of a fun read from cover to cover, "The Other Side Of Infinity" by novelist Jean F. Smith will have a particularly appeal to teen and young adult readers with an interest in novels that deftly blend science fiction with contemporary young love, with dystopian and contemporary romance with emotional suspense. While very highly recommended as a popular addition to highschool and community library YA fiction for young readers ages 14-18, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Other Side Of Infinity" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99).

Editorial Note: Joan F. Smith ( is the author of The Half-Orphan's Handbook, a dance instructor, and a former associate dean of creative writing. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from Emerson College. Joan lives and writes in Massachusetts, where she was the 2021 Writer-in-Residence at the Milton Public Library.

The Mystery/Suspense Shelf

Voodoo Shack: A Michigan Mystery
Terri Martin
Modern History Press
9781615997213, $29.95, HC, 150pp

Synopsis: When 11-year-old Iris Weston discovers a ramshackle hunting cabin deep in Hazard Swamp, she and her friends decide it's perfect for a secret clubhouse. The gang dubs it the Voodoo Shack and meets there to swap stories and play card games.

Ol' Man Hazard, who was the former owner, died under mysterious circumstances, and the kids speculate whether it was an accident, suicide or maybe even murder! The gang believes that cash from an unsolved crime may have been stashed within feet of the cabin. Even as things go badly awry, feisty Iris learns how to use her wit and independence to put things right, discovering what family really means in this adventurous and often humorous coming-of-age story set in rural Michigan in 1962.

Critique: A fun and original read from first page to last, "Voodoo Shack: A Michigan Mystery" is a thoroughly age appropriate mystery for mystery buffs ages 8-12. While also available for personal reading lists in a paperback edition (9781615997206, $16.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99), "Voodoo Shack: A Michigan Mystery is a strongly recommended pick for elementary school, middle school, and community library Mystery/Suspense collections for young readers.

Editorial Note: Terri Martin ( and her husband moved to Upper Michigan 22 years ago and have no desire to live anywhere else, in spite of the 250 inches of snowfall each winter. Voodoo Shack reflects a setting in rural Michigan similar to where Terri grew up. Terri has an additional middle-grade children's book, The Home Wind, which is a U.P. Notable Book recipient. "Moose Willow Mystery: A Yooper Romance" is Terri's first full length adult novel, which is set firmly in Upper Michigan's culture. Terri is a regular contributor to UP Magazine (Porcupine Press) where she finds an outlet for her humorous writing. Many of her stories from UP Magazine have been anthologized in her two books: "Church Lady Chronicles: Devilish Encounters" (2020) and "High on the Vine" (2022). Terri has a master's degree in English and has taught college success courses, tutored English at the college level, and served as an aide for college composition classes.

Sherlock Bones and the Mystery of the Vanishing Magician
Tim Collins, author
John Bigwood, illustrator
Buster Books
c/o Michael O'Mara Books
9781780559216, $9.99, PB, 192pp

Synopsis: Bones and Catson are on a train bound for Paris when another passenger, a famous magician, vanishes in the middle of the night. Catson is convinced of foul play... but none of the other passengers seem to know anything about the magician. Was he on the train at all? And how is his disappearance connected with a fiendish plot to steal the world's most famous painting, the Mona Lemur? Bones and Catson are up against it to reach Paris and solve the mystery before it's too late.

The third book in Buster's Sherlock Bones fiction series features puzzles (including search games, mazes and maths conundrums) that are deftly woven into the action, so the young reader feels immersed in the exciting detective plot.

Critique: With the publication of "Sherlock Bones and the Mystery of the Vanishing Magician" by Tim Collins, and enhanced with the black/white illustrations of John Bigwood, children once again can follow the anthropomorphic adventures of a mystery solving dog and cat previously encountered in "Sherlock Bones and the Case of the Crown Jewels" (9781780557502) and "Sherlock Bones and the Curse of the Pharaoh's Mask" (9781780557519). A fun read from cover to cover, "Sherlock Bones and the Mystery of the Vanishing Magician" is especially and unreservedly recommended for elementary school and community library Mystery/Suspense collections of children ages 7-9.

Editorial Note #1: Tim Collins ( is the author of over thirty books including Wimpy Vampire, Cosmic Colin and Dorkius Maximus. His books have been translated into over thirty languages and he has won awards in the UK and Germany, including the Manchester Fiction City award (2011 Winner) and the Lincolnshire Young People's Book Award (2012 Winner).

Editorial Note #2: John Bigwood ( is an illustrator and graphic designer based in London. He has worked across a range of books for children and adults, such as the best-selling Sherlock Bones series and How to Draw People for the Artistically Anxious.

Stranger Danger
Maren Stoffels
c/o Penguin Random House Children's Books
9780593647448, $10.99, PB, 224pp

Synopsis: No phones. No internet. No social media at all. That's what it's going to take to finally get serious about school and focus on exams. So Nova, Vin, and Lotus have rented a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere just so they won't get distracted. After that, everything can go back to normal.

But they aren't alone. Someone is watching them from the forest. Someone who knows their secrets. Someone who wants revenge. And things will never be the same again.

Critique: With a special appeal to young readers ages 12-17 with an interest in mystery/suspense thriller novels that are compulsive page turners, "Stranger Danger" by author Maren Stoffels is an original, deftly crafted, and unreservedly recommended addition to middle school, highschool, and community library YA Mystery/Suspense collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of teenage mystery fans that "Stranger Danger" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.99).

Editorial Note: Maren Stoffels ( published her first book at age seventeen. She likes stories that are based on real experiences. Reading her books make you feel like it could all happen to you. And maybe it will! She can be followed on:Twitter @marenstoffels, Facebook -, and on Instagram: @marenstoffels

The Fantasy/SciFi Shelf

Dana Claire
CamCat Books
9780744307344, $39.99, HC, 272pp

Synopsis: Liam Hunter has warded off hungry vampires, slayed monstrous beasts, and put agonized spirits to rest ever since he could first hold a stake. When trouble comes through the Hunterland message board, alerting them that nurses are dying at high schools across Wisconsin in a string of fishy "suicides", the Hunter family hits the road to save the day.

The trail leads to Falkville Falls, where Liam clashes with Olivia Davis, whose maddening family seems inexplicably embroiled in this haunting mess. Olivia has always mothered her little sister, Pepper. But when the Hunter family opens her eyes to the hidden underworld of real monsters prowling the dark, she realizes she can't protect Pepper from this newest threat by herself. Can the two families work together to uncover who or what is responsible before the next murder, or will this vicious death cycle have no end?

Critique: Launching a new heroic fantasy series by Dana Claire, "Hunterland" is a fun read that will be of special appeal to young readers with an interest in Paranormal Romance, & Monster Fiction. While an unreservedly recommended pick for middle school, highschool, and community library YA Fantasy Fiction collections for young readers ages 13-18, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Hunterland" is also available in a paperback edition (9780744307368, $19.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99).

Editorial Note: Dana Claire ( is an award-winning author whose stories explore identity, fate, and destiny in the crossroads of romance and adventure. Her love of romantic tension and the supernatural effortlessly translates into spine-tingling action and unforgettable characters. Dana is also sharing her stories through speaking events and book signings. She lis living her dreams of writing books, telling stories, and changing the world -- one reader at a time.

Queen's Catacombs
Jordan H. Bartlett
CamCat Books
9780744307764, $19.99, HC, 416pp

Synopsis: Jacs is now the rightful Queen of Frea, but seems to be Queen in title alone.

In "Queen's Catacombs" (the second novel in author Jordan H. Bartlett's 'The Frean Chronicles' series) Jacs scrambles to learn the customs and traditions of a Realm she had only read about in books. The Council of Four have her firmly under their thumb, and their ideas for the Queendom are oppressive and outdated. Their knowledge of her mother and Master Leschi's whereabouts is the only leverage they need to make the new Queen dance to their tune.

Jacs is determined to find those who were taken from her and do what's right for her Queendom. But in her search for answers, Jacs uncovers a much darker truth from the Queendom's past that will forever change its future.

Critique: An artful and original combining of women's issues and a 'Sword & Sorcery' style adventure novel by a master of this fantasy genre, Joirdan Bartlett's "Queen's Catacombs" will have a particular appeal for young readers ages 13-18. While a highly recommended pick for middle school, highschool, and community library YA Fantasy Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that 'Queen's Catacombs" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99).

