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

Children's Bookwatch

Volume 32, Number 5 May 2022 Home | CBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Social Issues Shelf Holiday Shelf
Science Shelf American History Shelf Health/Medicine Shelf
Board Book Shelf Picturebook Shelf Historical Fiction Shelf
Middle Grade Fiction Shelf Romantic Fiction Shelf YA Fiction Shelf
Mystery/Suspense Shelf Fantasy/SciFi Shelf Pets/Wildlife Shelf
Christian Shelf Judaic Shelf Biography Shelf
Jobs/Careers Shelf Graphic Novel Shelf Automotive Shelf
Gardening Shelf Self-Help Shelf LGBT Shelf
Books in Series Story Monsters Ink Shelf  

Reviewer's Choice

Yes! No!
Megan Madison, Jessica Ralli & Isabel Roxas
Rise x Penguin Workshop
9780593383322, $8.99

Yes! No! by Megan Madison, Jessica Ralli & Isabel Roxas is a little board book covering a big subject: consent. It provides parents and educators with an opening discussion that moves from identifying body parts to understanding the roles and choices of grown-ups in their lives, absorbing how safety involves setting boundaries. The heart of the story lies in identifying what "yes" and "no" really mean and how to practice their delivery and impact for maximum results.

Not Enough Lollipops
Megan Maynor, author
Micah Player, illustrator
Knopf Books for Young Readers
c/o Random House Children's Books
9780593372562, $17.99, HC, 40pp

Synopsis: When Alice wins an enormous basket of lollipops in the raffle she's happy to share her good fortune with friends and classmates, but everyone seems to have a different opinion about how she should divide the bounty. Suddenly, Alice's big prize becomes a big conundrum. Should she give extras to her friends? Should she withhold lollipops from the kids who always hog the tire swing? As she weighs her options, the panic grows. What if there aren't enough to go around!? "Not Enough Lollipops" is an hilarious and thought-provoking picture book story that uses lollipops in the school yard to illustrate how cooperation and generosity can make even the most daunting problems solvable.

Critique: A thoroughly fun read from cover to cover, "Not Enough Lollipops" by the team of author/storyteller Megan Maynor and artist/illustrator Micah Player, with its underlying them of cooperation in problem solving is an impressively charming and highly recommended addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for children ages 4-7. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Not Enough Lollipops" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99).

Editorial Note #1: Megan Maynor is also the author of The Sandcastle That Lola Built,A House for Every Bird, Helga Makes a Name for Herself,Ella and Penguin Stick Together and Ella and Penguin, A Perfect Match. She has a website at and can be followed on Instagram and Twitter at @Megan_Maynor

Editorial Note #2: Micah Player wrote and illustrated the picture book "Chloe, Instead" and illustrated "Guy Stuff: The Body Book for Boys for American Girl" and "Vote for our Future" by Margaret McNamara. He is also the creator of the best-selling Around the World Puzzle and its follow-up, the Around the World Matching Game. He has a website at and can be followed on Instagram at @micahplayer

Butterfly Love From Above
Melissa Stuart
Performance Publishing Group
9781956914603, $20.99 Hardcover/$16.99 Paper

In Butterfly Love From Above, Star has just lost her best friend, a butterfly named Twinkle. Twinkle was her special friend, beloved above all others. They have amazing adventures together, they fill each others' days... and then suddenly Twinkle is no more.

Melissa Stuart's picture book story of grief receives lovely large-sized, colorful illustrations by Kate Solenova as it follows this friendship, until one day a dark cloud looms over everything upon Twinkle's loss.

Star knows she will never find another friend like Twinkle. But her wise mother offers advice that Star finds important: "All the precious moments you shared are like a treasure chest to which only you hold the key! You can open it anytime you need, even if it's just to take a peek. You will see that just like treasures full of diamonds and jewels locked safely away under the sea last a lifetime, so does the special memories locked in your heart. It's proof that love lasts forever, even when the one we love is no longer here."

Ultimately, it's Twinkle's own words that live on in Star's heart, encouraging her to take new risks.

Many picture books have been written to help kids through grief. Butterfly Love From Above's focus not just on grief but on moving forward to live, laugh, and love again provides an important message that parents will want to share and discuss with children.

Additionally, Butterfly Love From Above is highly recommended as a therapy tool to help children move forward not just into and out of grief, but to possibilities beyond loss.

Within Butterfly Love From Above's survey of that process lies the opportunity for recovery that is an important key to facing not just life, but death and its aftermath.

"Always look up! I'm right here, little Star!"

Building Our Main Street
Kristian James, author
Matea Anic, illustrator
AM Ink Publishing
9781943201785, $21.99, HC, 34pp

Synopsis: One of the toughest conversations to have with a child is discussing when a family member passes away. "Building Our Main Street" can genuinely assist in bringing families close together and opening up communication when a loved one crosses over to the other side.

This is because Main Street is a wonderful place that is filled with the memories of that family member. Whether it is their favorite movie theater, ice cream shop, or theme park they loved going to. Main Street isn't a one size fits all, it is unique to each and every person.

Critique: Especially and unreservedly recommended for families with children where there has been the death of a loved one, it should be noted that "Building Our Main Street" by the team of author Kristian James and artist/illustrator Matea Anic is also readily available in a paperback edition (9781943201778, $14.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

The Social Issues Shelf

Just Help! How to Build a Better World
Sonia Sotomayor
Philomel Books
9780593206263, $17.99

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor's Just Help! How to Build a Better World reflects the narrator's mother's key question: "How did you help today?" Picture book readers will enjoy a true story that evolves into a discussion of civil rights and efforts to help others in a tale enhanced by Angela Dominguez's illustrations. As the story embraces a neighborhood in which people help one another, an important message evolves. Adults will want to add this to any picture book collection about community-building.

Dear Friends: Pops the Club Anthology
Amy Friedman and Dennis Danziger
Out of the Woods Press
9781952197123, $17.95 Paper/$7.95 Kindle, 232pp

Dear Friends: Pops the Club Anthology is the eighth anthology from the Pops the Club nonprofit organization helping youths affected by the prison system, gathering powerful stories by kids who grew up alongside gangs, violence, and life-challenging milieus.

The chapter headings alone portend an unusual impact in their sources of subjects ("Our Hood," "Our Humility," "Our Homies," "Our Honesty."). Color illustrations throughout provide artistic embellishments both captivating and complimentary to the written artistry of this anthology's contributors.

Each of these topics receives essays and poems that are striking, hard-hitting, and filled with impact and insight. Each piece is delivered with an unerring honesty that teens, in general, seem to hone and which this group, in particular, has cultivated to a high literary level.

Riva Goldman's "The Song" offers one such inspection, derived from a school assignment that led to a different choice of writing topic than the one close to her heart: "That's the setting for the first time those lyrics resonated with me - a sad, angry, weird, misunderstood teen, and I was sure that no one knew what it was like to be me, what it was like to feel so misunderstood and so sad. It was true that behind my eyes I felt despised, disliked, and somehow Townshend understood all that, every bit of it. The words of his song made me feel, at last, understood, even if he wrote about blue eyes. I have brown eyes, but he had captured the essence of what I felt in my relationship with my mother in those days, and intermittently for the rest of her life."

Often, the fine line between free verse poem and essay is blurred for the sake of powerful reflection, as in Jessica De La Mora's self-inspection piece "Disgusting": "I cannot smile with a meaning, I smile because I want others to believe I am okay. I don't want others to worry about me, I need them to think I'm okay. Once I hear the question "Are you okay?" I break down immediately. I can only blame myself for holding in everything I hold in. I build up my emotions and problems.

Imagine an empty cup with pure negativity. It's like swallowing a cup full of acid. I feel like I am drowning, like I am dying. I don't know how much longer I can hold my emotions in."

If one phrase could describe the soul of this literary explosion of emotional inspections, it would be "don't hold back." Nothing is held back in its writings from kids with incarcerated loved ones, and readers should not hold back from reading and absorbing these pieces.

Dear Friends is especially highly recommended reading for high school students who seek candid discussions of life's trials and the ability to survive them. When used as a reading group or book club pick, Dear Friends holds the rare opportunity to not only reflect poetic and literary expressions, but represents the lives and spirits of young writers who don't come from staid walks of life, making their own courses through angst and challenge in the world. Their literary marks are unerringly precise and powerful.

Whitney Wins Everything
Sasha Graham
Gatekeeper Press
9781662908637, $19.99, HC, 44pp

Synopsis: A young girl named Whitney is an athlete, a competitor, a powerhouse. Whitney loves to win and knows that everybody loves a winner. But when she isn't invited to a classmate's birthday party because she'll "win all the games," Whitney is confused. Now, Whitney wonders if her Tiny Ninja might be right, could there actually be more than one way to win?

Critique: A fun and thoroughly 'kid friendly' picture book with an important underlying message about winning and playing just for fun, "Whitney Wins Everything" by author/storyteller Sasha Graham and artist illustrator Angelina Valieve is especially recommended for family, elementary school and community library life skills picture book collections for children ages 5-8. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Whitney Wins Everything" is also available in a paperback edition (9781662908644, $10.99).

Editorial Note #1: Sasha Graham is the author of Milo Does Not Like Mornings, A Milo no le gustan las mananas, and Whitney Wins Everything. Each of these books is part of the Tiny Ninja Books Collection ( where the central idea is that we are each born with our own Tiny Ninja who is the most compassionate, brave, supportive version of us. In addition to writing books for children, Sasha has worked as a film publicist, television writer, tv segment producer, and as an executive at the Walt Disney Studios.

Editorial Note #2: Every book in the Tiny Ninja Books collection centers on the idea that we are each born with our own Tiny Ninja who is the very best version of us; brave, strong, compassionate and kind. Our Tiny Ninjas are always there for us, all we have to do is listen.

The Holiday Shelf

Bunster, An Easter Story
Christine Hwang Panzer
Mascot Books
620 Herndon Parkway, #320, Herndon, VA 20170
9781637550854, $11.95, Board Book, 16pp, Ages 2-4

Bunster, An Easter Story is a board book highly recommended for the very young. It follows Bunster's day watering daffodils, collecting eggs, and loading his 'squad' of ducklings into a basket to provide "unexpected cuteness to celebrate Easter."

As Easter festivities and traditions are explored, Bunster's efforts to celebrate with his disparate friends enjoys an engaging series of drawings and encounters by Christine Hwang Panzer. These will prove especially attractive for read-aloud parents looking for a spirited, colorful story about Easter celebrations from a rabbit's viewpoint.

The positive portrait of Easter being a "happy celebration and time with new friends" makes for an enriching tale that embraces inclusiveness and positivity alike.

Parents seeking a board book representation of Easter that emphasizes interpersonal connections will find Bunster, An Easter Story a vivid story, filled with fun.

Hanukkah, Here I Come!
D. J. Steinerge, author
Sara Palacios, illustrator
Grosset & Dunlop
c/o Penguin Young Readers Group
9780593094266, $5.99, PB, 32pp

Synopsis: The candles are lit and the latkes are frying -- Hanukkah is here! With the publication of "Hanukkah, Here I Come!" by author/storyteller D. J. Steinber and artist/illustrator Sara Palacios, children will enjoy welcoming in the Jewish holiday of Hannukka with poems and a sheet of stickers! "Hanukkah, Here I Come!" highlights the family fun, dizzying dreidels, and mighty Maccabee stories that are all apart of a Hanukkah celebration!

Critique: Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, is a Jewish festival commemorating the recovery of Jerusalem and subsequent rededication of the Second Temple at the beginning of the Maccabean revolt against the Seleucid Empire in the 2nd century BCE. Hanukkah is observed for eight nights and days, starting on the 25th day of Kislev according to the Hebrew calendar, which may occur at any time from late November to late December in the Gregorian calendar. Fun and informative, "Hanukkah, Here I Come!" is highly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library Holiday themed picture book collections for children ages 4-6. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Hanukkah, Here I Come!" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $5.99).

Opal Lee and What It Means to Be Free
Alice Faye Duncan, author
Keturah A. Bobo, illustrator
Tommy Nelson
c/o Thomas Nelson Publishers
PO Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
9781400231256, $17.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: Every year, Opal Lee looked forward to the Juneteenth picnic -- a drumming, dancing, delicious party. She knew from Granddaddy Zak's stories that Juneteenth celebrated the day the freedom news of President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation finally sailed into Texas in 1865 more than two years after the president had declared it!

But Opal didn't always see freedom in her Texas town. Then one Juneteenth day when Opal was twelve years old, an angry crowd burned down her brand-new home. This wasn't freedom at all. She had to do something! But could one person's voice make a difference? Could Opal bring about national recognition of Juneteenth?

Follow Opal Lee as she fights to improve the future by honoring the past.

Through the story of Opal Lee's determination and persistence, children ages 4 to 8 will learn: That all people are created equal; The power of bravery and using your voice for change; The history of Juneteenth, or Freedom Day, and what it means today; The no one is free unless everyone is free; and that fighting for a dream is worth the difficulty experienced along the way.

Featuring the illustrations of New York Times bestselling illustrator Keturah A. Bobo (I am Enough), "Opal Lee and What It Means to Be Free" by Alice Faye Duncan celebrates the life and legacy of a modern-day Black leader while sharing a message of hope, unity, joy, and strength.

Critique: Entertaining, informative, inspiring, beautifully illustrated and thoroughly 'kid friendly' is presentation, "Opal Lee and What It Means to Be Free" is unequivocally and unreservedly recommended as a high priority addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library Black History, American Biography, and Holiday Themed picture book collections.

Editorial Note #1: Alice Faye Duncan is a National Board Certified Teacher, who writes for young learners. Memory is her motivation. She writes to help children remember important moments from African American history. Her books are celebrated for vivid imagery and lyrical texts that sound like music. Alice's most popular titles include A Song for Gwendolyn Brooks; Just Like a Mama; Honey Baby Sugar Child; and Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop, which received a 2019 Coretta Scott King Honor Medal. Her website is

Editorial Note #2: Keturah A. Bobo is an artist and illustrator known for creating vibrant images that are relatable and distinguishable. She is passionate about creating art that inspires, uplifts, and advocates for her community. Keturah has received notable praises for her colorful illustrative style that brings the story to life and resonates with the viewer. She graduated with a BFA from Columbus College of Art and Design and has a website at

The Runaway Wok: A Chinese New Year Tale
Ying Chang Compestine, author
Sebastia Serra, illustrator
Dutton Books for Young Readers
c/o Penguin Young Readers Group
9780525420682, $17.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: When a young Chinese boy goes to the market to buy food and comes home with an old wok instead, his parents wonder what they'll eat for dinner. But then the wok rolls out of the poor family's house with a skippity-hoppity-ho! and returns from the rich man's home with a feast in tow! With spirited text by storyteller Ying Chang Compestine and lively illustrations by the artist Sebastia Serra, "The Runaway Wok: A Chinese New Year Tale" is a picture book story reminds readers about the importance of generosity.

Critique: A delightfully entertaining story, "The Runaway Wok: A Chinese New Year Tale" with its underlying message of the value of sharing and unselfish philanthropy is an ideal and highly recommended addition to family, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for children ages 6-8. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Runaway Wok: A Chinese New Year Tale" is also available in a paperback edition (9780545401203, $15.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99).

The Science Shelf

How to Build a Human
Pamela S. Turner, author
John Gurche, illustrator
Charlesbridge Publishing
85 Main Street, Watertown, MA 02472
9781623542504, $21.99, HC, 176pp

Synopsis: How did we become who we are? With trademark wit, acclaimed science writer Pamela S. Turner has published "How to Build a Human: In Seven Evolutionary Steps", which breaks down human evolution into the seven most important steps leading to Homo sapiens.

Young readers will enjoy learning why, when and how we as human beings, stand up, smash rocks, get swelled heads, take a hike, invent barbecue, start talking (and never shut up), become storytellers - and more!

"How to Build a Human: In Seven Evolutionary Steps" is an inherently fascinating, wickedly funny account of our evolutionary journey turns science into an irresistible story. Vetted by experts at the Smithsonian's Human Origins Program, "How to Build a Human: In Seven Evolutionary Steps" also features incredibly detailed portraits by celebrated paleo-artist John Gurche that bring our early ancestors to life.

Critique: Fun and informative, beautifully illustrated, thoroughly 'kid friendly' in commentary, organization and presentation, "How to Build a Human: In Seven Evolutionary Steps" is an ideal and unreservedly recommended addition to elementary school, middle school, and community library science collections for young readers ages 9-14. It should be noted for personal reading lists of students with an interest in Anatomy, Evolution, Prehistory, and Archeology, that "How to Build a Human: In Seven Evolutionary Steps" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99).

Editorial Note #1: Pamela S. Turner has a master's degree in public health from the University of California, Berkeley, and an abiding fascination with science, animals, and evolution. She is the author of several award-winning books for young readers, including Samurai Rising, a YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Award finalist, and Crow Smarts, winner of the AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books. She has a website at

Editorial Note #2: John Gurche is one of the most respected paleo-artists in the field. His works have appeared in National Geographic and Scientific American and at the American Museum of Natural History, the Field Museum of Natural History, and the Smithsonian Institution. He has a website at

Sun in My Tummy
Laura Alary, author
Andrea Blinick, illustrator
Pajama Press
9781772782417, $18.95, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: How does a home-cooked breakfast give a little girl the energy she needs for a brand-new day? In gently expressive language, her mother takes young readers on a journey into the earth where sleepy seeds are tickled awake and grow into golden oats; into blueberry patches, where green leaves break apart water and air to build sweet sugar; and into a pasture where sun becomes grass, becomes cow, becomes milk.

Author Laura Alary's free verse breaks big ideas into child-sized pieces, making "Sun in My Tummy" an accessible introduction to the concepts of matter and energy, and how the sun's light becomes fuel for our bodies through the food we eat. Andrea Blinick's mixed-media illustrations pair the cozy and homelike with the glowing and dramatic as she takes young readers from the kitchen to the farm field and to the sky and back. Of special note is a concluding Author's Note that shares further information about photosynthesis for young readers.

Critique: A fun and informative read from cover to cover, "Sun in My Tummy" will prove to be an enduringly welcome and appreciated addition to family, elementary school and community library picture book chemistry, diet/nutrition, and flowers/plants collections for children ages 5-8.

Editorial Note #1: Laura Alary has worked as a lecturer, a library assistant, and a music specialist in Montessori classrooms, all the while writing books and raising her three children. Laura's most recent title is "What Grew in Larry's Garden", which won the IODE Jean Throop Book Award in 2021.

Editorial Note #2: Andrea Blinick is an artist and an art educator with a passion for children's literature. Her first picture book, "Outside, You Notice" (2021), earned a starred review from Kirkus Reviews.

The American History Shelf

Moving Forward
Chris Barton, author
Steffi Waithall, illustrator
Beach Lane Books
c/o Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 4th floor, New York, NY 10020
9781534473652, $17.99, HC, 48pp

Synopsis: As a child growing up in Jacksonville, Florida, Alton Yates watched Black veterans return home from fighting for their country, only to have that country turn its back on them. After Alton joined the Air Force and risked his life to make spacecraft and airplane flight safer, he returned home to the same Jim Crow laws to suppress the rights of African- Americans.

Alton now had a new mission: To make a stand against Jim Crow.

With the publication of "Moving Forward: From Space-Age Rides to Civil Rights Sit-Ins with Airman Alton Yates", and based on author Chris Barton's extensive interviews, young readers will witness Alton Yates's lifelong commitment to his country, as he put his life on the line time and again for science, for civil rights, for America's progress, and for the abolition of Jim Crow laws.

Critique: Given the present attempts to roll back the Civil Rights era voting laws and the repeal of anti-Jim Crow legislation, laws and policies, "Moving Forward: From Space-Age Rides to Civil Rights Sit-Ins with Airman Alton Yates" is an informative and outstanding addition to family, elementary school, and community library African-American History & Biography picture book collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Moving Forward: From Space-Age Rides to Civil Rights Sit-Ins with Airman Alton Yates" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99).

Editorial Note #1: Chris Barton is the author of many picture books including "What Do You Do with a Voice Like That?: The Story of Extraordinary Congresswoman Barbara Jordan", "Shark vs. Train", "The Day-Glo Brothers","The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch", and "Whoosh!". He visits schools by the score and also loves speaking to professional gatherings of librarians, educators, and his fellow writers. He has a website at

Editorial Note #2: Steffi Walthall is an illustrator and character designer who focuses on crafting a diverse range of characters and unique stories, and recently illustrated J.E. Bright's "Wonder Woman: The Way of the Amazons". She has a website at

The Health/Medicine Shelf

My Dad and the Dragon
Montserrat Coughlin Kim
When a Dragon Comes
9781737507116, $21.99 Hardcover/$13.95 Paper/$5.99 ebook

My Dad and the Dragon attracts picture book readers and read-aloud parents with the winning story of an ordinary family that holds a big difference. The father has a dragon in him. And that dragon is called 'cancer'.

Colorful illustrations by Rebekah S. Cheresnick enhance a story that refutes the common notion of what cancer can be. For one thing, there's the idea that all "people with cancer look really sick." But, the child's father doesn't appear to be ill.

As the story progresses, a wise mother invites the kids to help "fight cancer as a family." This involves radiation, surgery, and other treatments which are described using terminology a young child can readily understand.

Most important is the focus on how a family can support a parent in the course of such a battle.

The result is a powerful set of insights into the unpredictable environment that cancer can introduce to the family, exploring how kids can work with parents to help battle the 'cancer dragon' in various ways.

Parents and educators seeking to teach the very young about this process will find My Dad and the Dragon the perfect introduction to a difficult subject.

The Board Book Shelf

Slow Down... in the Park
Rachel Williams, author
Freya Hartas, illustrator
Magic Cat Publishing
c/o Abrams Books
9781913520274, $9.99, Board Book, 12pp

Synopsis: Babies and Toddlers will fully enjoy discovering a magical world of nature on their very doorstep with author/artist Freya Hartas new board book "Slow Down... in the Park". Charming rhyming verse introduces 6 mindful moments (including a squirrel burying a nut, and a rainbow forming on a rainy day).

Critique: A wonderfully crafted introduction for very young children, from the team that created international bestseller "Slow Down", this fun and 'kid friendly' board book is especially recommended for family and daycare center board book collections for ages 1-3.

Odd Birds: Meet Nature's Weirdest Flock
Laura Gehl, author
Gareth Lucas, illustrator
Abram Appleseed
c/o Harry N. Abrams
195 Broadway, 9th Floor, New York, NY 10007
9781419742231, $8.99, Board Book, 22pp

Synopsis: "Odd Birds: Meet Nature's Weirdest Flock" by storyteller Laura Gehl and artist Gareth Lucas introduces babies and toddlers to unusual bird species, including the magnificent frigate bird with a bright red throat pouch and the California condor -- the largest flying birds in North America!

Gentle rhyming verses provide the comforting repetition that little ones crave, even as their minds are opened to new and fascinating creatures from around the world. At the end of the "Odd Birds", children will find photographs of each bird, along with more detailed factual information. The eight birds featured are the magnificent frigatebird, blue-footed booby, shoebill stork, ostrich, hoatzin, oilbird, California condor, and burrowing owl.

Critique: An ideal introduction babies and toddlers to eight inherently fascinating birds, this board book edition of "Odd Birds: Meet Nature's Weirdest Flock" is especially recommended to the attention of parents, daycare center and preschool staff, as well as community library board book collections. It should be noted that "Odd Birds: Meet Nature's Weirdest Flock" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.09). Also highly recommended is the companion board book "Odd Beasts: Meet Nature's Weirdest Animals" (9781419742224, $8.99, Kindle, $7.99).

Editorial Note #1: Laura Gehl is a former science teacher and the author of more than two dozen books for young readers, including the Baby Scientist board book series, Odd Beasts, Happy Llamakkah!, and Happy Owl-Oween!.

Editorial Note #2: Gareth Lucas is an illustrator and designer living in Essex, England. After studying at the University of Brighton School of Art and Central Saint Martins, he has worked on a variety of projects but enjoys nothing more than illustrating animals, birds, and the natural world.

Little Kids First Board Book: Birds
Ruth Musgrave
National Geographic Kids
c/o National Geographic Press
101 West 104th Street, Suite 8, New York, NY 10025
9781426371448, $7.99, Board Book, 26pp

Synopsis: Effectively designed to be the stepping stone to the best-selling National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book series, the "Little Kids First Board Book: Birds" distills the subject of birds down to the simplest nonfiction concepts for very young children. Not only will they learn about a variety of birds, they can also find recurring shapes and patterns in the art, while the adults can keep their eyes open for occasional funny commentary from the animals. Sidebar text offers additional learning for older siblings or those ready for more complex information.

With their square shape, bright and playful design, awesome photography, clear text, and cues to encourage interactive learning, the Little Kids First Board Books take a fresh new approach to excite a baby's sense of wonder and make learning about nature and science fun.

Critique: Fun, informative, and a perfect board book choice for children ages 1-3, "Little Kids First Board Book: Birds" by author/illustrator Ruth Musgrave is a welcome and recommended addition to family, daycare center, preschool, and community library collections.

Little Buckaroo and Lou
Jennifer Sattler
Sleeping Bear Press
315 East Eisenhower Parkway, Suite 200, Ann Arbor, MI 48108
9781534111592, $8.99, Board Book, 20pp

Synopsis: One, Two, Saddle up Lou. Little Buckaroo saddles up for a great day with horsey companion, Lou. But it will take more than a cowboy hat and spiffy red boots to get them on their way. Written to the nursery rhyme of "One, Two, Buckle My Shoe,"Little Buckaroo and Lou" by Jennifer Sattler is the perfect board book for little cowpokes as the author combines counting and a bit of barnyard antics. And at the end, Buckaroo and Lou make a new friend. Back matter includes a fun activity identifying cowpoke "accouterments." From Jennifer Sattler, the award-winning artist of One Red Sock, Dirty Birdies, and Oink-Oink! Moo! Cock-a-Doodle-Doo!

Critique: Fun and informative from beginning to end, "Little Buckaroo and Lou" is very highly recommended, especially for family, daycare center, preschool, and community library board book collections for children ages 2-4. It should be noted that "Little Buckaroo and Lou" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.54).

Editorial Note: Jennifer Sattler is the award winning author and illustrator of several children's books has launched a new line of original board books from Sleeping Bear Press includes Dirty Birdies and Jungle Gym. Her books have won The Mockingbird Award for picture books and The Georgia Children's book Award. She maintains an informative website at

The Picturebook Shelf

Andi's Valentine Tree
Once Upon a Dance
Once Upon a Dance, Publisher
9781955555333, $24.95 Hardcover/$8.99 Paper/$3.99 ebook

Andi's Valentine Tree presents a picture book story of young dancer Andi, who has many friends at the dance studio, but few in regular school. Andi spends the school days looking forward to the dance studio experience, often practicing ballet exercises (illustrated in cameos on the side of each page, which present Ballerina Konora's dance steps and movement interpretations of the story).

As the tale evolves, Andi's relationship with a friendly wild squirrel and an old tree creates inspiration as Andi translates his experiences with dance-it-out movements that interpret both feelings and events. Cheerful reflections on ballet positions expand the translate experience to dance focus of the story as Andi moves from school to woods to dance studio, telling his dance friends about the unusual forest tree that seems to covet a dance performance.

Warm-up exercises, dance routines and steps, and changing seasons mark a tale that also embraces different kinds of school relationships as Andi faces bullying from regular school kids who think that ballet is an odd pursuit. Andi's ability to talk to the trees and dance for them becomes an exercise in surviving teasing, but Andi faces even more trouble when his beloved tree friend Glorianna becomes the target of The Gorilla Gang.

Can Andi save both tree and his reputation by turning to ballet for help? Andi's Valentine Tree offers a fine connection between dance movements and life experiences of all kinds. It teaches kids about ballet terms, movement approaches, and handling life's adversity in a format that encourages interactive enjoyment.

Parents who want to immerse kids in movement and dance exercises while teaching them about overcoming peer pressure and adversity will find Andi's Valentine Tree just the ticket for a lesson in positivity, problem-solving, and interpreting life experiences via dance movements.