Editorial Note: Jordan H. Bartlett ( is a New Zealand-born Canadian with a love for children's literature and female empowerment. She grew up reading books about boys for boys and found it hard to find a strong female heroine she could relate to. Bartlett wrote Contest of Queens to give young readers that character she so longed for in a world where gender norms are reversed. Bartlett currently resides in Banff, Alberta where she works as a Speech Language Pathologist and is a certified yoga instructor.

Sing Me to Sleep
Gabi Burton
Bloomsbury Children's Books
9781547610372, $19.99, HC, 432pp

Synopsis: Saoirse Sorkova survives on lies. As a soldier-in-training at the most prestigious barracks in the kingdom, she lies about being a siren to avoid execution. At night, working as an assassin for a dangerous group of mercenaries, Saoirse lies about her true identity. And to her family, Saoirse tells the biggest lie of all: that she can control her siren powers and doesn't struggle constantly against an impulse to kill.

As the top trainee in her class, Saoirse would be headed for a bright future if it weren't for the need to keep her secrets out of the spotlight. But when a mysterious blackmailer threatens her sister, Saoirse takes a dangerous job that will help her investigate: she becomes a personal bodyguard to the crown prince.

Saoirse should hate Prince Hayes. After all, his father is the one who enforces the kingdom's brutal creature segregation laws. But when Hayes turns out to be kind, thoughtful, and charming, Saoirse finds herself increasingly drawn to him-especially when they're forced to work together to stop a deadly killer who's plaguing the city. There's only one problem: Saoirse is that deadly killer.

Critique: Original, deftly crafted, and a memorably fun read from first page to last, "Sing Me to Sleep" by Gabi Burton with its dramatic elements of forbidden romance and featuring more unexpected plot twists and turns than a Disneyland roller coaster, is highly recommended for middle school, highschool, and community library YA Fantasy Fiction collections for young readers ages 13-17. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of dedicated heroic fantasy fans that "Sing Me to Sleep" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Gabi Burton ( grew up reading and writing in St. Louis, Missouri. She graduated from Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine in 2021. Now, she works as a paralegal and author on the East Coast. When she's not working or writing, she's probably watching Netflix, scrolling through Twitter, or finding beautiful places to walk-preferably near a body of water. She can be followed on @query_queen339

Peanut Butter and Pandemonium
Anita Daher
Yellow Dog
c/o Great Plains Publications
9781773370996, PB, $11.95, PB, 176pp

Synopsis: On Goat Loops, in the realm of Niff, Sam learns a scary new truth about the Son of the Solstice prophecy, one his long-absent mother had neglected to tell him. Not only is he destined to fight an ancient sorcerer, but it will result in his certain death. As Sam's powers grow, he and his half-giant friend chase mysterious no-magic pockets, battle annoying, bitey dokkas, and look for a way to save the worlds -- and his own skin!

Critique: Book 2 in the Mythic Adventures of Samuel Templeton series by Anita Daher, "Peanut Butter and Pandemonium" is a fun, original, and unreservedly recommended for elementary school and community library Fantasy collections, and most especially for the personal reading lists of dedicated fantasy fans ages 7-9.

Editorial Note: Anita Daher ( is an author and actor based in Winnipeg, MB. She has been entrenched in the book publishing industry since 1995 and has seventeen books published in print, audio and e-book format in Canada and the United States. Anita is the former Chair of the Writers' Union of Canada.

The Poetry Shelf

I Like Mud
Margaret Grote, poet
Marcia Wheelan Coles, illustrator
Beach Chair Books
9798987839102, $19.95, HC, 34pp

Synopsis: In the final year of her life, award-winning poet Margaret Grote (1922-2005) handed a collection of poems to her son, David, with instructions to "do something" with them. David jumped right on it, and 17 years later approached his cousin, Marcia Wheelan Coles, a children's book author and illustrator.

Truth be told, these whimsical and sometimes poignant poems were gathering dust in David's closet until Marcia brought them to life with her beautiful artwork. Growing up during the Depression, Margaret came to appreciate life's simple pleasures, a theme recurrent in these poems. Mother of four, she was an artist, photographer, writer, and poet. She taught fourth grade for 35 years. Her love of children is on full display in these pages, and although the writing is meant for children, young-at-heart adults will also love this collection.

Somewhere, Margaret is smiling, knowing that her son finally kept his promise, and that her work lives on, bringing joy and laughter to a whole new generation of children

Critique: After the Rain: The wildflowers were hiding / I couldn't tell where. // Before the rain and sunshine / The Hillside was bare. // This morning the field's bursting / With Poppies galore, / Lupine and buttercups / Right up to my door.

Elegant, eloquent, engaging, fun, "I Like Mud: and other poems for the young and young-at-heart" is a compendium of poetry for children by the late Margaret Grote that is a wonderfully illustrated and highly recommended addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library poetry collections for children 4-8. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "I Like Mud" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99)

Since the Baby Came
Kathleen Long Bostrom, author
Janet Samuel, illustrator
WaterBrook Press
c/o WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group
9780593577684, $12.99, HC, 40pp

Synopsis: "Since the Baby Came: A Sibling's Learning-to-Love Story in 16 Poems" features charming, playful story-in-verse, which nicely introduces children to a variety of different poetic forms while walking them through all the twists and turns of welcoming a new baby into the family.

Mama is having a baby.
Everything's starting to change.
God, can you tell me what happened?
Life is becoming so strange.

"Since the Baby Came" also offers a unique take on a timeless topic. The heartfelt and humorous drama unfolds completely in verse, addressing the full range of emotions a young child experiences when a new baby joins the family -- from surprise and confusion to feelings of neglect and jealousy to wholehearted tenderness and affection.

It also introduces young children to the playfulness and fun of various forms of poetry, from senryu to villanelle.

Look out! It's a diaper volcano!
Forgive me for being abrupt.
There isn't much time to explain - OH!
That thing is about to erupt!

Critique: With the poetry of Kathleen Long Bostrom nicely enhanced with the work of artist/illustrator Janet Samuel, "Since the Baby Came: A Sibling's Learning-to-Love Story in 16 Poems" is an original, fun and unreservedly recommended addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book poetry collections for children ages 3-7. It should be noted that "Since the Baby Came: A Sibling's Learning-to-Love Story in 16 Poems" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99).

Editorial Note #1: Kathleen Long Bostrom ( is an award-winning author of over fifty books for children. Her books are published in over twenty languages. She is an ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA) who now writes full time.

Editorial Note #2: Janet Samuel is an illustrator who lives in a small town in Wales with her daughter, Alice, and scruffy terrier, Tilly. Janet has illustrated books for many publishers, including Macmillan, Usbourne, Little Tiger Press, Scholastic, and Lion Hudson. She is happiest when drawing. (

The Red Ear Blows Its Nose
Robert Schechter, author
S. Federico, illustrator
Word Galaxy Press
9781773491349, $29.95, HC, 118pp

Synopsis: The poetry comprising "The Red Ear Blows Its Nose" is often laugh-out-loud hilarious and always thoughtful and thought-provoking. This debut collection of verse from award-winning poet Robert Schechter proves that he has the kind of wit and ease of language that will appeal to both children and their parents.

Critique: Complemented by S. Federico's charming black/white illustrations, "The Red Ear Blows Its Nose" is poet Robert Schechter's debut volume of verse that will delight both children and adults alike, and is destined to become a classic book of idiosyncratic verse comparable to such classic poetry collections for children as Robert Louis Stevenson's "A Child's Garden of Verses" or Shel Silverstein's "Where the Sidewalk Ends". Unreservedly recommended as a core addition to family, elementary school, and community library poetry books for children ages 8-12, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Red Ear Blows Its Nose" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9781773491301, $19.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Robert Schechter ( has written award-winning children's poetry which has appeared in Highlights for Children, Cricket, Spider, Ladybug, the Caterpillar, Blast Off, Countdown, Orbit, and more than a dozen anthologies published by Bloomsbury, National Geographic, Macmillan, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, the Emma Press, and Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. Robert is also the editor of the children's poetry section of Better Than Starbucks.

The Graphic Novel Shelf

As I Enfold You in Petals
Richard Van Camp, author
Scott B. Henderson, illustrator
Donovan York, colorist
Nickolej Villiger, letterer
Highwater Press
9781774920411, $21.95, PB, 72pp

Synopsis: Newly sober, Curtis searches for healing in the ancient cultural practices of his T cho Dene grandfather. But will the Little People answer his call?