Cat About Town
Lea Decan
Tate Publishing
c/o Harry N. Abrams
195 Broadway, 9th Floor, New York, NY 10007
9781849767590, $16.99, HC, 44pp

Synopsis: Lisa has a very important cat. He always has lots of appointments to keep in town and has an extremely busy schedule! Each day he slips off on his travels but where does he go? On Mondays he visits Sebastian the writer who wears big glasses and lives on the fourth floor. Then on Tuesday the cat simply must visit Mina and her balcony full of flowers. On Wednesday it's extremely important that he makes time to see Granny Yvonne for lunch. Children will fully enjoy joining this cat on his enchanting journey, visiting all his favorite people, and explore the creative lives of writers, musicians, painters, and gardeners. Who knows where this beloved cat will go next?

Critique: Lovingly illustrated and entertainingly original (and a 'must' for any young child with a feline companion of their own!) "A Cat About Town" by storyteller and artist Lea Decan is an ideal and unreservedly recommended addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school and community library picture book collections for children ages 3- 5.

Editorial Note: Author and illustrator Lea Decan was born in Dunkirk, France, and before turning to picture books, studied classical music at the Conservatory of Douai. She also leads workshops on illustration, books, and music.

The Crab Ballet
Renee M. LaTulippe, author
Cecile Metzger, illustrator
Cameron Kids
c/o Cameron + Company
9781951836368, $17.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: A fantastical rhyming text by Renee M. LaTulippe and elegantly illustrated by the artwork of Cecile Metzer, "The Crab Ballet" leads young readers through one sea-foam-dreamy act after another, from a gentle seahorse pas de deux to dramatic dolphin leaps beyond the spray.

Welcome. Enter. Sit right there.
upon our finest driftwood chair.
Enjoy our sunset seaside show---
our dancers are beyond compare.

Delicately illustrated in sea-washed watercolors by Cecile Metzger, "The Crab Ballet" is a two-act spectacular full of salt, sea, sand, and French ballet terms. Mais oui!

Critique: Beautiful, original, entertaining, "The Crab Ballet" is certain to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and picture book collections for children ages 4-8. It should be noted for the personal reading lists for readers with an interest in Children's Dance Books, Children's Marine Life Books, and Children's Friendship Books, that "The Crab Ballet" is also readily available in a digital book format Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note #1: Renee M. LaTulippe writes poetry, picture books, and verse novels for children through young adults and has poems published in many anthologies. "The Crab Ballet" is her debut picture. Renee maintains a website at and can be followed on Instagram @renee_m_latulippe

Editorial Note #2: Cecile Metzger is a French artist and illustrator who lives in Florence, Italy. She finds inspiration observing nature and people passing by, and looks to capture the hidden stories in the everyday. In addition to art, Cecile loves tea, flowers, and her cat Marcel. Her previous books include The Invisible Bear (author/illustrator). She can be found on Instagram @coucou_illustration

Giant Giant
Dylan Hewitt
Milky Way Picture Books
9781990252082, $18.99, HC, 74pp

Synopsis: Every day, a giant spreads terror among the villagers of a peaceful town. He commands them to wash his underwear and to cook large feasts for him, or else he will stomp on the entire village! This demanding giant does not seem to have a worry in the world. But his misfortune is about to strike, as a giant even more gigantic than him is about to take over.

Critique: "Giant Giant" by author/illustrator Dylan Hewett is an original, fun and funny picture book story that shows both the negative effects of bullying and the importance of being kind. Thoroughly 'kid friendly' and with an important like skills message on the subject of bullies and bullying, "Giant Giant" is an extraordinary and highly recommended addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library collections.

The Katha Chest
Radhiah Chowdhury, author
Lavanya Naidu, illustrator
Salaam Reads
Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 4th floor, New York, NY 10020
9781760524326, $18.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: Asiya loves to visit Nanu's house where she can rummage through Nanu's katha chest filled with quilts. There are stories in each of the quilts that her Nanu has collected through the years, all about the bold and brave women in Asiya's family. Among all of the games and exciting things at Nanu's house, Asiya thinks these hidden histories are the grandest treasure.

Critique: With stunningly beautiful artwork that brings an impressive visual support to a beautifully woven picture book tale about the bonds of love, culture, and memory, "The Katha Chest" by the collaborative team of storyteller Radhiah Chowdhury and illustrator Lavanya Naidu will prove to be an especially prized addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for children ages 4-8. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of young readers with an interest in the subjects of Asia, Death & Dying, and Multi-Generational Family Life, that "The Katha Chest" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99).

Editorial Note #1: Currently residing in Sydney, Australia, Radhiah Chowdhury grew up at the mercy of a highly enthusiastic children's librarian. She has been an avid lover of books ever since and is passionate about stories that reflect all the magnificent different facets and experiences of a community and has been an advocate for representative publishing in her work as both an editor and an author. She is also the author of picture books Jumble and Katha Chest.

Editorial Note #2: Currently residing in Melbourne, Australia, Lavanya Naidu is an animator, designer, and award-winning children's book illustrator, born and raised in Kolkata, India. Her work has most recently been featured at the Asian Festival of Children's Content as a selection for their Digital Gallery 2020.

Amy Wu and the Warm Welcome
Kat Zahang, author
Charlene Chua, illustrator
Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 4th floor, New York, NY 10020
9781534497351, $18.99, HC, 40pp

Synopsis: Amy's class has a new student from China! Amy tries hard to make Lin feel included, but she can't draw him out of his shell. Then she sees Lin chattering happily in Chinese with his family. The gears in her head start to turn, and a plan blossoms. Step one: invite Lin to her dumpling party. With a little help from her grandma and a shiny new banner, can Amy give Lin the warmest welcome?

Critique: The newest addition to the simply outstanding Amy Wu series by the team of author/storyteller Kat Zahang and artist/illustrator Charlene Chua, "Amy Wu and the Warm Welcome" is a warmly entertaining and fun picture book with a positive underlying message promoting the values and conditions of developing a friendship with others. While "Amy Wu and the Warm Welcome" is also available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99), it is unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library collections for children ages 4-8.

Editorial Note #1: Kat Zhang loves traveling to places both real and fictional -- the former have better souvenirs, but the latter allow for dragons, so it's a tough choice. A successful writer of books for teens and children she also maintains her own website at

Editorial Note: #2: Charlene Chua draws many things, from baos to dragons, and everything in-between. Charlene grew up in Singapore, and now lives in Canada. She maintains and impressive website at

Pinky Swear
Diane Wright Forti, author
Maryana Kachmar, illustrator
Brandylane Publishers, Inc.
c/o Belle Isle Books
5 South First St., Richmond, VA 23219
9781951565350, $22.95 HC, 32pp, Ages 5-10
9781951565367, $13.95 PB, $2.99 Kindle

Synopsis: "Pinky Swear" is an inspiring story about a unique girl named Maggie and a unique pink river dolphin pal who comes to her for special solace at a time of loneliness. Maggie has a physical disability; she was born with an incomplete right arm. She had learned many ways to compensate by using her good left arm, and her best friend, Brooke, always helped her to manage daily play and activities as she needed.

Maggie and her family had to make a move to Urbanna, over an hour away from the community she had been born into including her friend Brooke. Her parents promised Brooke would come to visit sometimes. But Maggie was lonely at her new school. Other kids did not understand about her missing right hand and forearm, and asked her painful questions about it, like "Who cut off your arm?"

Maggie spent quiet time sitting on the river dock near her home and it was here that she met her new friend, Paddy, the pink river dolphin. Paddy always seemed to cheer Maggie up, and even would play and swim with her in the river. One day while Brooke was visiting, both girls were in the river with Paddy, and a speeding boat caused Maggie to be washed underwater, swallowing a lot of water. Paddy came to her rescue, and Brooke shouted for help. Paddy had rescued Maggie!

It was the first time her parents had ever seen Paddy, and they helped Maggie to investigate exactly what kind of dolphin she was. They found Paddy was very far from a warm water home where she belonged, so after praying and soul searching, Maggie agreed to request the help of the Sea Animal Rescue Team to help Paddy relocate to a safe waters climate where she could thrive and perhaps reunite with other pink river dolphins.

It was hard for Maggie to say goodbye to Paddy, but she knew Paddy would always be in her heart, and that God had sent her to help heal her heart. It was Maggie's part to help send Paddy on to a better, safer home. Maggie would never forget Paddy, and how she had helped her.

Critique: "Pinky Swear" is a beautiful and inspirational story about dealing with adversity and painful differences and especially recommended for family, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for children ages 5 to 10 will enjoy this moving story about a unique river dolphin and the girl she befriended.

Flo's Surprise Scavenger Hunt
Elizabeth Shirar Nelson
Dorrance Publishing Company
585 Alpha Drive, Suite 103, Pittsburgh, PA 15238
9781639372737, $19.00 PB, $17.48 Amazon, 30pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "Flo's Surprise Scavenger Hunt" by Elizabeth Shirar Nelson, very young children will enjoy joining is a journey with Flo the butterfly and her friends on one of their many adventures! A fun and inviting picture book story the children can help Flo find clues through a scavenger hunt!

Critique: Written and illustrated by Elizabeth Hirar Nelson (and all the more impressive when considering that it is her debut as a children's book author and illustrator), "Flo's Surprise Scavenger Hunt" is a delightful charming and fun full color children's picture book that is recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, kindergarten, and community library picture book collections for children ages 4-6. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Flo's Surprise Scavenger Hunt" is also readily available in a digital book format (9.99).

Have You Eaten?
Su Youn Lee
Feiwel & Friends
c/o Macmillan Children's Publishing Group
9781250791146, $18.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: Coco the chipmunk is known for asking, "Have you eaten?" and sharing sweet potatoes. The other animals find Coco's question odd, but one day she shares her food with some animals who could use a friend. When Coco falls ill, her new friends come to care for her in the same way she taught them -- by sharing food.

Critique: Inspired by a Korean greeting, "Have You Eaten?: A Story of Food, Friendship, and Kindness" is the debut picture book by author and artist Su Youn Lee. A charmingly entertaining story with an underlying and important life skills theme about friendship and kindness, "Have You Eaten?" is a welcome and unreservedly recommended addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for young readers ages 3-6.

Editorial Note: Su Youn Lee holds a BFA and MFA from the School of Visual Arts and won the 2016 SCBWI NY Student Illustrator Scholarship. She has had illustrations exhibited in cafes around the New York City metro area and in the NY Affordable Art Fair, for which she's also served as a curator. Su Youn Lee currently lives in her native Korea, but returns to the US occasionally.

The Tales of Dwipa
Prajwala Dixit, author
Duncan Major, illustrator
Breakwater Books
9781550819274, $14.95, PB, 64pp

Synopsis: "The Tales Of Dwipa" is an impressive collection of short stories adapted from the Panchatantra, a collection of simple, engaging, and interrelated animal tales penned by Pandit Vishnu Sharma in the hopes of awakening the dim intelligence of a powerful Indian king's idle sons. The ancient stories of the Panchatantra still find meaning in today's world despite originating in India before 300 BCE. These stories are set in a Canadian context with topical themes, bringing together two distinct cultures (Indian and Canadian) for the most impressionable minds of our society.

Critique: An inherently entertaining compendium of adapted animal stories, each with an important underlying social value, "The Tales Of Dwipa" by author/storyteller Prajwala Dixit and artist/illustrator Duncan Major, is a unique and unreservedly recommended addition to family, elementary school, and community library collections for young readers ages 9-12.

Allie the Albino Squirrel
E.K. McCoy
Atmosphere Press
9781639882632, $13.99 PB, $5.99 Kindle, 32pp

E.K. McCoy's engaging picture book story Allie the Albino Squirrel receives equally colorful illustrations by Ghazal Qadri as it tells of squirrel Allie and her family, who live in a big oak tree.

Allie faces her first day of kindergarten at Acorn Academy with trepidation. What will all the other students think of her? She's the only albino squirrel in Waverly Woods, and she stands out. Her unique countenance has kept her from playing with her brothers and their friends, and she's sure that school will pose similar problems as her peers see her big difference from them.

"The color of your fur doesn't define you," her wise mother advises. As the school experience plays out, Allie learns some powerful lessons about love, acceptance, differences, and coping with prejudice and peers.

E.K. McCoy's gentle story is just the ticket for read-aloud by a parent addressing a young child's concerns about being different. It couches its message in a cheerful pictorial about a squirrel family's interactions, so it's easy for parents to approach the subject in a non-threatening way.

As Allie's mother points out that "squirrels are made in many different colors," young readers receive a story about how to handle not just their own differences, but those of their peers.

This story of acceptance, tolerance, love, and positivity will resonate with any adult seeking to teach the very young about getting along with others and accepting differences in the world and in themselves. Allie the Albino Squirrel is highly recommended for picture book collections looking for lasting, meaningful stories containing lessons about acceptance.

Winter & George: A Path Across the Sea
Natasha Nelson
Atmosphere Press
9781639882359, $12.99 PB, $6.99 Kindle, 40pp

Winter & George: A Path Across the Sea is a picture book that is especially evocative both in its gorgeous full-page color illustrations and its lyrical language: "Winter sat on the damp wooden planks of the pier with George, her older brother and closest friend. They sat with their legs crossed and their heads together staring up at the stars twinkling like tiny golden fairies."

It recounts the moon's rise, which portends the "adventure they've been waiting for" as George exhibits enthusiasm and Winter feels fear over the possibilities the shining moon path offers them.

From the lovely promise and support of Moon Blossoms to George and Winter's very different reactions to magic, picture book readers receive an evocative story of different approaches to life and friendship that couches fantasy with a lesson in facing fears, problem-solving, and evolving different new strengths.

Parents who choose Winter & George: A Path Across the Sea for read-aloud will find many opportunities to help children explore the underlying themes of life approaches and support systems.

The lovely illustrations enhance a story that is thought-provoking, whimsical, and fun, recommended for adults who want to give picture book readers an adventure and learning experience from one vivid story.

Dusty's Big Oops!
Tammy Fortune
Tammy's Toolbox, LLC
9781734694956, $10.95 Paper/$2.95 ebook, 38pp, Ages 5-10

Dusty's Big Oops! is an appealing picture book portrait of a first day at school gone awry, and follows the obstacles to learning presented by a dog who joins his boy at school, causing both to make mistakes.