Curtis has returned to Fort Smith, six weeks sober. He doesn't have any sober friends, his mom's still drinking, and his best friend (and secret crush) Lacey probably is too. Still, he's determined to abstain from alcohol and help his people. Along the way, he might just be able to help himself.

Louis, Curtis's late grandfather, was a healer. Legend has it, Louis made a deal with the Little People that gave him the power to heal. No one has heard from the Little People since Louis's death, but his cabin may hold the key for them to return. There's only one problem: Benny the Bank stands in the way.

An infamous bootlegger, Benny has profited off Fort Smith's pain for decades. After being critically wounded in an attempt on his life, Benny knows he doesn't have much time before the poison in his blood takes him. He also happens to own Louis's cabin.

Can Curtis convince Benny to return the home that once belonged to Louis? Will the Little People answer Curtis's call? And can Benny find a way to make amends and leave a legacy he can be proud of?

Critique: An original, and compulsive page turner of a graphic novel, "As I Enfold You in Petals" continues "The Spirit of Denedeh" saga begun with "A Blanket of Butterflies" and will keep young readers focused attention from first page to last. Deftly scripted, impressively illustrated, and also available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.99), "As I Enfold You in Petals" is a very strongly recommended addition to middle school, highschool, and community library graphic novel collections for ages 8-12.

Editorial Note #1: Richard Van Camp ( is a proud member of the Dene Nation from Fort Smith, Northwest Territories. He is the author of more than 25 books including The Lesser Blessed (also a feature film), the Eisner Award-nominated graphic novel A Blanket of Butterflies (with Scott B. Henderson), and Three Feathers (also a feature film). He is a contributor to the groundbreaking graphic novel anthology This Place: 150 Years Retold. Richard is also the author of five collections of short stories, including Night Moves, and six baby books, including the award-winning Little You (with Julie Flett).

Editorial Note #2: Scott B. Henderson ( is author/artist of the sci-fi/fantasy comic The Chronicles of Era and has illustrated select titles in the Tales From Big Spirit series, as well as the A Girl Called Echo, The Reckoner Rises, and 7 Generations series. He is also the artist for AIYLA Honour Book Fire Starters, Eisner Award- nominee A Blanket of Butterflies, and select stories in This Place: 150 Years Retold. In 2016, he was the recipient of the C4 Central Canada Comic Con Storyteller Award. Find Scott on social media: @ouroboros09

Editorial Note #3: Since 1998, Donovan Yaciuk ( has colored books published by Marvel, DC, Dark Horse comics, and HighWater Press including the A Girl Called Echo and The Reckoner Rises series, as well as select stories in This Place: 150 Years Retold. Donovan holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Honours) from the University of Manitoba and began his career as a part of the legendary, now-defunct Digital Chameleon coloring studio.

In Limbo
Deb JJ Lee, author/illustrator
:01 (First Second)
c/o Roaring Brook Press
9781250252654, $24.99, HC, 352pp

Synopsis: Ever since Deborah (Jung-Jin) Lee emigrated from South Korea to the United States, she's felt her otherness. For a while, her English wasn't perfect. Her teachers can't pronounce her Korean name. Her face and her eyes (especially her eyes) feel wrong.

In high school, everything gets harder. Friendships change and end, she falls behind in classes, and fights with her mom escalate. Caught in limbo, with nowhere safe to go, Deb finds her mental health plummeting, resulting in a suicide attempt. But Deb is resilient and slowly heals with the help of art and self-care, guiding her to a deeper understanding of her heritage and herself.

Critique: "In Limbo" by author and artist Deb JJ Lee is stunning graphic novel style memoir that features page after page of gorgeous, evocative art. It will be of particular appeal and value for readers with an interest in the Korean-American diaspora, mental health, and an immigrant's personal story of coming of age in America. Extraordinary, interesting, memorable, and exceptional, "In Limbo" is especially and unreservedly recommended for middle school, highschool, and community library Biography/Memoir collections for young readers ages 14-18. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "In Limbo" is also available in a paperback edition (9781250252661, $17.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99).

Editorial Note: Deb JJ Lee ( is a Korean American artist currently living in Brooklyn, NY. They have appeared in the New Yorker, Washington Post, NPR, Google, Radiolab, PBS, and more. Books they have illustrated include The Invisible Boy by Alyssa Hollingsworth (Roaring Brook Press, 2020) and The Other Side of Tomorrow by Tina Cho (HarperCollins, 2024).

Family Style: Memories of an American from Vietnam
Thien Pham
:01 (First Second)
c/o Roaring Brook Press
9781250809711, $25.99, HC, 240pp

Synopsis: Thien's first memory isn't a sight or a sound. It's the sweetness of watermelon and the saltiness of fish. It's the taste of the foods he ate while adrift at sea as his family fled Vietnam.

After the Pham family arrives at a refugee camp in Thailand, they struggle to survive. Things don't get much easier once they resettle in California. And through each chapter of their lives, food takes on a new meaning. Strawberries come to signify struggle as Thien's mom and dad look for work. Potato chips are an indulgence that bring Thien so much joy that they become a necessity.

Behind every cut of steak and inside every croissant lies a story. And for Thien Pham, that story is about a search -- for belonging, for happiness, for the American dream.

Critique: An inherently interesting personal memoir told in a graphic novel style format by Thien Pham, "Family Style: Memories of an American from Vietnam" is particularly timely with today's controversies over immigration. One unique note is the role that Vietnamese cuisine played in the life of Thien Pham and his family. While available for personal reading lists in a paperback edition (9781250809728, $17.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99), "Family Style: Memories of an American from Vietnam" is a very highly recommended pick for family, middle school, highschool, and community library Biography/Memoir collections for young readers ages 14-18.

Editorial Note: Thien Pham ( is a graphic novelist, comic artist, and educator based in Oakland, CA. He is the author and illustrator of the graphic novel Sumo and did the art for the middle-grade graphic novel Level Up, written by Gene Luen Yang, and is an ongoing comic contributor to Eater SF. Currently Pham is working on his next graphic novel, teaching, and eating. A lot. He can be followed on both Twitter and Instagram.

The Music CD Shelf

Charlie Faye & The Fanimals
Daydream Believer Records
$12.99 CD / $9.99 digital

Charlie Faye & The Fanimals is the self-titled debut album that transforms love for 1960's soul and pop music into a family- friendly delight. Charlie Faye is a single mother who shares a passion for retro sound with her daughter, but even though the music draws upon 60's culture, the song lyrics are quite modern (such as "Milo Wears a Tutu", about a young boy who likes to wear a ballerina dress). Charlie Faye & The Fanimals is cheerful, charming, and highly recommended, especially for connoisseurs of 60's pop music interested in introducing their children to the joys of retro sound. The tracks are 7 Days of Fun, Milo Wears a Tutu, Snack Time, Me & My Family, Get Down, Cookie Tree, Armadillo, Puppy in the Bath, and Octopus Getting Dressed. 22 min.

Forest Flow
Jessa Campbell & The Saplings
Saplings Music
$10.00 CD

Forest Flow is the second children's music album by Parents' Choice Award-winning group Jessa Campbell & The Saplings. The upbeat songs by Jessa Campbell and her friends revolve around ecology and the environment, encouraging young ones to discover the natural world. The lyrics are easy to sing along to, and tailored to be especially accessible to young listeners to ages 4-8. Forest Flow is a wonderful addition to family and children's library music collections, highly recommended. The tracks are Rainbow Flow (feat. SaulPaul, LDW); Movement is Chemistry (feat. LDW); Spooky Forest; Owl's Game (feat. TravisT); Vuela, Vuela, Fly (feat. Palo-Mah); Ripple, Ripple, Splash; Swim With Me (feat. 2 8 Tha Native); Walking Goats (feat. Palo-Mah); Clouds; and Tree Canopy. 33 min.

The Multimedia Shelf

Baby Ninja
Kelli Welli
1st + 1st Media
$12.00 CD / $10.00 digital

Baby Ninja is the fourth album for kids and families by prize-winning creator Kelli Welli. Young children especially will love the flippant, exuberant songs about babies who do amazing things. Pop, Americana, African rhythm, and a touch of Japanese cultural flair make Baby Ninja an exciting cross-cultural fusion. The music album CD comes with an accompanying, full-color comic book with a whimsical story inspired by the song lyrics, about Baby Ninja's efforts to be the very best ninja she can be! Baby Ninja is fantastic fun for little ones, highly recommended. The tracks are Baby Ninja, You're a Sunny Day (feat. Uncle Jumbo), Water Baby, Clean Your Place - 1st Try, I Put My Heart Into, Dirty Socks, Skunk in a Handstand, Clean Your Place - 2nd Try, Superstar, Hey Little Hero, Ryan the Lion (feat. Ryan Segelken), Doc Clean Your Place - 3rd Try, Dogs Doin' Dishes, When You Dance (feat. Nanny Nikki, Claudia Robin Gunn, and Stacey Peasley), Frere Jacques in Five, and Dirty Socks Reprise. 30 min.