Pieter Els and Nika Pieterse provide engaging illustrations that highlight Tammy Fortune's story of what it means to make a mistake and learn from it.

The story is narrated from Dusty the dog's perspective as he tails his beloved owner Danny to school. He anticipates the new environment as being fun, but also holds a degree of worry about it, and wonders if young Danny feels the same.

What could possibly go wrong? And what if it does?

Fortune lays out the process of trying new things, adopting a positive perspective about life, and tackling the results of big decisions and choices gone awry in a lesson that helps youngsters accept new possibilities and learn from bad experiences.

There is also an undercurrent of diversity and lessons on inclusiveness as Danny's classroom holds many different personalities and opportunities.

Kids will laugh at Dusty's ability to unleash chaos in the classroom, and adults will appreciate the opportunity to point out how to accept responsibility when "my oops kept getting bigger and bigger."

Dusty's Big Oops! presents the perfect marriage between fun and learning, and promises an engaging story that helps adults deliver not just one but a series of important life messages.

It's highly recommended as a leisure read for young animal lovers that will spark further opportunities for engagement and absorbing early lessons on positivity and turning negative problems into insights on better choices.

Vampire Vacation
Laura Lavoie, author
Micah Player, illustrator
Viking Books for Young Readers
c/o Penguin Young Readers Group
9780593203132, $17.99, HC, 40pp

Synopsis: Fang is a young vampire that differs from the rest of his fellow vampires. The last thing Fang wants is another vacation in Transylvania. He's toured Dracula's castle and the coffin museum enough for an eternal lifetime. Why can't he spend the summer swimming and surfing like his other friends? When his parents refuse, Fang decides to convince them that fun at the beach is possible, even for a family of vampires.

Laura Lavoie's clever text and Micah Player's devilishly fun illustrations are the perfect pairing for this hilarious picture book that captures the joy of having new adventures and staying true to yourself.

Critique: A fun and funny read from cover to cover for children ages 3-7, "Vampire Vacation" by the team of author/storyteller Laura Lavoie (this is her debut as a children's book author) and the impressively talented artist/illustrator Micah Player will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library fantasy picture book collections for children ages 3-7. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Vampire Vacation" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99).

Land of the Gnomes
Michele Wallace Campanelli, author
Angela Moretti, illustrator
Dorrance Publishing Company
585 Alpha Drive, Suite 103, Pittsburgh, PA 15238
9781636614465, $23.00, HC, 36pp

Synopsis: Once upon a time, there lived a small group of gnomes in the land next to Mr. Maelzel's home. When a tiny golden trumpet sounds the arrival of a new baby, the gnomes all gather to celebrate and see their newest member. But the new parents are worried about their son, Metra. He's a little different, and may not be able to work in the gardens like all the other gnomes. But when Metra starts showing an almost magical ability of keeping rhythm, Mr. Maelzel overhears, and Metra may have just found his true calling!

Critique: Original and kid friendly, charmingly and brightly illustrated by artist/illustrator Angela Moretti, "Land of the Gnomes" by author/storyteller Michele Wallace Campanelli is a fun read picture book that concludes with how the metronome got it's name. While also available in a paperback edition (9781636614458, $19.00) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99), "Land of the Gnomes" is especially and unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library collections for ages 4-8.

Editorial Note: Michele Wallace Campanelli has had nine stories appearing on the best-sellers list, including two that reached #1 on the New York Times. Her short stories have been included in over 30 international selling anthologies. She has also penned numerous novels, magazines, and newspaper articles in both fiction and non-fiction published by a wide variety of publishing companies. Over 57 million people have read her written works internationally.

While We Wait
Judy Ann Sadler, author
Elodie Duhameau, illustrator
Owlkids Books Inc.
9781771474405, $18.95 32pp

Synopsis: A boy and his grandmother are waiting for... something. While they wait, they sit and knit, they stretch, they rock, they dance, they snack, and they talk. But still, time passes slowly.

As the hours go by, they fill the day together. They sit and knit and wait. Until it's finally time! The long wait is over when the boy's parents come home with a special arrival. We see what the boy and his grandma have been creating together: a handmade gift for the newest member of their family, created with love.

Critique: With its soft color palette and simple full complementing a lyrical text with its rhythmic beat, "While We Wait" by the team of author/storyteller Judy Ann Sadler and artist/illustrator Elodie Duhameau is an original and utterly charming picture book showcasing the value of patience and that some things are well worth the wait! "While We Wait" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for children ages 3-7.

Editorial Note #1: Currently residing in London, Ontario, Canada, Judy Ann Sadler is the author of over twenty-five books for kids, including a series of craft books. Her books have been translated into many languages and have sold over a million copies around the world.

Editorial Note #2: Currently residing in Canada, Elodie Duhameau has always loved to draw. After studying graphic design and working as a graphic designer and an art director in her native France, she made the switch to illustration, and now does editorial and advertising work as well as picture books. She creates her sketches with pencil and paper and completes the art digitally.

Smile with African Style
Mylo Freeman
Cassava Republic Press
9781913175184, $16.95, HC, 27pp

Synopsis: It's a special day in Macy's classroom as all the children come in dressed up in their most stylish African clothing! Zahra's Ethiopian dress is covered in beads, while Malika's Namibian outfit is bursting with colours. And who is hiding behind that elephant mask from Cameroon? No two outfits are the same, in this beautiful and varied parade of clothing from across Africa!

Critique: Of special relevance to young readers ages 4-7, with an interest in African culture and ancestry, "Smile with African Style" by storyteller and illustrator Mylo Freeman will prove to be a unique, fun, and highly valued addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections. It should noted for personal reading lists that "Smile with African Style" is also available in a paperback edition (9781913175177, $12.95).

Editorial Note: Mylo Freeman grew up in The Hague and lives in Amsterdam. She has been a full-time writer-illustrator since 1993 and has published over 50 picture books. Her debut book Potty! was awarded the Kiek Book Prize and has been translated into many languages.

I See the Sea
Julia Groves
Child's Play
250 Minot Avenue, Auburn, ME 04210
9781786283382, $17.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: Written and illustrated by Julia Groves, "I See the Sea" is a picture book exploration of the ocean. Featuring a thoroughly 'child friendly' poetic text and beautiful illustrations, it should be noted that there is a die-cut hole which encourages children to look carefully through the book and adds to their sense of discovery.

Critique: Informative and fun, and also available for personal reading lists in a paperback edition (9781786282040, $9.99), "I See the Sea" is a very special and recommended addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library marine life picture book collections for children ages 3-8.

Editorial Note: Julia Groves is a UK based children's book illustrator and graduate of the prestigious Children's Book Illustration MA at Cambridge School of Art.

Bathe The Cat
Alice B. McGinty, author
David Roberts, illustrator
Chronicle Books
680 Second Street, San Francisco, CA 94107
9781452142708, $17.99, HC, 48pp

Synopsis: It's cleaning day, but the family cat will do anything to avoid getting a bath. So instead of mopping the floor or feeding the fish, the family is soon busy rocking the rug, vacuuming the lawn, and sweeping the dishes. Bouncy rhyme carries the story headlong into the growing hilarity, until finally Dad restores some kind of order -- but will the cat avoid getting his whiskers wet?

Critique: A laugh out loud picture book that will have particular appeal to anyone with a feline family member of their own, "Bathe The Cat" by author/storyteller Alic McGinity and artist/illustrator David Roberts, is an utterly charming and enthusiastically recommended addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for children ages 3-5. It should be noted that "Bathe The Cat" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.51).

Editorial Note #1: Alice B. McGinty is the award-winning author of more than 40 books for children. Her picture book biography Darwin was named a NCTE Orbis Pictus Honor book and was a 2009 Booklist Top Ten Biographies for Youth.

Editorial Note #2: David Roberts is an award-winning illustrator of children's books, including Iggy Peck, Architect; Rosie Revere, Engineer; and Ada Twist, Scientist.

Dino Pajama Party: A Bedtime Book
Laurie Wallmark, author
Michael Robertson, illustrator
Running Press
9780762497751, $17.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: Much like us, dinosaurs love to have fun. Dinosaurs from all around gather together to play instruments, dance, and sing before bedtime. But soon the dinosaurs grow tired and need their rest. "Dino Pajama Party: A Bedtime Book" is a very special picture book that's sure to have kids following the dinos' lead as they get ready to go to sleep.

Critique: A bedtime, nap time, fun time, anytime picture book by the team of author/storyteller Laurie Wallmark and artist/illustrator Michael Robertson, "Dino Pajama Party: A Bedtime Book" is a very special and unreservedly recommended addition to family, daycare, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for children ages 4-8.

Celine Claire, author
Magali Le Huche, illustrator
Milky Way Picture Books
9781990252044, $17.99, HC, 56pp

Synopsis: Mr. Martin enjoys tranquility. He likes to drink his coffee in silence, read his newspaper quietly, and take peaceful naps. His neighbors are aware of that, but easily forget -- so much so that the noise they make drives Mr. Martin up the wall! One day, he decides to take matters into his own hands...

Critique: Charmingly illustrated with full page artwork by Magali Le Huche, and specifically recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections, the storyline of what happens when you get what you wish (and learning of the pitfalls that getting your wish could unexpectedly entail) by author Celine Claire, "Quiet!" is a unique, thought provoking, and thoroughly fun read for children ages 4-7.

I'm Not Scared, You're Scared!
Seth Meyers
Flamingo Books
9780593352373, $18.99

I'm Not Scared, You're Scared! by Seth Meyers enjoys whimsical, attractive illustrations by Rob Sayegh Jr. as it explores the dilemmas faced by a bear who is easily scared. Bear has one friend, Rabbit, who is uncommonly brave. When they embark on an adventure together, the lessons learned by each will educate and enlighten the young picture book reader through a story about adversity, perception, and courage. An excellent choice for discriminating school and community libraries.

Candlewick Press
99 Dover Street, Somerville, MA 02144

Two wonderful new picture books are top picks for discriminating library collections, and are recommended for their blend of compelling illustrations and evocative reflections.

Somewhere by Robie H. Harris (9781536207354, $17.99) features lovely art by Armando Marino as it surveys a young girl's adventure without her father at her side. Her discovery of a colorful, private place in nature outlines the rewards in experiencing somewhere "new" even without him...a place she can bring back to share with him.

Troy Wilson's Hat Cat (9781536213669, $17.99) enjoys beautiful drawings by Eve Coy as it tells of an old man who lives alone. One day, he discovers a kitten under his hat, and they become best friends. Still, there's one activity he won't allow the kitten to participate in. When everything changes, little Hat is confused...and also sees new opportunity in his revised environment.

Both are beautifully rendered stories, highly recommended for lasting library lending value.

Little, Brown
1290 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10104

Three new books for young readers offer very different themes that set them apart from most, making them recommended choices for elementary-level collections.

Molly Bloom, Marc Sanchez and Sanden Totten's Road Trip Earth! (9780316459365, $18.99) adds to the Brains On! series of adventures that explores a team traveling through the oceans, land, clouds, and more in their explorer vehicle, to uncover facts and mysteries about the planet. What better way to learn the latest scientific research than via a collection of trivia, jokes, and fun-filled facts exploring the earth in an inviting manner to engage young readers?

The trio also provide another book in the series Earth Friend Forever (9780316459419, $17.99), which enjoys appealing illustrations by Mike Orodan as it explores a problem the Earth has. Based, too, on the award-winning science podcast for kids, the blend of humor and serious inspections invite kids to consider human impacts on the planet and efforts to save it by altering choices, behaviors, and perceptions. The full-page drawings are particularly inviting embellishments to the tale.

Sherri Duskey Rainker's Roto and Roy: Helicopter Heroes (9780316534963, $17.99) receives fun drawings by Don Tate as it profiles a helicopter, Roto and his pilot, Roy, who fly to the rescue and fight fires. While the book is packed with action and adventure, it's also a survey of helicopter rescue operations that teaches kids about real-world helicopter rescue activities via a rollicking rhyme and a lively series of adventures.

All three of these are all excellent choices holding lasting lending value, highly recommended for elementary-level picture book collections.

The Historical Fiction Shelf

Young Cyrano
Sir Paul Cicchini
One Knight Publishing
9781637953549, $12.99, PB, 234pp

Synopsis: Before Cyrano de Bergerac became a famous swordsman, poet, inventor, and iconoclast hero, he was just an awkward teenager just like the rest of us. With the publication of "Young Cyrano" by Sir Paul Cicchini, young readers will enjoy finding out what were the adventures that turned a boy into the courageous, self-assured, hero that we now know and admire as "Young Cyrano" reveals his teenage exploits with his best friend, Le Bret, and his first love, Roxanne.

Critique: A deftly crafted and original novel that blends such diverse elements as romance and mystery, adventure and poetry, Freemasons and swordfights, "Young Cyrano" is guaranteed to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to middle school, highschool, and community library YA Fiction collections for ages 12-18. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Young Cyrano" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $2.99).

Editorial Note: Sir Paul Cicchini M.Ed., Ed.S., NCSP is a nationally certified school psychologist. He specializes in character education and is the only school psychologist on the East Coast to be certified in the new field of Social Emotional Learning (SEL)/Character Ed (Rutgers Univ. 2016). He is also the owner of One Knight Publishing, LLC

The Middle Grade Fiction Shelf

The Tale of Bryan and House Painter Mervyn
Lance Lee
LWL Books
9780578338309, $15.00

Kids ages 6-9 years old will find The Tale of Bryan and House Painter Mervyn the fine story of a wealthy son of the richest man in Sandstone-by-the-Sea, whose fine life is stymied by a mysterious illness that confines him to bed. Bryan, used to an active life, is completely bored. The solution? Hire a painter to add color and excitement into the mix. As Bryan interacts with house painter Mervyn's unique ability to literally create new visionary worlds, he becomes involved with witches, wizards, devils, and a force that leads Bryan to not want to leave his room after all, after he's mended.