The Gardening Shelf

A Flower is a Friend
Frieda Wishinsky, author
Karen Patkau, illustrator
Pajama Press
9781772782806, $18.95, HC, 36pp

Synopsis: What does a flower do? They may not seem active to human eyes, but for the creatures of the garden they dust a bumblebee, shade a frog, feed a hummingbird, and serve as the center of a buzzing, humming, thrumming community of plants and animals.

In "A Flower is a Friend", picture book author Frieda Wishinsky's spare text whispers softly to young readers about the many ways a flower cares for those around it, while gifted illustrator Karen Patkau's striking art provides a close-up view of each mouse, frog, and butterfly within a blossom's embrace. Rich back matter unfurls further information about the partnerships within the garden ecosystem, including the ways these garden creatures are friends to flowers in return.

Critique: With its message that in the garden ecosystem, a flower means many things to each bird, insect, and creature, "A Flower is a Friend" by author/storyteller Frieda Wishinsky and artist/illustrator Karen Patkau is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended pick for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library Gardening/Horticulture picture book collections for children ages 3-6.

Editorial Note #1: Frieda Wishinsky ( grew up in New York City, where she played in local parks and frequented the local candy store. After earning her BA in international relations and her Master of Science in special education, Frieda began to teach... and then to write. Her first title, Oonga Boonga, was an American Booksellers' Pick of the List. Since then, she has grown a magical garden and published more than 70 books, including her bestselling biography of Frederick Law Olmsted, The Man Who made Parks. Frieda has earned many starred reviews and awards, including the Print Braille Book of the Year and the Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award.

Editorial Note #2: Karen Patkau ( is an illustrator, author, designer, and visual artist whose distinctive art can be found in more than twenty picture books for children, many of them about animals and ecosystems. She is the recipient of the Ezra Jack Keats Memorial Medal for Don't Eat Spiders, and One Watermelon Seed was a Bank Street Best Book. A Good Trade was a White Ravens Choice, a Bank Street Best Book, and a nominee for the OLA Blue Spruce Award and the Kentucky Bluegrass Award, among others. Karen's most recent books include Triceratops Stomp and A Family for Faru.

The Dance Shelf

Gloria's Promise: A Ballet Dancer's First Step
Jacqueline Preiss Weitzman, author
Robin Preiss Glasser, illustrator
Random House Studio
9780593181003, $18.99, HC, 40pp

Synopsis: Gloria has a very big dream: to be admitted to the summer program at the American Ballet Theatre. The day of the audition arrives, and Gloria couldn't be more excited! She can't wait to dance and show the world what she can do. In the ABT studios, she gets a peek into a glorious room filled with pointe shoes, ballet dancers getting fitted for tutus, and an awe-inspiring company rehearsal. She can barely believe her eyes!

During the audition, Gloria is determined to make an impression by pushing herself to be her best. But when she falls in front of the teacher, she wonders if her determination will be enough.

Critique: Robin Preiss Glasser (the illustrator of the internationally renowned Fancy Nancy series), brings exquisite and authentic details to every illustration as only a former professional ballet soloist can do in "Gloria's Promise: A Ballet Dancer's First Step". This beautiful and fun picture book story by author "Jacqueline Preiss Weitzman showcases a determined young dancer who is working hard to achieve her dream and is sure to thrill ballet students (and every young girl who has aspired to become a ballerina).

Editorial Note #1: Robin Preiss Glasser ( is the national bestselling illustrator of many books for children, including the Fancy Nancy series, written by Jane O'Connor; Lambslide and Escape Goat, written by Ann Patchett; and Grande Jete and Me by ballerina Allegra Kent. Robin is an alumna of the American Ballet Theatre School scholarship program under Patricia Wilde, and danced professionally with the Pennsylvania Ballet. She lives in California with her husband.

Editorial Note #2: Jacqueline Preiss Weitzman is the author of several books for children, including the award-winning You Can't Take a Balloon into the Metropolitan Museum and its sequels, created in close collaboration with her sister Robin Preiss Glasser. Her most recent books are Superhero Joe and Superhero Joe and the Creature Next Door, illustrated by Ron Barrett. (

Editorial Note #3: The American Ballet Thetre is considered to be one of the greatest dance companies in the world. Located in New York City, it was founded in 1939 with a mission to create, present, preserve, and extend the great repertoire of classical dancing. In 2006, ABT became America's National Ballet Company. Find out more at and follow them on Instagram at @abtofficial and on Twitter at @ABTBallet

The Botany Shelf

Arborama: The Marvelous World of Trees
Lisa Voisard, author
Jeffrey K. Butt, translator
9783907293904, $24.99, HC, 208pp

Synopsis: Winner of the White Raven Award from the International Youth Library Foundation, with the publication of "Arborama: The Marvelous World of Trees", author and illustrator Lisa Voisard fully captures a child's sense of wonder for the natural world.

In the pages of "Arborama", (her first book available in English thanks to Jeffrey K. Butt's translation from the original French), Voisard submerses young readers in the marvelous world of trees: how they reproduce and grow from tiny seeds into the largest plants on earth, how they make our life possible, and how they even communicate with one another.

Featuring more than 200 lavishly illustrated pages, young readers will learn to identify more than 30 key North American trees ranging from favorites such as sugar maple and Douglas fir, to lesser known varieties such as the southern magnolia or weeping willow. They will also come to appreciate the marvelous world of trees all around them!

Critique: Profusely, beautifully, and accurately illustrated throughout, this North American edition of "Arborama: The Marvelous World of Trees" by Lisa Voisard will be of intense interest to young readers with an interest in plats, flowers and trees. It is an impressively and particularly well organized and informative 'reader friendly' compendium presented in a large format hardcover volume (7.5 x 1.25 x 10.25 inches, 2.05 pounds) that is unreservedly recommended as a core addition to family, elementary school, middle school, and community library Botany collections for young readers ages 10-12.

Editorial Note #1: Lisa Voisard ( is a graphic designer and illustrator from Lausanne, Switzerland. Her illustrations are fresh, graphic, colorful and are often inspired by nature. Arborama is the first book in Lisa's 'The Marvelous World' series, the books of which have been bestsellers in French and German. "Ornithorama: The Marvelous World of Birds" and "Insectorama: The Marvelous World of Insects" are other titles in this outstanding series..

Editorial Note #2: Jeffrey K. Butt ( is a translator residing in St. John's, Canada. Jeffrey holds a Master of Arts degree in French from Memorial University of Newfoundland, as well as a Master of Philosophy in Literary Translation from Trinity College, Dublin.

The Christian Shelf

God, Right Here: Meeting God in the Changing Seasons
Kara Lawler, author
Jennie Poh, illustrator
IVP Kids
c/o InterVarsity Press
9781514006597, $17.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: Yellow daffodils, flying seagulls, bright orange pumpkins, and swirling snowflakes -- God's handiwork can be found all throughout nature, and every season is full of beauty and wonder. Everywhere we look, no matter the time of year, the wonders of creation remind us that God is always with us, always right here.

Critique: Engagingly written by author Kara Lawler and beautifully illustrated by artist Jennie Poh, "God, Right Here: Meeting God in the Changing Seasons" is a celebration of God's creation and the changing seasons from a Christian perspective and one that can be enjoyed by children and the adults who read with them. Included is a note from the author to encourage further conversation about the content. Also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $17.09), "God, Right Here: Meeting God in the Changing Seasons" is highly recommended for family, daycare center, elementary school, Sunday School, and community library Christian themed inspirational books for children ages 4-8.

Editorial Note #1: Kara Lawler ( is the author of Everywhere Holy: Seeing Beauty, Remembering Your Identity, and Finding God Right Where You Are and A Letter for Every Mother, but she has wanted to publish a children's book since she was a little girl! As a contributor to several magazines and websites, some of her essays have been read and shared millions of times.

Editorial Note #2: Jennie Poh ( fell in love with the countryside at a very young age, developing a deep connection to nature and conservation. As an illustrator, she still loves to connect with nature -- namely through making her own paintbrushes and textures with leaves, bark, flowers, and anything else she may find while walking outside. She also enjoys using watercolor and inks, which make wonderful splatters and splodges on the page.

This Train Is Bound for Glory
Alice Faye Duncan, author
Paul Kellam, illustrator
WaterBrook Press
c/o WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group
9780593578247, $14.99, HC, 40pp

Synopsis: The vivid illustrations by artist Paul Kellam visualize the snappy text of author/storyteller Alice Faye Duncan is "This Train Is Bound for Glory" which is a picture book story bringing the Glory Train to life as it welcomes singing passengers.

The excitement is palpable as the train clicks and clacks through scenic deserts, over lush mountains, and across sparkling bridges. Under the guidance of the watchful Conductor, the heaven-bound train bops and bounces from Earth to the stars until it reaches the pearly gates, where passengers dance with thrilling joy.

This train is bound for Glory - this train!
This train is bound for Glory - this train!
This train is bound for Glory.
Everybody here is a-rocking and a-rolling.
This train is bound for Glory - this train!

Critique: The history of "This Train is Bound for Glory" dates back to 1922 as a popular recording. The lyrics have evolved across the ages. At the end of this picture book edition of "This Train Is Bound For Glory", children are invited to write their own version of the song in a spirit of hope, joy, and love for a new generation. A fun read from first page to last, "This Train Is Bound For Glory" is unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, Sunday School, elementary school, and community library picture book collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "This Train Is Bound For Glory" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $6.99).

Editorial Note #1: Alice Faye Duncan ( writes for the love of music and the inspiring magic of words. Some of her picture books include Opal Lee and What It Means to Be Free, Evicted!, and Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop, which received a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor.

Editorial Note #2: Paul Kellam is a freelance watercolor illustrator based in Florida. His art brings vitality and color to books such as Antonello Mellow Fellow. He earned his bachelor's in media arts and animation from The Art Institute. He has a webpage on the Bright Agency website at

Jesus in Space: A True Story That's Out of This World
Cecilia Cicone, author
Gabhor Utomo, illustrator
Pauline Books & Media
9780819840424, $24.95, HC, 48pp

Synopsis: T-minus... 3... 2... 1... BLAST OFF! With a roar, the space shuttle, Endeavour, was launched into space. But when Astronaut Tom Jones left the earth, he didn't leave Jesus behind! "Jesus in Space: A True Story That's Out of This World" is true picture book story of an adventure in space and young readers will enjoy and learn how faith and science worked together in the life of one brave astronaut. Of special note is the inclusion of a message from Astronaut Tom and a timeline of NASA space shuttle mission STS-59!

Critique: A very special collaboration between the talented author/storyteller Cecilia Cicone and the very impressive artwork of illustrator Gabhor Utomo, "Jesus in Space: A True Story That's Out of This World" will have a very special and particular appeal to young readers with an interest in space science technology and history from a Christian perspective. While an especially and unreservedly recommended for family, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for children ages 5-8, "Jesus in Space: A True Story That's Out of This World" is also available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.99).

Editorial Note #1: Cecilia Cicone ( works in ministry. In her free time, she enjoys reading and sharing true stories that remind people that God is always with us.

Editorial Note #2: Gabhor Utomo, ( was born in Indonesia. He moved to California in 1997 to become an artist. He received his degree from Academy of Art University in San Francisco in spring 2003. Since his graduation he worked as a freelance illustrator and has illustrated numerous children's books.

The Judaic Shelf

Is Chicken Soup Jewish?: Questions and Answers for Jewish Kids
Rabbi Rafael Grossman
Mazo Publishers
9781956381344, $14.95, PB, 72pp

Synopsis: Jewish kids are bound to have friends who are not Jewish or Jewish friends who want to know more about Judaism. Sometimes their friends might ask some questions about Jewish life. For example, they might want to know about the Jewish holidays, or understand how their religion is different. Maybe they had some chicken soup and want to know if there really is a Jewish connection.

When Jewish kids show their friends a book with Hebrew writing, their friends might want to know why the letters look strange or even funny. But just because kids are Jewish doesn't mean they know all the answers -- yet.

So, to help Jewish kids enhance their knowledge about Judaism, Rabbi Rafael Grossman wrote "Is Chicken Soup Jewish?: Questions and Answers for Jewish Kids" with answers to more than 180 questions that kids had asked him. While some of the questions might seem basic to the Jewish way of life, these are questions that Jewish kids need to be ready to answer.

Critique: Nicely illustrated throughout, "Is Chicken Soup Jewish?: Questions and Answers for Jewish Kids" is impressively 'kid friendly' in organization and presentation. While also available for personal reading list in a digital book format (Kindle, $6.13), "Is Chicken Soup Jewish?: Questions and Answers for Jewish Kids" is unreservedly recommended for family, synagogue, elementary school, and community library Judaic Studies collections for children 8-12.

Editorial Note: Rabbi Rafael G. Grossman (23 November 1933 - 12 April 2018) was a noted American rabbi. For nearly three decades, he was the rabbi of Baron Hirsch Synagogue, an Orthodox congregation in Memphis, Tennessee, and one of the largest Orthodox congregations in the United States. Grossman was also the chairman of the Religious Zionists of America. He has a Wikipedia page at:

Mouse Malachi Discovers the Sabbath
Dreama Archibald, author
Zhi Ling Lee, illustrator
End Game Press
9781637970652, $18.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "Mouse Malachi Discovers the Sabbath" by author/storyteller Dreama Archibald and artist/illustrator Zhi Ling Lee, children can experience a perspective of life in Jerusalem through the tiny eyes of Mouse Malachi and Mouse Eva.

Illuminating illustrations bring the dark cracks and crevices of the secret ancient tunnels to light as Mouse Eva guides Mouse Malachi into the fascinating traditions of the Jewish Sabbath, "Shabbat."

Children will enjoy exploring the happenings from inside the home of a traditional family. Learning about the food, dress and songs; then in the morning it's off to the synagogue on the Sabbath for the celebration of this holy day.

Critique: A thoroughly child friendly introduction to the Jewish Sabbath, "Mouse Malachi Discovers the Sabbath" is a gentle, rhyming pathway on the learning journey for children around the world. An early understanding of traditions helps develop Judaic cultural appreciation and unity. Of special appeal to young readers with an interest in the Jewish Sabbath celebrations, observances, traditions, and history, "Mouse Malachi Discovers the Sabbath" is especially and unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library collections.

Editorial Note #1: Dreama Archibald ( delights in everything rhythm, rhyme and repetition. She believes that stories written for children in this way makes anything happy and singable. The imagination is stretched and enhanced, so instead of being tasty it becomes delicious, luscious, and scrumptious! It inspires one to want more and aids in committing things to memory, as in the words of Mary Poppins, "In a most delightful way."

Editorial Note #2: Zhi Ling Lee is a Malaysian-born illustrator based in London. She loves telling stories through richly-textured illustrations that invoke curiosity and wonder. With a background in software engineering, she brings a unique perspective to her creative projects - a duality wherein whimsical and playful illustrations are anchored on thoughtful concepts and solid design principles. Besides illustrating for children's publishing, Zhi Ling's artwork has also been licensed to clients such as Disney, Netflix and Target. In 2021 and 2020, Zhi Ling was awarded Highly Commended Illustrator in the Faber Andlyn FAB Prize for Illustration. (

The Religion/Spirituality Shelf

The Wisdom of Solomon
Demi, author/illustrator
Wisdom Tales Press
9781957670003, $18.95, HC, 40pp

Synopsis: In ancient times the legendary wisdom of King Solomon (c. 990-931 BCE) was known far and wide.

The Bible recounts that God loved Solomon greatly and appeared to him in a dream saying, "Ask! What shall I give you?" Solomon chose neither riches nor fame, but answered, "Give to Your servant an understanding heart, that I may discern between good and evil." God was so pleased with Solomon's response that, besides a "wise and understanding heart," He gave him "both riches and honor," so that there should be none "like you among the kings all your days" (1 Kings 3:3-13).

Some traditions, both Jewish and Christian, tell that Solomon also received a magic ring from the angel Michael, giving him the power to rule over creatures and that Solomon even knew the language of the birds!