Is Mervyn providing magic or evil? The lawyers can't decide, but it becomes clear that "...the Village of Sandstone-by-the-Sea was out to get Mervyn." Lance Lee crafts an engaging story filled with unexpected twists and turns, embellished with engaging drawings by Meilo So which are peppered throughout to add visual excitement to the changing story. The fable is indeed as its subtitle promises ("for children and their parents") because it evolves a somewhat complicated series of encounters that follows how Bryan not only recovers, but is positively influenced by Mervyn's unusual ways.

As father Moab Jones and the villagers come to better understand Mervyn's unique artistry and its underlying influence, young readers and read-aloud parents receive a magical story that embraces rainbows, angst, secrets, and a special form of transformation that paints a very different picture. The underlying influences and impacts of Mervyn and Bryan's evolving relationship ideally require parental participation in order to be fully discussed and understood, but the result is an engaging story that educates and entertains on many different levels, recommended both for kids past the picture book stage and read-aloud parents who look for complex, involving tales.

The Mouse Watch in Space
J.J. Gilbert
9781368052207, $16.99

J.J. Gilbert's The Mouse Watch in Space tells of tiny heroes on a mission to save the world. Advanced elementary to early middle grade readers will relish the whimsical tale of the Mouse Watch's adventures in outer space, accompanied by a famed hamsternaut on a mission to tackle global warming. The unexpected tale is lively, fun, and an excellent choice that young leisure readers will find inviting.

The Romantic Fiction Shelf

To The One I Love
Avery Volz
Tivshe Publishing
9781954175297, $24.99, HC, 412pp

Synopsis: Some love fades, but true love flourishes. Gail Ferr has known Colton Reeves since they were young, but it's not until their freshman year that she notices his sun-kissed skin and vibrant green eyes. Soon Gail and Colton become inseparable, their relationship blooming as they move toward their senior year.

One summer day changes everything for them both, leaving Gail to wonder where it all went wrong. Forced to navigate her life without Colton, Gail will discover her inner strength, gaining success she's only dreamed of, all the while never truly forgetting Colton. Will there ever be a day she learns to live without him in her heart, or will the past have a way of finally coming full circle?

As Gail chronicles the trials of her youth, she'll reveal a love story that has no bounds, one that flourishes through tragedy and triumph and grows stronger with time.

Critique: Exceptionally well written and with a special appeal to young readers ages 14-18, "To the One I Love" by novelist Avery Volz is especially and unreservedly recommended for middle school, highschool, and community library YA Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists of young readers with an interest in contemporary romance novels that "To the One I Love" is also available in a paperback edition (9781954175235, $16.00) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $3.99).

The YA Fiction Shelf

Hiking the Grand Mesa: Clementine the Rescue Dog Story
Kyle Torke, author
Barbara Torke, illustrator
Loving Healing Press
5145 Pontiac Trail, Ann Arbor, MI 48105
9781615995066, $26.95, HC; 46pp, Ages 5-7
9781615995059 $15.95, PB; Kindle, $4.18

"Hiking the Grand Mesa: Clementine the Rescue Dog Story" is the most recent Clementine the Rescue Dog Story title about twins Coover and Conrad and their beautiful canine, Clementine, and their exploration hike into the Grand Mesa desert in the Colorado Dobies.

Author Kyle Torke is father to twins Coover and Conrad, and his descriptions of the many dazzling natural wonders large and small of the Colorado Dobies is both transfixing and transformative, while the watercolor paintings by Barbara Torke provide joyous, vivid flashing peeks into the entire adventure.

Clementine, the rescue dog accompanies the twins on their hike, which includes a slightly dangerous descent down into a ravine to investigate an old abandoned Jeep. Accompanied by their father, grandmother, and Clementine, the twins discover incredible variety in sightings, including a lizard, a stinkbug, a turtle, a jackrabbit, finches, a rabbit, a coyote, prairie dogs, yucca, wildflowers, and so much more. They dream of discovering long buried prehistoric mastodon or dinosaur bones, which their grandmother has told them are present in the Grand Mesa area.

The distinct differences in the two boy's personalities are gently portrayed, as Conrad confidently rushes into each phase of the adventure, while sensitive Coover feels a bit lonely and overwhelmed at first, taking his time to warm into the entire hiking adventure experience. In the end each boy is renewed by a multitude of exciting experiences and discoveries, returning safe to the trail with their father and grandmother and Clementine, ready to rest at home and tackle another great adventure tomorrow under the watchful eye of their beloved black and white dog, Clementine.

"Hiking the Grand Mesa" will appeal to a wide audience, adult as will as juvenile, including canine supporters and nature lovers of all ages. It is full of notable vistas and intricate miniature visions included in a great scenic panorama and adventure. This delightful series is a treat to read for all ages.

Cady and the Bear Necklace
Ann Dallman
Modern History Press
5145 Pontiac Trail, Ann Arbor, MI 48105
9781615996490, $26.95, HC, 134pp

Synopsis: Cady is a 13-year-old girl of Native American heritage who has experienced major changes in the past year including her father's marriage to a younger woman, a new baby brother, and a move from Minnesota to Michigan where she attends a reservation school for the first time.

One school day, Cady finds an eagle feather on the floor outside a classroom and reports it to the principal. When thanking her for this act of honor, he tells her that a mystery might soon appear in her life. Later, Cady discovers an antique Indian beaded necklace hidden under the floor of her bedroom closet. Is this the mystery the principal predicted might appear?

She consults with elders who tell her it is her "job" to find out why. Helping her are her new friends Irish, John Ray and a talking blue jay.

Critique: A thoroughly original, charming deftly written and entertaining work of fiction for young readers ages 8-12, "Cady and the Bear Necklace" is the winner of the Historical Society of Michigan's book award for children and youth for 2020; the Midwest Book Award for young adult fiction for 2020; and the winner of the Upper Peninsula Notable Books award for 2020.While also available for personal reading lists in a paperback edition (9781615996483, $15.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.95), "Cady and the Bear Necklace" is an ideal and unreservedly recommended addition to elementary school, middle school, and community library fiction collections for young readers.

Editorial Note: Ann Dallman has won numerous awards for her writing and has presented her work at national conferences. A former teacher, she has written for Marquette Monthly, Country, Farm and Ranch, Winds of Change, Chess Life, Salon Today, and American Salon magazines, and the Green Bay Press Gazette. She was the writer and organizing force behind the book "Sam English: The Life, Times and Works of an Artist", 2009 PEAK International Award winner, and compiled/edited The Hannahville Poets. She maintains a website at

The Frankie Factor
Bruce P. Brown
DartFrog Books
4697 Main Street, Manchester Center, VT 05255
9781956019124, $14.99 Paper/$4.99 ebook

In The Frankie Factor, twelve-year-old Frankie Spril is afraid of everything - water, animals with hair, or mixing foods in a dish, to name just a few fears. In fact, Frankie is the least logical candidate for being the cause of a death, but his fears get in the way of a rescue and result in divine intervention. Frankie simply must learn to swim and overcome that fear.

But further mishaps arise because the angels who would intervene are not exactly seasoned, but are still learning their jobs. And Frankie's tutelage is but one of the ways in which these novice would-be saviors face failure. Frankie's life is not the only one changed by his failure to respond. His home atmosphere experiences turbulence as his frustrated parents question their choices in protecting Frankie in the past, possibly inadvertently enabling and adding to his fears.

Author Bruce P. Brown takes the time to capture these changes from Frankie's perspective. As a result of this attention to detail, young readers will readily understand Frankie's too-many fears and his perceptions of the world around him. Even those who have no prior experience with fearful peers or family members will find Frankie a character whose concerns come to life.

Humor is replete in this survey as the Fifty-Eighth Floor overseers exhibit human failings as well as divine powers, and as Frankie begins to face his fears in unusual ways. Brown's choice of adding to Frankie's story a touch of fantasy and whimsy is just the ingredient for a read that tempers its serious tone with moments of comic relief. This approach will attract a wider audience than a more staid vision of Frankie's challenges would have created, as it appeals to readers from fantasy genres who might otherwise not have chosen The Frankie Factor had it held a more circumspect, real-world feel.

The Frankie Factor is highly recommended for pre-teens and teens, whether they are interested in the story of a fearful boy's evolving courage or the concept of student guardian angels that face their own failings and challenges as they study to help others. It's a breath of fresh air for those who would absorb the underlying messages of Frankie's efforts to become part of his world and grow into his real strengths despite the barriers holding him back. Ideally, The Frankie Factor will be chosen not just for individual leisure reading, but group and young adult book club discussion as Frankie seeks to redeem himself during a transformational camp experience.

Water, Water
Cary Fagan, author
Jon McNaught, illustrator
Tundra Books
9780735270039, $16.99, HC, 160pp

Synopsis: One morning a young boy named Rafe wakes up to discover his bedroom is floating in a vast sea of water. Alone with only his dog for company, Rafe adapts to this strange new world by fishing cans of food out of the water and keeping watch. Boxes float by, as does a woman, playing her cello. Then, one day, Rafe fishes out a young girl, who joins him in his room -- they don't speak the same language, but together they will face this uncertain future together.

Critique: Blending elements of a dystopian future, homelessness, and adventure, "Water, Water" is an inherently fascinating and entertaining story that is especially appropriate and of special interest to young readers ages 10-12. While also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99), "Water, Water" is specifically recommended for elementary school and community library fiction collections.

Editorial Note #1: Cary Fagan's numerous books for children include The Collected Works of Gretchen Oyster, which was a JLG selection, and the Kaspar Snit novels, the Wolfie & Fly chapter books, and the picture books Little Blue Chair, What Are You Doing, Benny?, and King Mouse, which was shortlisted for the Governor General's Award, and Bear Wants to Sing (Fall 2021). Mr. Zinger's Hat, another of his picture books, was awarded the Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award and the IODE Jean Throop Award. He has also won the Vicky Metcalf Award for Literature for Young People for his body of work.

Editorial Note #2: Jon McNaught draws comics, and works as an illustrator, printmaker and lecturer. His clients include Penguin Random House, Faber, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The New Yorker, Walker Books, Picador and the BBC. He is also a regular cover artist for the London Review of Books. He is also the author of Kingdom, Birchfield Close, Pebble Island and Dockwood, which was the winner of the Angoulˆme Prix Revelation award in 2012.

Bereft of Me
Emma Tibbett
Tivshe Publishing
9781954175075, $24.99, HC, 329pp

Synopsis: Jamie Hessen's life is far from ordinary. Diagnosed with narcolepsy with cataplexy when she was young, she has learned to handle life's many curveballs. Living in the small town of Banshee, where everyone knows everyone and life consists of hockey, boyfriends, and shopping, she has some stability.

As her senior year winds down, Jamie looks forward to the typical celebrations that graduation brings. But seemingly out of nowhere, a murder marks her high school as a place of terror, quenching any previous sense of solidarity.

When the first teacher is found dead, Jamie and her classmates are shaken. When the bodies begin to accumulate, normal becomes a thing of the past and Jamie's life is turned upside down as the town's secrets unfurl. Ordinary small-town life just became interesting!

Critique: A deftly written combination of mystery thriller and a coming of age story, "Bereft of Me" is an extraordinary and compelling novel by Emma Tibbett that showcases her genuine flair for originality and the kind of narrative driven storytelling that keeps young readers ages 15-18 fully engaged from start to finish. While highly recommended for middle school, highschool, and community library YA Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Bereft of Me" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9781954175068, $15.00) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $3.99).

Gold Mountain
Betty G. Yee
Carolrhoda Lab
c/o The Lerner Publishing Group
241 First Avenue North, Minneapolis, MN 55401-1607
9781728415826, $18.99, HC, 288pp

Synopsis: Growing up in 1860s China, Tam Ling Fan has lived a life of comfort. Her father is wealthy enough to provide for his family but unconventional enough to spare Ling Fan from the debilitating foot-binding required of most well-off girls. But Ling Fan's life is upended when her brother dies of influenza and their father is imprisoned under false accusations.

Hoping to earn the money that will secure her father's release, Ling Fan disguises herself as a boy and takes her brother's contract to work for the Central Pacific Railroad Company in America.

Life on "the Gold Mountain" is grueling and dangerous. To build the railroad that will connect the west coast to the east, Ling Fan and other Chinese laborers lay track and blast tunnels through the treacherous peaks of the Sierra Nevada, facing cave-ins, avalanches, and blizzards -- along with hostility from white Americans.

When someone threatens to expose Ling Fan's secret, she must take an even greater risk to save what's left of her family and to escape the Gold Mountain alive!

Critique: An original and inherently entertaining novel for young readers ages 11-18, "Gold Mountain" by Betty G. Yee will prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to middle school, highschool, and community library YA Fiction collections. A deftly crafted historical novel that deals with such contemporary issues as prejudice, racism, and immigration, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Gold Mountain" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.69).

Here and Away
Aea Vereland
Independently Published
9798483299387, $5.50 PB, 189pp

Completing the trilogy of coming-of-age novels about a character who exhibits gender dysphoria is Here and Away, which provides more interlinked stories in which the young narrator traverses a puzzling world.

"Are you out of your mind?" This is a rhetorical question that she has often asked me. I don't know the answer. If you were sometimes out of, and sometimes in your mind, wouldn't you notice a difference? And where would you be when you're out of your mind?"

From choosing descriptive adjectives to describe this strange yet oddly familiar world to interacting with adults and peers, the narrator brings to life their own oddities and inconsistencies about how they view the world and their place in it.

It should be noted there is no definitive beginning, middle, or end to this story. Like its predecessors Seagull Lane and In the Neighborhood, the narrator's perceptions and changing lessons from the world are presented as vignettes of encounters that each hold their own carefully crafted visions and insights of different lives and social presences.

As the narrator grows, so do these relationships and perceptions. "Eccentric sexlessness will be my bag," they explain to adults.

Readers who look for different ideas of life and elements of fantasy that blend with a different way of considering reality will find Here and Away just as evocative as its predecessors, continuing and completing the journey of social and psychological inspection and introspection as family and worldly relationships continue to grow and change.

In the Neighborhood
Aea Vereland
Independently Published
9798720717568, $5.50, PB, 204pp

In the Neighborhood provides a sequel to Seagull Lane, and ideally will be read after the introductory story sets the stage with its young narrator's experiences. While there is enough background information provided to allow newcomers access to this life and its encounters, Seagull Lane provides a fine introduction that serves as an excellent precursor to these ongoing experiences.