Critique: Beautifully illustrated throughout, "The Wisdom of Solomon" by storyteller and artist Demi will be of special appeal to children ages 4-8 with an interest in the biblical King Solomon. While highly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, Sunday School, and community library picture book biography collections,

Editorial Note: Demi ( is the award-winning author and illustrator of over 300 bestselling children's books, including Jesus, Mary, Saint Francis of Assisi, Hildegard of Bingen, Gifts of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and Talking to God. Major exhibitions of her work have been held in numerous museums in the U.S., including the Time/Life Gallery in New York, the Botolph Galleries in Boston and Cambridge, and the Los Angeles County Museum. Demi won a Fulbright Scholarship to India, and in addition she represented the U.S. at the First International Children's Book Conference in Beijing, China, in 1992.

The Metaphysical Shelf

UFOhs! Mysteries in the Sky
Deborah & Ralph Blumenthal, authors
Adam Gustavson, illustrator
University of New Mexico Press
9780826364951, $19.95, HC, 40pp

Synopsis: "UFOhs! Mysteries in the Sky" is the first book to explore the strange, exciting, and unknown world of Unidentified Aerial Phenomena for kids. "UFOhs!" cuts through speculation and pseudo-science to describe real phenomena as observed and documented by pilots, ship captains, scientists, and ordinary men, women, and children from around the world. Playful, probing, and beautifully illustrated, "UFOhs!" prompts kids and their parents to talk about the moon, the stars, the planets, and all the things they see in the sky, and to wonder about those we can't yet explain.

Critique: Ancient aliens, UFOs, Flying Saucers, these were once the sole province of science fiction shows -- but now there are many who take such things seriously -- including a recent Congressional hearing on the subject. The collaborative effort of co-authors Deborah and Ralph Blumenthal, "UFOhs! Mysteries in the Sky" is beautifully illustrated by the artwork of Adam Gustavson. The result is an engaging, informative, thought-provoking picture book that is unreservedly recommended for family, elementary school, and community library UFO and Space Science collections for young readers ages 6-9. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "UFOhs! Mysteries in the Sky" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note #1: Deborah Blumenthal ( is an award-winning journalist and the author of fifteen picture books for children, including Saving Stella: A Dog's Dramatic Escape from War and The Blue House Dog. She is also the author of numerous YA novels and four adult novels.

Editorial Note #2: Ralph Blumenthal ( was an award-winning reporter for the New York Times. He is the author of several books, including Miracle at Sing Sing: How One Man Transformed the Lives of America's Most Dangerous Prisoners and The Believer: Alien Encounters, Hard Science, and the Passion of John Mack (UNM Press). A distinguished lecturer at Baruch College, he lives in New York City.

Editorial Note #3: Adam Gustavson ( is the illustrator of over thirty children's books and the author and illustrator of The Froggies Do NOT Want to Sleep.

The Sports Shelf

Not Playing by the Rules
Lesa Cline-Ransome
c/o Random House Children's Books
9781524764531, $18.99, HC, 48pp

Synopsis: Before girls wore pants or women were permitted to swim in bathing suits at public beaches, who paved the way for women in sports? And who's breaking new ground today?

With the publication of "Not Playing by the Rules: 21 Female Athletes Who Changed Sports", Lesa Cline-Ransome introduces 21 trail blazing women who have broken through the boundaries set for female athletes. They range from basketball slam-dunker Lisa Leslie to tennis superstars Venus and Serena Williams (whose father had onlookers jeer at and taunt the girls as they practiced), to Paralympian Tatyana McFadden (who was a speed demon even at her Russian orphanage before she was adopted), to Olympic gold medalist Ethelda Bleibtrey (who was led off to jail when she shed her shoes and stockings to swim in public).

"Not Playing by the Rules" inspires, informs, and illustrates the strength, determination, and accomplishments of women athletes both yesterday and today with its powerful photographs and hand-lettered, inspirational quotes from the athletes themselves.

The featured athletes showcase in "Not Playing by the Rules" includes Ethelda Bleibtrey, Bobbi Gibb, Althea Gibson, Gabby Douglas, Flo Hyman, Lisa Leslie, Mia Hamm, Tatyana McFadden, Mo'ne Davis, Ibtihaj Muhammad, Diana Golden, Constance Applebee, Lizzie Arlington, Babe Didrikson, Alice Coachman, Joy Johnson, Nancy Lieberman, Nadia Com neci, Venus and Serena Williams, and Yusra Mardini.

Critique: Inherently interesting, repeatedly inspiring, and a thoroughly fun read from cover to cover, "Not Playing by he Rules: 21 Female Athletes Who Changed Sports" is a biographical anthology every young girl ages 8-12 with an interest in sports and athletics should read. While also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99), "Not Playing by the Rules" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to family, elementary school, middle school, and community library Sports History collection.

Editorial Note: Lesa Cline-Ransome ( is an author who has received numerous honors and awards including NAACP Awards, Kirkus Best Books, ALA Notable, CBC Choice Awards, two Top 10 Sports Books for Youth, a Christopher Award, Jane Addams Award and an Orbis Pictus Recommended Book.

The Music Shelf

A Child's Introduction To Hip-Hop
Jordannah Elizabeth, author
Markia Jenai, illustrator
Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers
9780762481026, $21.99, HC, 96pp

Synopsis: In the 1970s, a musical and cultural movement was sparked in the Bronx neighborhood of New York City. Led by three DJs who performed at local block parties, DJ Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaataa, and Grandmaster Flash become known as the "Holy Trinity" of hip-hop and they helped establish the four main pillars of the genre: deejaying, mc'ing, break dancing, and graffiti art.

With the publication of "A Child's Introduction to Hip-Hop: The Beats, Rhymes, and Roots of a Musical Revolution" journalist and music critic Jordannah Elizabeth and artist/illustrator Markia Jenai take kids on a journey through the history of hip-hop, helping young readers ages 8-12 understand how and why it was invented, and how it evolved into a powerful platform that gave (and still gives) a voice to the often-ignored Black community in America. From Tupac Shakur and Ms. Lauryn Hill to Drake and Tyler the Creator, kids will celebrate some of hip-hop's biggest names while learning about the roots of their musical sounds, and the community that propelled them into stardom.

Critique: Packed from cover to cover with modern, charming illustrations, and including a pull-out poster for kids to color, "AA Child's Introduction to Hip-Hop: The Beats, Rhymes, and Roots of a Musical Revolution" features age-appropriate descriptions of a musical genre that is changing the world and dominating the airwaves. The ideal music history book for young students who want to know more about the world of hip-hop and rap (as well as for parents who want to introduce their children to some of their favorite artists), "A Child's Introduction to Hip-Hop" is especially and unreservedly recommended for family, elementary school, and community American Music History collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "A Child's Introduction to Hip-Hop" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.99).

Editorial Note #1: Jordannah Elizabeth ( is an author, music critic, editor, and lecturer. She is the author of She Raised Her Voice! and Astrology for Black Girls. She is a columnist at New York Amsterdam News and her work has appeared in Ms. Magazine, ZORA, Village Voice, LA Weekly, NPR Music, and many other publications. Jordannah has lectured and received invitations as a guest journalist from Harvard University, Pratt Institute, Maryland Institute College of Art, Columbia University, and De Montfort University in Leicester, England.

Editorial Note #2: Markia Jenai ( was raised in Detroit, during rough times, but she found her adventure through art and storytelling. She grew up listening to the old stories of her family members, which gave her an interest in history. Her love of art led her to study at the Academy of Art in San Francisco. An avid lover of fantasy settings, cultures, and mythology, Markia has made it her goal to create worlds where people of color are front and center.

Books in Series

Dreaming of the Ocean
Grant Collier, author
Stephanie Lowman, author/illustrator
Collier Publishing LLC
9781935694687, $14.95, HC, 40pp

Synopsis: "Dreaming of the Ocean" by author Grant Collier and illustrator Stephanie Lowman tells the story of Terra the Turtle, who does not want to go to sleep. When she finally does doze off, she dreams that she is at the bottom of the ocean. She makes an unlikely friendship with a creature called an anglerfish. Together, they brave many dangers and see fascinating ocean animals as Terra tries to get back home.

Critique: Featuring museum quality artwork by Stephanie Lowman, in full support of a simple, entertaining, picture book story by Grant Collier, "Dreaming of the Ocean" is an original and unreservedly recommended addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library Wildlife picture book collections for children ages 5-10. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Dreaming of the Ocean" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.99).