Here, the narrator is in 6th grade and continues to explore the world of 1960s Southern California and the disparities experienced as a gender dysphoric student with schizotypal personality disorder.

These sound like strong buzzwords requiring some degree of psychological or social savvy; but in fact Aea Vereland makes the story come to life through a series of discoveries that require no prior familiarity with either condition.

In the Neighborhood may best be viewed as a series of interconnected stories as Ginny (aka Willoughby) continues to move through experiences both real and imagined.

More about gender stereotypes, school pressures to conform to a birth gender identity, and details about gender issues expand the story and evolve Ginny/Willoughby's life in a way that helps readers from all walks of life relate to the protagonist's challenges.

During the summer before the class is set to enter junior high, the narrator explores all facets of these changing relationships and their own evolving perceptions of what these mean.

The result is another story of growth, social ironies and inconsistencies, and the evocative journey of a youngster who sees the world differently than most.

Readers of fiction about gender dysphoria and social norms will find the story just as thought-provoking and revealing as Seagull Lane, while literary collections will want to include both as examples of astute social and psychological analysis.

Seagull Lane
Aea Vereland
Independently Published
9798703435557, $6.56 Paper, 257pp

Seagull Lane is a coming-of-age story that will appeal to adult and young adult readers alike. It surveys the personality and life of an 11-year-old with schizotypal personality syndrome, and life in 1960s Southern California.

While it explores gender dysphoria and psychological issues, it also delves into magical realism and social norms with an eye that employs metaphorical descriptions that are evocative and unusual: "At Robert and Maya's wedding, even though their cake contained no vegetables, it was even stranger than the one at Charity and Ernie's wedding. Maya and Robert's cake looked like an alien-made artificial asteroid which, falling to Earth, had been severed by razor wire looped atop a chain link fence. It appeared that raccoons scavenging at night along the base of the fence had playfully tussled over and finally shared half of the asteroid that was inside the fence, but that a human had found the other half and, instead of eating it, had called the Smithsonian."

These and other delightful atmospheric descriptions of time-stopping experiences are just one reason why Seagull Lane stands out from other novels, promising to attract a wide, appreciative audience of literary readers.

Another reason is the astute psychological inquiries and revelations the narrator presents during the consideration of puzzles in adult interactions, the challenge of understanding gender and social differences, a growing awareness of different perceptions about life and sense of place in it, and more.

Seagull Lane provides many thought-provoking introspections and moments of revelation as it navigates friendships, family relationships, and life's challenges.

"...when you stack up what you learn in school next to what you learn in real life, the most interesting things are the things you find out on your own. If finding out things on your own was the job of kids, instead of all kids learning the same things, then we'd spread out and discover different things, then tell them to each other."

Seagull Lane is a celebration of learning these differences in different ways. It's a look at absorbing life from various angles, and is highly recommended reading for literary collections looking for coming-of-age novels that comment on and contrast different ways of looking at the world.

Drummond: Learning To Find Himself In the Music
Patrick R. F. Blakley
Independently Published
9798429909325, $19.99 HC, $12.99 PB, $0.99 Kindle, 320pp

Young adults looking for stories about music and a student's venture into the world of a middle school marching band will find Drummond: Learning To Find Himself In the Music an engrossing tale of musical ability, fitting in, and standing out.

Drummond at first believes that band is "just another class in school." Little does he know that it will prove both a microcosm of his interactions and problems with the wider world and a milieu in which he can grow and prove himself through revised skills and approaches to life and friendships.

Middle grade readers who choose Drummond will find it a story grounded in musical explorations. Patrick R.F. Blakley seamlessly incorporates many insights into various band instruments as Drummond experiments with new ideas beyond drumming and comes to realize the different opportunities posed by both music and the interpersonal relationships it fosters through group efforts.

Educators and parents seeking to instruct kids about music, band, and life will find all these elements and more as Drummond makes his way through a new environment and finds his revised place in it.

Blakley's attention to relationship-building, group efforts, and individual growth create a winning first-person story in which Drummond learns about marching bands, music, and himself.

The many explanations of musical instruments and the process of using them to create music cements the fictional growth as Drummond evolves, but the focus on "this extraordinarily divine world called marching band" also portrays a boy's coming-of-age moves through competition and life.

Drummond: Learning To Find Himself In the Music draws connections that young readers will find engrossing. It's a recommended read for leisure audiences who will find its many musical insights to be both educational and compelling, and should be a choice for any middle grade library collection.

Ideally, it will also be part of a classroom assignment, discussed for its psychological revelations as Drummond learns about his strengths and employs them in a group effort to make music.

When Lightnin' Struck
Betsy R. Rosenthal
Kar-Ben Publishing, Inc.
241 First Ave. N, Minneapolis, MN 55401-1607
9781728420523, $17.99, HC, 272pp

Synopsis: It's 1928 in Odessa, Texas, and eleven-year-old James is struggling to find his purpose in life and to uncover a family secret. With his father struck dead by lightning and his mother in jail, he is taken in by his grandparents. Treated as a pariah at school, James is taunted as being cursed by his family's bad luck. But he finds a friend in Paul, a Russian immigrant, who is also treated as an outcast, and together, they battle the school bully. But James's life is turned upside-down yet again when he uncovers a family secret involving his beloved grandmother. His discovery leads him to find the sense of purpose he's been seeking.

Critique: Original, deftly crafted, entertaining, thought-provoking with its underlying message about bullying, "When Lightnin' Struck" by Betsy R. Rosenthal is an especially appropriate and unreservedly recommended addition to elementary school, middle school, and community library collections for young readers ages 9-13. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "When Lightnin' Struck" is also available in a paperback edition (9781728420530, $7.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.12).

Editorial Note: Betsy R. Rosenthal was a writer, she was a civil rights lawyer. She maintanis an informative website at

The Mystery/Suspense Shelf

A Very Chilling Mystery
Steve A. Erickson
Atmosphere Press
9781639882519, $20.99 HC, $7.99 Kindle, 52pp

A Very Chilling Mystery is a children's book written and illustrated by Steve A. Erickson. It tells of a cold, cold place which contains mysteries (yes, it's the refrigerator), and captures the secret world of food in an especially delightful, rollicking rhyme: "If it wasn't dark in there,/What would the food be doing/Among the Tupperware?/Well, I am here to tell you,/There's life inside that box./When the door is shut, the light stays on/And that frosty space? It rocks!"

The vivid dance and musical antics of various fridge denizens commands young reader attention both by the fun rhymes and unexpected scenarios they paint and the equally vivid illustrations Erickson uses to embellish his story.

Even the most reluctant of young eaters will find plenty to like in a tale that celebrates hidden lives, mystery, and food facts, all couched in whimsically imaginative description: "Then there is the milk carton/Who becomes extremely grumpy/When it stays past its "best by" date/And turns quite sour and lumpy."

Adults who want to teach the young reader a bit about food but who face resistance to staid nonfiction accounts will find this assessment of the good and the bad in a typical refrigerator to be a fun way of absorbing food facts and fancies. It lends to both adult read-aloud and individual pursuit by youngsters who already have good reading skills.

A Very Chilling Mystery also serves as both an example of poetic prowess with its winningly whimsical approach to food and the mysterious possibilities that lurk behind closed doors.

The Fantasy/SciFi Shelf

Space Story
W. W. Marplot
Luminare Press
c/o Waxing Gibbous Books
9781734758337, $17.99

Space Story is recommended reading for young sci-fi fans in middle grades and older and presents the adventures of sixteen-year-old Bobby, who falls asleep in his own bed, only to awaken in a spaceship. While the age of the protagonist would seem to indicate this book's appropriateness for an older teen audience, the tone of the presentation makes it very accessible to middle grades. Bobby knows this must be a dream, but any attempts to awaken only result in further details about this strange new environment.

W. W. Marplot excels at vivid descriptions throughout as Bobby faces Deepoms (beings with "...perfect knowledge, and a very deep consciousness and rich awareness, going beyond that of humans, who we will soon surpass in all things. We are smarter") and Kay, an Earth girl who also finds herself unexpectedly in space, the victim of an "ingenious sibling." Kay moves far from her comfort zone and previously sheltered life, as a result. This is what she gets for trusting her brother's protection. Will her carefully-honed techniques for coping with life (meditation, contemplation, and enlightened understanding) help her adjust to and survive these new conditions?

Bobby and Kay encounter a variety of challenging circumstances that involve young readers in a whimsical story of space creatures and abilities tested by extraordinary circumstances. W.W. Marplot cultivates an atmosphere of humor and adventure for middle grades as he follows Kay and Bobby's extraordinary circumstances and encounters with not just aliens, but each other.

There's also more than a light touch of philosophical reflection as Kay faces deeper questions that usually aren't part of sci-fi or fantasy reading for this age group. The added value of psychological, social, and philosophical inspection is a nice adjunct to the alien adventures Kay and Bobby experience, and lends an unexpected, satisfying depth to the story that adults will approve of.

Space Story is at once hilarious, thought-provoking, and action-packed. Its story of two characters transported far from their comfort zones in different ways will resonate with middle grade readers and those who enjoy sci-fi that follows character growth and the impact of individual change and new choices.

Stalking Death and Other Ill-Advised Dating Techniques
Mercy Hollow
Dark Daydreams Books
9780998947990, $13.99 Paper/$3.99 Kindle

Young adults who choose Stalking Death and Other Ill-Advised Dating Techniques for its intriguing title won't be disappointed. It fulfills its promise of offering a satisfyingly different approach to fantasy.

The first-person tale opens with a compelling lure: "I'm five steps behind Death and not happy about it." The humor kicks in almost immediately as the protagonist gives a sarcastic response to Death herself, and the story becomes impossible to put down from there. Mercy Hollow cultivates a character who imparts a sassy sense of rebellion even when charged with following Death: "Maybe I'm not stalking Death. I'm more like her disoriented leash-puppy, heeling on command. But I'm going with stalking. It lets me pretend I have a sliver of control in the situation."

The Grim charges Death's lackey with two tasks, but teen Tyro has other ambitions that don't fit with this revised mission. Teenage male hormones apparently have not died, and so the mission is revised by both a spunky refusal to submit and an objective that moves beyond Death's usual edicts.

Mercy Hollow cultivates a fine sense of contemporary rebellion and angst that dovetails nicely with a fantasy that's endowed with comedy and fun. Boy-and-girl conundrums evolve, with an unusual backdrop of Death warmed over as Tyro navigates completely unfamiliar ground and re-envisions his own goals. Death comes for everyone. Or, does it? Hollow's presentation of a sassy rebellion and a journey through an underworld ridden with rules just begging to be broken by Tyro results in a fantasy romp that is unpredictable and thoroughly engrossing.

Powered by a strong character that refuses to either accept death or be ruled by its structures, Tyro is a likeable, engaging protagonist whose journey through the underworld both challenges and rewrites its purposes. While young adult fantasy readers will be the most likely audience for Stalking Death and Other Ill-Advised Dating Techniques, the story promises much appeal to adults looking for a very different tone than the usual fantasy genre read.

Hollow's ability to create special dilemmas and environments makes for a tale that is spiced by intrigue and a determined young adult character who realizes the fallacies in the Grim's thinking...and his illusions about life, death, and the underlying meaning of them both. With its winning writing style that doesn't neatly confirm to any formula, Stalking Death and Other Ill-Advised Dating Techniques is very highly recommended for all ages looking for something satisfyingly original and different.

The Bonds Between Us
Emily Ruhl
Atmosphere Press
9781639882588, $17.99 PB, $7.99 Kindle, 252pp

The Bonds Between Us reaches fantasy readers with the first book in the Web of the Wyrd trilogy, introducing Katya Anders, a young woman cursed to spend eternity alone until a soulmate mark on her wrist appears to portend that she will gain a partner.

Mateo is both everything that compliments her and something that confuses her, because he really shouldn't be part of her future and fate. Indeed, she should be running from him, because pursuing love against all odds can hold fatal repercussions for them both.

Katya's research into Venice's myths helps solidify her place in the world even as it alienates her from what she truly wants for her future. As destiny forces Mateo and Katya to work together and evolve an uncertain relationship against all odds, her quest for the truth from Venetian folklore turns into a struggle to survive and grow on many different levels.

Emily Ruhl's story of shifting emotions, uncertain connections, and paradigm-defying choices cultivates an atmosphere of discovery and revelation, couching these in a fantasy that juxtaposes personal ambition and perception with bigger-picture thinking.

As Katya evolves a purpose beyond her initial love for Venice and her existing life, readers are brought into a realm steeped in controversy and challenge.

The emotional component of Katya and Mateo's relationship is only one facet that makes The Bonds Between Us a powerful saga.

Other notable features include issues of past bonds and broken promises, encounters with the Devil, and conflicts between prejudice and innocence that lead to a debate over whom to punish and who should be rewarded for their loyalty.

Ruhl cultivates suspense, mystery, and ethical and moral dilemmas that are even raised by the Devil: "Why would a Daski - a monster - like you want to defend a group of people that wouldn't hesitate to slaughter you in the most painful way they know how, as though they were righteous slayers driving a wooden stake through the heart of a vampire?"

The story invites readers to examine friends, enemies, and the influences on their choices through an engrossing first-person saga that follows Katya into issues of right, wrong, and what it takes to defend a flawed city.

Fantasy readers seeking a compelling story of a young woman who confronts her own preconceptions and motivations for choosing sides will find The Bonds Between Us hard to put down, and a fitting introduction to the series.

Sword and Sorcery: Frostfire
Ethan Avery
Stories By Storytellers
9798985622829, $24.99 Hardcover/$5.99 ebook, 454pp

Sword and Sorcery: Frostfire is a young adult epic fantasy story that revolves around Erevan, a street kid whose friend has been jailed because of his mistake. It contrasts his life and dilemma with that of privileged girl Aireyal, who has been accepted into a prestigious school of magic despite the fact that she really has no magical talent.

Ethan Avery paints an engrossing story of two very different teens who exhibit (and often rely on) reckless impulses. These traits have changed their lives in unexpected ways, and are poised to change them again through adversity that brings their individual dilemmas into a bigger picture encounter with forces set to change society.

As the two main characters confront their skills, new possibilities, and what they really wish to become, young adults receive the powerful story of a quest which operates both internally and externally.