Editorial Note: Dreaming of the Ocean is one of eight books in the "Dreaming of..." series of books. You can see the other books in this outstanding series on the Collier Publishing website at

Scary Tales Retold series
Wiley Blevins
Red Chair Press

Red Chair Press is the publisher of the 'Scary Tales Retold' series of books specifically intended for children ages 5-9 and in grades K-3. New titles for the Fall of 2023 include:

"Dinner of Doom" (9781643712123, $27.99, Library Binding, $8.99 PB, 24pp) by author Wiley Blevins and illustrator Patrick Girouard is based upon the Brothers Grimm's story of "The White Snake". A servant marries the King's daughter to live happily ever after. Will that be the case in this cursed retelling of a doomed dinner?

"The Witch and the Nightingale" (9781643712130, $27.99, Library Binding, $8.99 PB, 24pp) by author Wiley Blevins and illustrator Steve Cox is an updated retelling of the Brothers Grimm's "Jorinda and Joringel," in which a shape-changing witch protects her privacy at all costs. When the engaged couple Jorinda and Jacob stumble into the witch's part of the forest, she takes them captive. The hateful witch changes Jorinda into a singing bird. Will her fiance save her, or will the witch keep her singing bird caged forever?

"Dragon and His Grandmother" (9781643712147, $27.99 Library Binding, $8.99 PB, 24pp) by author Wiley Blevins and illustrator Steve Cox is the grim retelling of "The Devil and His Grandmother," an 1800's English tale adapted by the Brothers Grimm. When three soldiers leave the battle to hide in a field, a dragon rescues them...but it comes with consequences. Dragon offers them safety only if they serve him for seven years. To be set free they must answer a riddle. Will the soldiers gain their freedom, or will they be servants of the Dragon forever?

"The Snake Prince's Secret" (9781643712192, $27.99, Library Binding, $8.99 PB, 24pp) by author Wiley Blevins and illustrator Patrick Girouard, while often thought to be a fairy tale from India about the practice of arranged marriage, this creepy retelling of "The Snake Prince" highlights the dangers of jealousy and greed.

Critique: All four fun titles are being released for librarians and the general public in August, 2023 and are highly recommended additions to family, elementary school, and community library Fairy Tale/Fable collections. Each one of these four new 24 page children's books is also available for personal reading lists in an digital book format (Kindle).

Editorial Note: Wiley Blevins ( has written more than 70 books for children, as well as created reading programs for schools in the US and Asia.

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.

Sesame Street: Let's Celebrate Diversity! A Book About Us
Geri Cole
Studio Fun
9780794448035, $10.99

Christine Irvin

In this colorful lift-the-flap board book, the characters of Sesame Street celebrate their diversity. They show that we should appreciate everyone in our lives, no matter what they wear, where they live, what they eat, or what language they speak. Simple sentences, bright illustrations, and flaps that lift on each page will delight young readers. (Ages 3-5)

The Elephant's Shoes
Charity Yoder, author
Robin Dewitt, illustrator
9781525534089, $12.99

Deb Greenberg

Friendly, rhyming text accompanied by warm, soft illustrations provide an effective lesson about making decisions and dealing with the choices that are made, as we watch an elephant try on many pairs of shoes, only to long for the pair he decided not to keep. An endearing tale that also recognizes the importance of friendship and kindness. (Ages 3-6)

Paul Steven Stone, author
Don Carter, illustrator
AM Ink Publishing
9781943201877, $22.99

Deb Greenberg

What can all the barnyard animals do to stop the rooster from waking them daily from their dreams with his loud cock-a-doodle-do? Cook him? Gag him? Mock him? Read along to see if their idea works to silence their noisy neighbor. Rhyming and engaging text combine with colorful and detailed artwork that'll bring a smile to any little reader. (Ages 3-8)

My Elephant Is Blue
Melinda Szymanik, author
Vasanti Unka, illustrator
Flyaway Books
9781947888418, $19.00

Christine Irvin

Author Melinda Szymanik uses an analogy of an elephant sitting on a child's chest to describe the feelings of a depressed child. Children often cannot put into words how they feel, but they would understand the feelings expressed by the girl in this book. The text and illustrations not only show a child who is suffering, but they also convey an idea of hope, that things can get better, that things will improve. This is a great book for parents to share with their children to open up a discussion about things that might be bothering them. (Ages 4-7)

My Strange Shrinking Parents
Zeno Sworder
Thames & Hudson
9781760762957, $17.95

Christine Irvin

As author Zeno Sworder got older, his parents got smaller, or so they seemed to him as a child. Zeno's parents sacrificed much for him, and in this book, he illustrates, with words and pictures, how the tables turn when children grow up and see their parents from a different angle. It's a beautiful, touching story of love and gratitude. (Ages 4-8)

My Dad Thinks He's a Pirate
Katrina Germein, author
Tom Jellett, illustrator
9781536225020, $18.99

Christine Irvin

This delightful book is filled with silly pirate jokes. When Captain Dad takes his crew (his son) for a day at the ocean, Captain Dad can't help but crack corny pirate joke after corny pirate joke. His son good-naturedly puts up with all of Captain Dad's nonsense. Delightful illustrations and enough corny pirate jokes to fill a treasure chest make this a "pun-filled, giggle-worthy tribute" to all parents who think they are comedians, a tribute that can be appreciated by young and old alike. (Ages 4-8)

One Tiny Treefrog
Tony Piedra & Mackenzie Joy
Candlewick Press
9781536219487, $18.99

Deb Greenberg

Introduce your little readers to frog metamorphosis and the red-eyed treefrog of the Costa Rican tropical forest. Of the ten sticky frog eggs on a leaf, only nine hatch, only eight tadpoles wind up in the water below, and so on, as the story takes a peek at their habitats and predators. Treefrog facts and other super interesting information at the back provide an added bonus to this dazzling picture book. (Ages 4-8)

Old Wood Boat
Nikki McClure
Candlewick Press
9781536216585, $18.99

Deb Greenberg

Author and artist Nikki McClure brings us the story of an old boat that is rescued, refurbished, and restored, making it seaworthy again. Little sailors will be mesmerized as they watch the new owners scrape, scrub, sand, and varnish the new member of their family. They fit her with new planks and caulk her seams, so the Old Wood Boat can set sail for distant islands and new adventures. Captivating and informative, with a labeled cross-section of the boat and a "How to Talk Like a Sailor" glossary. (Ages 4-8)

Mommy Time
Monique James-Duncan, author
Ebony Glenn, illustrator
9781536212266, $17.99

Dr. Dawn Menge

Mommy is very busy, but finds time to spend with her children. Playing, grocery store, the park, the dentist, and then bedtime. Mommy, her daughter, and baby son have very busy lives and love spending time together. A warm-hearted book teaching about family time, completing chores, and enjoying life together. I recommend this book for young school-age children, especially if they have a new sibling and are learning to share their parents. (Ages 4-8)

But Family is Forever
Leslie Gang, author
Misha Narducci, illustrator
Pen It! Publications
9781639842537, $20.99

Dr. Dawn Menge

What do you like to do with your family? This is an important book for young children to understand the differences in relationships during their lives. A repeated statement in the book, "But there's no place I'd rather be than together with my family. Because things in life may come and go, but family is forever," reinforces the togetherness and bond that family creates and that others may only be with us for a season but that our family is everything. I highly recommend this debut book by Leslie Gang, an advocate for literacy as a cofounder of Hindi's Libraries, a nonprofit organization that distributes books across the globe. (Ages 4-8)

Twenty Questions
Mac Barnett, author
Christian Robinson, illustrator
9781536215137, $17.99

Dr. Dawn Menge

Questions, questions, and more questions. Children inundate us with 20 questions as they are expanding and learning about their worlds. Twenty Questions delves into the various kinds of questions were all face in our lives. Not all questions have answers, and some have more than one. I recommend Twenty Questions for those who are teaching the who's, what's and where's of a child's first inquisitive questions. (Ages 4-8)

Love Made Me More
Colleen Rowan Kosinski, author
Sonia Sanchez, illustrator
Two Lions
9781542006200, $17.99

Christine Irvin

To all outside appearances, the little boy's origami crane is nothing more than a folded piece of paper. But it was made with love, and the little boy loves it. It becomes his friend, his confidant, his protector. As the boy grows, he depends less and less on the crane for strength and companionship and the crane is all but forgotten. But, one day, he gets it out again and the crane takes on a new life, a new meaning, a new purpose. Love made the crane more. This touching story is illustrated with bold strokes and minimal text on the pages. (Ages 4-8)

If Your Dog Were a Human
Leland P. Gamson, author
Karen Camden Welsh, illustrator
Gamson Incorporated
9781627470759, $9.95

Christine Irvin

If your dog were human, what do you think he/she would be like? Author Leland P. Gamson takes readers on a whimsical romp, imagining what kind of person his dog might be. The sentiment is fun. (Ages 4-8)

Luna's Green Pet
Kirsten Pendreigh, author
Carmen Mok, illustrator
Sleeping Bear Press
9781534111615, $17.99

Deb Greenberg

For anyone who's ever wanted a pet, but wasn't allowed to have one, little Luna has the perfect solution for you. There's a no pets policy at her apartment and she has no interest in her friends' suggestions to get a pet rock or an ant farm. But then she spies something small and green in the trash. Join Luna as she turns a wilted plant into "Stephanie," with her love and attention. Soft and expressive artwork adds the right touch to this delightful story. (Ages 4-8)

Babajoon's Treasure
Farnaz Esnaashari, author
Nabi H. Ali, illustrator
Simon & Schuster
9781665901888, $18.99

Cynthia Kern Obrien

Every summer, Miriam spends a week at her Babajoon and Mamanjoon's house. It's her favorite part of summer because every day with her grandparents is an adventure. But when coins fall out of Babajoon's pocket as he's getting ice cream, Miriam finds one coin that doesn't look like the rest - a gold one unlike Miriam has ever seen before. Suddenly, she starts to notice certain things about her Babajoon. He can talk to parrots. He speaks with code words. Could her Babajoon be... a pirate? Beautiful colors and illustrations spark the imagination on this inquisitive adventure. (Ages 4-8)

Anni Dreams of Biryani
Namita Moolani Mehra, author
Chaaya Prabhat, illustrator
Two Lions
9781542030410, $17.99

Deb Greenberg

Little Anni's on a mission to make her biryani as tasty as Uncle's (Mr. Arif), the grouchy chef and owner of the cafe across the street. But without Uncle's secret special ingredient, it's not the same fluffy, fragrant, and spicy dish. Join Anni in her quest and see if she accomplishes her dream. Vibrant digital illustrations and biryani information at the back of the book complement this sweet story. (Ages 4-8)

How to Spot a Dinosaur
Suzy Senior, author
Dan Taylor, illustrator
Silver Dolphin Books
9781667202402, $14.99

Cynthia Kern Obrien

What prehistoric creatures are hiding in the park? Find out as two young dinosaur enthusiasts spend a day hunting for the sneaky dinosaurs they think they see peeking behind trees and hiding in the bushes. With lively, fun illustrations and lyrical, rhyming text, this dino-rific picture book will delight the whole family! This book takes you on a great adventure. Educational, fun characters, and beautifully illustrated. Fun for the whole family! (Ages 4-8)

The Great Ball Game
Rebecca Sheir, author
Joshua Pawis-Steckley, illustrator
Storey Publishing
9781635863437, $14.99

Christine Irvin

In this retelling of a folktale that originated from several Native American tribes, two groups of animals take sides and try to determine which groups is best - the ones that can fly or the ones that can't. Then a tiny bat shows everyone that neither side is best. Kids will relate to the friendly illustrations and text. The author has included several activities at the end of the book that will get kids moving and thinking. (Ages 5+)

The First Notes: The Story of Do, Re, Mi
Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton, authors
Chiara Fedele, illustrator
Little, Brown
9780316265904, $18.99

Christine Irvin

Well-known actress and singer, Julie Andrews, and her daughter, Emma Walton Hamilton, team up to educate readers about how written music was developed. It's a great story, well-written, with beautiful full-color illustrations and several pages of extra information added at the back of the book. (Ages 5+)

Lulu the Beaver
Bethany Gano
Bunny Books
9781736147269, $18.99

Christine Irvin

Lulu is a beaver. As such, she's supposed to act like a beaver with a driving desire to gnaw down trees and build dams. Lulu participates in these beaver activities, but her heart's not in it. Deep down inside, Lulu is an artist, an artist who wants to be herself and not follow the norms. This is a story many children (and adults) can relate to. The lively illustrations and imaginative page layouts add color and interest to an already wonderful story. (Ages 5-8)

Narwhalicorn and Jelly
Ben Clanton
Tundra Books
9780735266728, $12.99

Deb Greenberg

Narwhal and Jelly are back in another adventure, in Book 7 of this early graphic novel series. Narwhal's quest to see a unicorn has the duo blasting off to the magical Unicorn planet where everyone is a unicorn. Partycorn, Partycorn is not for Jelly... he only wants to get back to his familiar surroundings. Nestled in the silliness of the story is a lesson about listening, as Narwhal realizes he might not have been such a super listener. An entertaining read for all. (Ages 5-8)

Pirates Don't Dance
Shawna J. C. Tenney
Sleeping Bear Press
9781534111585, $17.99

Deb Greenberg

Cheer on this little pirate-in-training as he tries to accomplish his goals, while providing a lesson about being true to yourself and utilizing your talents. Captain Squinty Eye's number one ship rule is Pirates Don't Dance but see how all that changes when battling Captain Crooked Beard. Energetic and animated artwork and pirate-speak definitions and dance movement explanations round out this silly story with a meaningful message. (Ages 5-8)

Growing Up in the Torrone Zone
Marlana DeMarco Hogan
Newman Springs
9781684983025, $23.95

Cynthia Kern Obrien

Follow a hardworking little boy and the joy he finds while helping his family to make torrone, a traditional Italian candy, for the annual town festival that takes place atop the small mountain town he calls home. Every step is filled with fun and excitement, from going down the mountain to buy the torrone ingredients to preparing the delicious candy treat. A great story to learn about traditions. (Ages 5-9)

Growing Up in the Pasta Zone
Marlana DeMarco Hogan
Newman Springs
9781684983001, $23.95

Cynthia Kern Obrien

Who doesn't love Pasta? Follow along on the annual family tradition of making tomato sauce and pasta together. A story about family time spent together making treasured memories. (Ages 5-9)

Smashie McPerter and the Shocking Rocket Robbery
N. Griffin, author
Kate Hindley, illustrator
Candlewick Press
9780763694708, $16.99

Deb Greenberg

In the third mystery of the humorous Smashie McPerter series, Smashie and her classmates are going on a field trip to the planetarium. Smashie's best friend, Dontel, wants to be an astrophysicist and has even created a drawing of a working rocket that Dontel's grandmother wants to submit in the planetarium's science contest. But when the drawing disappears before they get there, best friends Smashie and Dontel are on the case (with her interesting hats). Blast off with the duo as they attempt to solve the rocket robbery mystery. (Ages 7-10)

How Do You Spell Unfair? MacNolia Cox and the National Spelling Bee
Carole Boston Weatherford, author
Frank Morrison, illustrator
9781536215540, $18.99

Christine Irvin

Author Carole Boston Weatherford chronicles the journey of MacNolia Cox, an eighth grader who became the first African American to win the spelling bee in Akron, Ohio. Because of that win, she was invited to compete in the National Spelling Bee in Washington, DC, where she and another Black girl were the first two African Americans to ever be invited to do so. She was plagued by racial prejudice the whole time, but she kept her eye on the prize. She didn't win the competition, but she made her hometown proud by doing her best. An excellent book to open a discussion of history and injustice. (Ages 7-10)

Where I Live: Poems About My Home, My Street, and My Town
Selected by Paul B. Janeczko
Hyewon Yum, illustrator
9781536200942, $18.99

Dr. Dawn Menge

This is a lovely book filled with poems about our daily lives. The things we hear like a train as we try to sleep, a curious cat, weather, and people. My favorite poem was Snow Benches. "Do parks get lonely in winter, perhaps, when benches have only snow on their laps?" Our class enjoyed listening to each of the poems, asking and answering questions on each new subject. This is a wonderful introduction to reading and writing poems for your young child. (Ages 7-10)

Daisy Woodworm Changes the World
Melissa Hart
JollyFish Press
9781631636370, $14.99

Deb Greenberg

When Daisy Woodward's social studies teacher assigns a project to change the world for the better (including an oral report), she decides to help her older brother Sorrel, who has Down syndrome and adores men's fashion, achieve his dream of becoming a YouTube fashion celebrity. Join Daisy and her friends as they launch Sorrel's publicity campaign without her parents' approval. Can she regain her family's trust, learn to speak in public, and change the world? This realistic fiction addresses topics relevant to today's young readers. (Ages 8-12)

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