Fans of sword and sorcery stories will find plenty of action scenarios that draw attention with confrontation and a call for courage, but those unfamiliar with the genre will also appreciate how Avery incorporates a sense of duty, purpose, and changing perspectives as evolving new abilities portend failure: "She felt her very future drop like a boulder off a cliff. There was nothing to feel, except for defeat. But the mix of forced confidence within her gave a gross feeling of division. She still believed she could do it, even though she now knew she couldn't."

A cast of supporting characters also presents strong influences and possibilities. These include the apothecarist's assistant Zale, the beautiful Morgana (who stands in stark contrast to Aireyal's dubious attributes), and Erevan's father Sir Lee, who attempts to teach his son some important life lessons.

As the lives of each character entwine and are changed, young adults will appreciate the attention to psychological profiles that blend with high-octane action in a quest story that stands out from the crowd.

Whether reading Sword and Sorcery: Frostfire for its action-packed fantasy or its coming-of-age story of two very different young characters, readers will find it a fine dance between thought-provoking insights about growth and opportunity and a vivid adventure.

Sword and Sorcery: Frostfire deserves a place in libraries catering to young adult fantasy readers.

Special Proper Magic
Michael McAdam
House of Gargs
9781778119019, $16.99, $4.99 Kindle

Special Proper Magic will attract young adults with its intriguing story of magic in an enormous sprawling British home, Locksley Hall, owned by the Whitingham family. This structure's air of mystery has long created a sense of intrigue and threat in the nearby town.

An only child, thirteen-year-old Adrian Whitingham has just come home from boarding school to face a summer with too-busy parents who are quiet, proper, and too involved in their routines to pay him much attention. It promises to be a dull experience... but nothing stays dull at Locksley Hall for long, especially since Adrian has determined to use his time off to explore some strange abilities that he's been demonstrating.

Unlocking these secrets changes his life in unexpected ways that will delight young readers as Special Proper Magic evolves.

As Adrian learns about who he really is, and about the nature of the magic and spirits haunting his life, readers receive a vivid fantasy story that proves hard to put down, filled with satisfying insights: "...some ghosts miss being alive so much they'll do anything to live again, clinging on to anything that reminds them of life... like living people. That's what haunting is. It's a ghost who can't - or won't - let go of what used to be because they can't face what is..."She strikes me as just that type. So used to being the centre of attention that she can't stand that she isn't any more."

As Adrian and his cousin Holly search for the missing Ethan and answers to their questions about who they are, summoning a bravery neither really feels, an engrossing blend of mystery, supernatural elements, and a summer experience evolves.

Young readers will appreciate Michael McAdam's dual attention to building suspense and relationships which change as Holly and Adrian build new connections to each other and their lives.

McAdam crafts a fine adventure steeped in the English countryside, exploring new possibilities and connections that close some doors while opening others. He leaves the door of future possibilities (and books) ajar while deftly concluding Adrian and Holly's tale in a manner that will attract and maintain the interest of middle grade readers.

Special Proper Magic is highly recommended reading for young adults looking for magical stories of connection and for libraries seeking superior leisure reads about magic, ghosts, and problem-solving as the spirit world touches Adrian and Holly and brings with it unexpected life lessons.

The Art of Magic
Hannah Voskuil
CarolRhoda Books
c/o The Lerner Publishing Group
241 First Avenue North, Minneapolis, MN 55401-1607
9781728415673, $17.99, HC, 328pp

Synopsis: ZuZu's first summer without her best friend is looking pretty grim, until she meets new kid Andrew at a visit to the historic Mapleton Mansion. Together they stumble upon some enchanted art supplies and discover that the shapes they draw and paint can come to life. Their creations are harmless.

But ZuZu and Andrew aren't the only ones with access to magic! Soon, nightmarish half-machine, half-living creatures begin appearing around town, controlled by a power-hungry "caster" with a sinister mission. It's up to ZuZu and Andrew to use their newfound abilities to protect their community.

Critique: An original, fun and lively read from cover to cover, "The Art of Magic" by skilled novelist Hannah Voskuil will prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to elementary school, middle school, and community library Fantasy Fiction collections for young readers ages 9-13. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Art of Magic" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.49).

Editorial Note: Hannah Voskuil received a B.A. from Middlebury College in Vermont and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Emerson College in Boston. She is also the author of Horus and the Curse of Everlasting Regret. Her short stories have appeared in anthologies and textbooks around the world.

A Dragon Used to Live Here
Annette LeBlanc Cate
Candlewick Press
9781536204513 $17.99 hc / $9.99 Kindle

Synopsis: Raise the drawbridge for a story-within-a-story melding classic fairy-tale trappings with contemporary, tongue-in-cheek wit, abundantly illustrated in black-and-white - a perfect family read.

Noble children Thomas and Emily have always known their mother to be sensible, the lady of the castle - if anything, a bit boring. But then they discover Meg, a cranky scribe who lives in the castle basement, leading a quirky group of artists in producing party invitations and other missives for the nobles above. Meg claims that she was a friend of their mother's back when the two were kids - even before the dragon lived in the castle. Wait - a dragon? Not sure they can believe Meg's tales, the kids return again and again to hear the evolving, fantastical story of their mother's escapades (while putting their fussiest penmanship to work) and get caught up in a quest to reunite the onetime friends.

Kidnapping, fighting, a ferocious dragon, loyal elves, and true love... coupled with squabbling siblings, archery practice gone amiss, and ill-fated dives into the moat... This multilayered story blends adventure and humor, medieval tropes and modern sensibility, in a satisfying read for the whole family.

Critique: Intended especially for young readers ages 7-10, A Dragon Used to Live Here is a delightful fantasy novel about a pair of siblings who learn about their mother's heroic adventures of yore, and then become involved in a quest to reunite former friends. Scattered, simple black-and-white illustrations add a charming touch to this wonderful adventure, highly recommended especially for school and public library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that A Dragon Used to Live Here is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

Star Wars: Queen's Hope
E. K. Johnson
Disney Lucasfilm Press
c/o Buena Vista Books
9781368075930, $17.99, HC, 352pp

Synopsis: Padme is adjusting to being a wartime senator during the Clone Wars. Her secret husband, Anakin Skywalker, is off fighting the war, and excels at being a wartime Jedi. In contrast, when Padme gets the opportunity to see the casualties on the war-torn front lines, she is horrified. The stakes have never been higher for the galaxy, or for the newly-married couple.

Meanwhile, with Padme on a secret mission, her handmaiden Sabe steps into the role of Senator Amidala, something no handmaiden has done for an extended period of time. While in the Senate, Sabe is equally horrified by the machinations that happen there. She comes face to face with a gut-wrenching decision as she realizes that she cannot fight a war this way, not even for Padme.

And Chancellor Palpatine hovers over it all, manipulating the players to his own ends!

Critique: An absolutely fascinating addition to the Star Wars saga before Anakin Skywalker became the legendary Darth Vader, "Star Wars: Queen's Hope" by E. K. Johnson is simply a 'must read' for each and every Star Wars fan. Certain to be an immediately welcome and enduringly popular addition to middle school, highschool, and community library Science Fiction & Fantasy collections, it should be noted that "Star Wars: Queen's Hope" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99). Simply stated, "Star Wars: Queen's Hope" is the stuff of which block buster Star Wars movies are made!

Editorial Note: Kate Johnson can be followed on Twitter (@ek_johnston) and on Tumblr (ekjohnston). She also has her own website at

Star Wars: The High Republic: Midnight Horizon
Daniel Jose Older
Disney Lucasfilm Press
c/o Buena Vista Books
9781368060677, $17.99, HC, 496pp

Synopsis: After a series of staggering losses, the Republic seems to finally have the villainous Nihil marauders on the run, and it looks like there's light at the end of the tunnel. Until word comes of a suspected Nihil attack on the industrial cosmopolitan world of Corellia, right in the Galactic Core.

Sent to investigate are Jedi Masters Cohmac Vitus and Kantam Sy, along with Padawans Reath Silas and Ram Jomaram, all fighting their own private battles after months of unrelenting danger. On Corellia, Reath and Ram encounter a brazen young security specialist named Crash, whose friend was one of the victims of the Nihil attack, and they team up with her to infiltrate Corellia's elite while the Masters pursue more diplomatic avenues. But going undercover with Crash is more dangerous than anyone expected, even as Ram pulls in his friend Zeen to help with an elaborate ruse involving a galactic pop star.

But what they uncover on Corellia turns out to be just one part of a greater plan, one that could lead the Jedi to their most stunning defeat yet!

Critique: The Star Wars universe is the gift that keeps on giving -- and "Star Wars: The High Republic: Midnight Horizon" by author and Star Wars fan Daniel Jose Older is the latest of just such gifts for the legions of dedicated Star Wars fans. A welcome addition to one of the newest of Star Wars sagas, "Star Wars: The High Republic: Midnight Horizon" is a deftly crafted and thoroughly entertaining novel and a 'must' for both personal reading lists as well as middle school, highschool, and community library Science Fiction & Fantasy collections. It should be noted that "Star Wars: The High Republic: Midnight Horizon" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99).

Editorial Note: Daniel Jose Older is a lead High Republic story architect and the author of Ballad & Dagger, a Young Adult urban fantasy from Rick Riordan Presents, as well as fourteen other novels, and numerous short stories and essays. He also writes the ongoing comic book series Star Wars: The High Republic Adventures, along with various projects for Marvel. He won the International Latino Book Award and has been a finalist for the Kirkus Prize, the Mythopoeic Award, the Locus Award, the Andre Norton Award, and the World Fantasy Award.

Black Panther Spellbound
Ronald L. Smith
Marvel Press
77 West 66th Street, New York, NY 10023
9781368071246, $16.99, HC, 272pp

Synopsis: Thirteen-year-old T'Challa can't wait to go back to America to visit his friends Sheila and Zeke, who are staying with Sheila's grandmother in Beaumont, a small Alabama town, over their summer break. He's thrilled to be on vacation away from his duties as the Prince of Wakanda for a few weeks, and he's taking full advantage of his access to the amazing food and the South's rich history.

But as T'Challa continues to explore the town, he finds that a man who goes by the ordinary name of Bob happens to be everywhere he is -- and T'Challa begins to think it's no coincidence.

When residents of the town begin flocking to Bob's strange message, and a prominent citizen disappears, the Young Prince has no choice but to intervene. T'Challa and his friends start to do their own sleuthing, and before long, the three teens find themselves caught in a plot involving a rare ancient book and a man who's not as he seems.

Critique: The sequel to novelist Ronald L. Smith's "Black Panther: The Young Prince" and featuring another of the early adventures of one of the Marvel Universe' popular characters, "Black Panther Spellbound" is a terrifically fun read from beginning to end. While very highly recommended for elementary school, middle school, and community library Science Fiction & Fantasy collections for young readers ages 8-12, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of the legions of Black Panther fans that "Black Panther: Spellbound" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99).

Editorial Note: Ronald L. Smith is an award-winning writer of children's literature including the middle grade novels Black Panther: The Young Prince, The Mesmerist, The Owls Have Come To Take Us Away, and Gloom Town, a Junior Library Guild Selection. His first novel, Hoodoo, earned him the 2016 Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Author Award and the International Literacy Association Award for Intermediate Fiction. He can be followed on Twitter @RonSmithBooks or Instagram at @ronsmithwriter

The Pets/Wildlife Shelf

Sharks: A Mighty Bite-y History
Miriam Forster, author
Gordy Wright, illustrator
Harry N. Abrams
195 Broadway, 9th Floor, New York, NY 10007
9781419747731, $24.99, HC, 80pp

Synopsis: Sharks are some of the oldest creatures in earth oceans. "Sharks: A Mighty Bite-y History" is epic history and survey that follows sharks from their earliest appearance in the Paleozoic era up through the challenges they face today.

Along the way, young readers will meet many different sharks from different points in history. They will get an up-close evolutionary look at what makes a shark a shark -- like their skin, their teeth, their fins, and more. They will also receive a crash course in archeological time, as "Sharks: A Mighty Bite-y History" mostly covers prehistoric sharks or modern-day sharks who have been around much longer than humans. Like the hammerhead, who has been patrolling tropical coastlines for more than 20 million years!

With lush illustrations from Gordy Wright and meticulous research from author Miriam Forster, "Sharks: A Mighty, Bite-y History" is sure to delight shark lovers, science fans, and any reader who loves to discover new wonders about the world around them.

Critique: Published in a coffee-table style format (10.83 x 0.47 x 14.72 inches", "Sharks: A Mighty Bite-y History" is an exceptional, impressive, informative, and highly recommended addition to elementary school, middle school, and community library Wildlife and Oceanography collections for young readers ages 3-7.

Editorial Note #1: Miriam Forster loves science, history, and animals, especially the weird prehistoric ones. She is an author of young adult fiction, and a fact checker for children's books.

Editorial Note #1: Gordy Wright is a freelance illustrator and printmaker working from his studio in Bristol, UK. He has a website at

Little Kids First Big Book of Baby Animals
Maya Myers
National Geographic Press
101 West 104th Street, Suite 8, New York, NY 10025
9781426371462, $14.99, HC, 128pp

Synopsis: "Little Kids First Big Book of Baby Animals" by Maya Myers introduces young children to more than 40 animal babies drawn from every corner of the globe, from ocean depths to mountaintops, grassy plains to polar lands.

"Little Kids First Big Book of Baby Animals" includes: A map that shows where these animals are found in the wild; Questions in each chapter that encourage interactive learning; Simple text for reading aloud or for beginning readers; Engaging photography of real animals in their habitats; Parent tips that extend the experience beyond the book.

Children will enjoy finding out how these wee wild ones are born, where they live, what their families are like, how they get their food, and how they learn to do things on their own -- all the things that are important to young humans, too!

Critique: Brilliantly illustrated and thoroughly 'kid friendly' in organization and presentation, "Little Kids First Big Book of Baby Animals" is specifically recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library Wildlife collections. It should be noted that "Little Kids First Big Book of Baby Animals" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $6.99).

Editorial Note: Maya Myers is the author of all sorts of books for children. She's also a freelance book editor and a former elementary school teacher. She can be followed her on Instagram and Twitter @mayamyersbooks -- and learn more about her books at

Light the Sky, Firefly!
Sheri Mabry Bestor, author
Jonny Lambert, illustrator
Sleeping Bear Press
315 East Eisenhower Parkway, Suite 200, Ann Arbor, MI 48108
9781534111158, $17.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: Fireflies (also known as lightning bugs) are some the world's most fascinating and illuminating insects. It is also one that many children can find right in their backyards! With a simple story, perfect for read-alouds, and colorful illustrations, "Light the Sky, Firefly!" is scientific look at a firefly's life-cycle will captivate little entomologists. Informative sidebars are included that let children learn even more about these amazing insects.

Critique: Informatively written and charmingly illustrated, and also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $17.09), "Light the Sky, Firefly!" by the team of author Sheri Bestor and artist Jonny Lambert will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to family, elementary school, and community library wildlife picture book collections for children ages 6-9.

Editorial Note #1: Sheri Mabry Bestor is a literary agent with Willow Words Literary Agency. She maintains two websites: and

Editorial Note #2: Currently residing in Wisborough Green, England, Jonny Lambert has illustrated with over 300 titles. He is also a designer, a paper engineer, and most recently, served as Group Design Director at Templar Publishing.

Popoto: The Maui Dolphin
Andrea Gill
Noemi Knight
Pink Flamingo Press
9798985326413, $14.99 Hardcover/$2.99 Kindle

The Maui Dolphin (or Popoto) is a small, endangered New Zealand dolphin, the subject of Noemi Knight's engaging picture book which explores not just this dolphin, but the native M ori peoples' legends about it, overall dolphin natural history, and more.

This is narrated through the first-person reflections of Popoto, who lives with Hector's dolphin (a close cousin) off the shores of New Zealand.

Picture book readers receive fun color illustrations that are filled with character and provide lively embellishments to the story.

They also receive a review of environmental issues surrounding human activities on the waters: "We have many natural enemies, like sharks. But our most dangerous enemy is fishing nets left behind by irresponsible human fishers."

The ultimate message is about such threats as trash in the ocean. It implores kids to become educated, concerned, and involved in protecting the oceans not just for Popoto, but all marine life.

Adults looking for a picture book for children ages 6-12 that pairs a natural history story with an environmental discussion will find Popoto: The Maui Dolphin an inviting blend of science and environmental examination.

Through Popoto's experiences and life, kids receive an invitation to become more conscious about their decisions and impact on the world. This thought-provoking, vivid picture book story holds a broader message than adventure alone, for all young readers and the adults who choose it for read-aloud enlightenment.

Dr. Rosie Helps the Animals
Jennifer Welborn
Waterbear Publishing
9780578829296, $16.99 Hardcover/$10.95 Paper/$2.99 ebook, 36pp

Dr. Rosie Helps the Animals is a picture book that features an African-American girl who loves animals. Rosie's mom, a veterinarian, lets her help care for them, answering questions about honey, compresses, and other techniques she incorporates into her practice to help her animal patients.

Young Rosie's participation and concern give her the ability to begin helping animals herself, and as she moves from barnyard to more fantastic large animal patients, young readers receive a whimsical story steeped in animal care information and fantasy alike.

As the story becomes more and more fantastic, kids and read-aloud parents will especially appreciate how Rosie moves from problem to problem, building on the healthcare insights and routines her mother has taught her and applying them to the most challenging of animal cases.

Rozillia MH provides inviting, colorful illustrations that capture Rosie and her animal world.

The blend of fictitious drama and real-world animal care information makes for a satisfyingly dramatic fantasy story laced with nonfiction elements that adults can use to discuss animal care basics and homeopathic remedies with kids.

There are many learning opportunities in Dr. Rosie Helps the Animals, from basic animal care and empathy to how a youngster may be proactive in helping improve lives in the world around her.

Based on real-world veterinarian approaches, but far more diverse in its embrace of powerful solutions and approaches to life, parents of young children who want to impart the basics of appreciation for animals and self-empowerment alike will find Dr. Rosie Helps the Animals an inviting story.

Keepers of the Reef
Sharon Wismer, author
Alice Wong, illustrator
Tilbury House, Publishers
12 Starr Street, Thomaston, ME 04861
9780884489047, $18.95, HC, 40pp

Synopsis:"Keepers of the Reef" by Sharon Wismer (a reef ecologist and a mom) is the best tour guide a kid could have for a visit to the underwater world of Australia's Great Barrier Reef. While Alice Wong's richly detailed, accurate watercolors take a boy and girl snorkeling to see the fishes that maintain the ecological balance between the corals and their main competitor, algae.

Without the fish species that brush, crop, scrape, excavate, and browse the algae, coral reefs would die. A coral reef is a brilliant and colorful example of how a complex ecosystem functions and why its keystone species are critical to its health.

The Great Barrier Reef is one of Earth's most celebrated natural treasures. Here children discover why the reef is threatened and what we can all do to help protect it. Endorsements are coming from Charlie Veron ("the godfather of coral," featured in the 2017 film Chasing Coral) and David Bellwood, a world-renowned reef fish ecologist whose lab is the source of much of the information in "Keepers of the Reef".

"Keepers of Reef: is one of those rare children's book that deftly combining cutting-edge science with narrative and pictorial magic. Of special note are the backmatter sources and resources which are included.

Critique; Fun and informative, "Keepers of the Reef" is an ideal and unreservedly recommended addition to family, elementary school, and community library marine life picture book collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of young readers ages 6-8 that "Keepers of the Reef" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $17.09)

Editorial Note #1: Dr. Sharon Wismer is a marine biologist and co-founder of SEA Kids Alliance. From early childhood exploring tidal pools in Durban, South Africa, Her doctoral studies at the University of Neuchatel, Switzerland, investigated the behavioral ecology of coral reef fishes, and her postdoctoral research at James Cook University, Australia, investigated the impacts of mass coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef. Her scientific work has been published in many peer-reviewed academic articles in international journals. "Keepers of the Reef" is her first children's book, written and illustrated to make the emerging science of coral reefs accessible and exciting for children. She has a website at and can be followed on Instagram @seakidsalliance

Editorial Note #2: Alice Wong works in watercolor and pencil, and has illustrated three picture books and board books. The clients for her Beatrix Potter style animal illustrations have included Harrods, Sainsburys, Paperchase, Hallmark, International Greetings, Hobby Lobby, Double Ink, and others. "Keepers of the Reef" is her first children's non-fiction picture book.

The Christian Shelf

Read It, See It, Say It, Sing It
Hunter Beless, author
Hsulynn Pang, illustrator
B&H Publishing Group
1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN 37234
9781087752501, $14.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: In their delightfully rhyming picture book, "Read It, See It, Say It, Sing It!" by the team of author Hunter Beless and illustrator Hsulynn Pang, four families grow in their knowledge of and love for the Bible as they: Read, or hear the Bible; See, or regularly read Scripture; Say, or memorize and talk about the Bible; Sing, or worship God and remember Scripture together.

A celebration of the perfect Word of God, "Read It, See It, Say It, Sing It!" elevates the Bible to its rightful place -- the highest source of moral authority in our lives. Young readers will discover that when we read, see, say, and sing the Bible, God speaks to us, and our lives are changed forever.

Of special note is the use of a parent connection explaining the Scripture memorization method is included in the back of the book.

Critique: Inspired and inspiring, fun and informative, thoroughly 'kid friendly' in organizaton and presentation, "Read It, See It, Say It, Sing It!" is an ideal and unreservedly recommended addition to family, Sunday School, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library Biblical studies/Christian studies picture book collections for children ages 2- 6.

Editorial Note: Hunter Beless is passionate about helping women know and love God more, especially through His Word. She is the founder of Journeywomen, hosts the Journeywomen podcast, and loves doing ministry in her local church context. Hunter and her husband, Brooks, have three amazing kiddos who memorize Scripture way faster than their mama! Those interested can learn more about Hunter on her website at

The Serpent Slayer and the Scroll of Riddles
Champ Thornton, author
Andrew Naselli, author
Dana Thompson, illustrator
New Growth Press
1301 Carolina Street, #L101, Greensboro, NC 27401
9781645072331, $16.99, PB, 128pp

Synopsis: Fleeing a neighborhood bully, Emmet and Nomi are pulled into an ancient quest, and now they must escape far more powerful enemies. Children ages 9 to 12 will enjoy joining them as they unlock secret riddles and follow the path of the Serpent Slayer.

"The Serpent Slayer and the Scroll of Riddles" is a thoroughly 'kid friendly' time travel adventure with a twist -- young readers will discover theological themes as they travel through God's Word. By placing the characters into Bible events, coauthors Champ Thornton and Andrew Naselli show the Bible is far from being a boring book full of instructions. Young readers will discover life-changing truths they'll never forget!

Critique: A part of the outstanding 'Kambur Chronicles' series, "The Serpent Slayer and the Scroll of Riddles" is a fun, engaging read with an important underlying message about the accessibility of biblical values and cardinal virtues. Simply stated, "The Serpent Slayer and the Scroll of Riddles" is highly recommended for family, middle school, and community library Christian Fiction collections for young readers.

The Judaic Shelf

The Melody
Oded Burla, author
Assaf Benharroch, illustrator
Ilana Kurshan, translator
Kalaniot Books
c/o Endless Mountains Publishing
9781735087559, $19.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: Charmingly written by Oded Burla, beautifully illustrated by Assaf Benharroch, and ably translated into English for an American readership, "The Melody" seems to be a simple story of a melody in search of a singer, but look a little closer and you will find echoes of an ancient Jewish tale.

According to a two-thousand-year-old commentary on the Bible, God offers the Torah, (which is the Hebrew Bible), to all the people of the ancient world. Each nation decides not to accept the Torah because it cannot abide by its laws. But when the Torah is presented to the Jews on Mount Sinai, they welcome it. Ever since then, the Torah has been the song of the Jewish people, and in every generation its melodies are sung by new voices.

Critique: A unique, fun and informative picture book for children ages 4-8, "The Melody" is a welcome and unreservedly recommended addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library Jewish themed picture books.

Editorial Note: Oded Burla (June 23, 1915 - July 26, 2009) was an Israeli writer, poet, and artist. Burla wrote and illustrated 70 books. He is considered one of the founders of children's literature in Hebrew.

The Biography Shelf

Hilde on the Record
Hilde Kate Lysiak
Chicago Review Press
814 North Franklin Street, Chicago, IL 60610
9781641605816, $17.99, HC, 192pp

Synopsis: Hilde Kate Lysiak spent her early childhood in New York City with a passion for journalism. When her family moved to Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania, Hilde didn't complain. Instead, she started reporting, because when seven-year-old Hilde Kate Lysiak found out her new town didn't have a paper, she grabbed a notepad and began to work.

Hilde began by reporting on the birth of her sister, the newest resident on Orange Street, then began expanding her coverage to the entire city. She interviewed hundreds of locals in her effort to deliver "All the News Fit for Orange Street": a seed exchange at the local library, a fundraiser for a hospital's neonatal unit, a fire at a church, and a mysterious vandal destroying landscaping on city property.

Everything changed when Hilde received a tip that a terrible crime had happened just blocks from her house. By using the tools she had learned on the beat, the enterprising young reporter was able to confirm the facts and get the important information out to the public several hours before the other local media.

Hilde was proud of her work, but not everyone in her small town felt that way. Cyberbullies targeted her, zeroing in on her age and gender. Hilde considered ignoring them but decided she had to stand up to the haters to protect the reputation she had worked so hard to earn. Her response went viral, and nearly every major news organization took notice.

Hilde hasn't let anything stand in her way since!

Critique: Of special and particular interest to young readers interested in journalism and with the subject of dealing with bullies, "Hilde on the Record: Memoir of a Kid Crime Reporter" is a true life memoir that readers with all the literary skills of a deftly crafted novel. As fun a read as it is with its informative message about the value of perseverance, "Hilde on the Record: Memoir of a Kid Crime Reporter" is an especially recommended addition to elementary school, middle school, and community library Biography collections for children ages 8-12. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Hilde on the Record: Memoir of a Kid Crime Reporter" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.49).

Editorial Note: Hilde Kate Lysiak is the founder of the Orange Street News. The paper has had nearly a thousand paid subscribers and has been read by millions more online. Hilde's journalism has been profiled by the New York Times, Columbia Journalism Review, NBC Today, the Washington Post, and many other newspapers and television stations around the world.

Beautiful Useful Things: What William Morris Made
Beth Kephart, author
Melodie Stacey, illustrator
Cameron Kids
c/o Cameron + Company
9781951836337, $18.99, HC, 40pp

Synopsis: William Morris is best known for his colorful wallpapers and textiles, inspired by the English forests and wild foliage where he grew up. This icon of the Arts and Crafts Movement was also a poet, a painter, a preservationist, an activist, an environmentalist, and a maker of many other beautiful useful things, like books!

Critique: Replete with lovely artwork by Melodie Stacey, "Beautiful Useful Things: What William Morris Made" by Beth Kephart's beautifully scripted prose is a delightfully informative and entertaining picture book biography of one of America's truly iconic and multitalented literary, handicraft article creators, and book makers. While also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99), "Beautiful Useful Things: What William Morris Made" is especially and unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book biography collections for children ages 4-8.

Editorial Note #1: Beth Kephart is an award-winning author of over thirty books for adults, young adults, and children, including And I Paint It, published by Cameron Kids, and the forthcoming A Room of Your Own: Virginia Woolf and Where We Go to Think, Dream, and Be. She lives in Pennsylvania.

Editorial Note #2: Melodie Stacey is an artist and illustrator based in Brighton, United Kingdom, not far from where William Morris lived and worked. This is her first book for Cameron Kids.

Breaking Through the Clouds
Sandra Nickel, author
Helena Perez Garcia, illustrator
Harry N. Abrams
195 Broadway, 9th Floor, New York, NY 10007
9781419749568, $19.99, HC, 48pp

Synopsis: When Joanne Simpson (1923-2010) was a girl, she sailed her boat beneath the puffy white clouds of Cape Cod. As a pilot, she flew her plane so high, its wings almost touched them. And when World War II began and Joanne moved to the University of Chicago, a professor asked her to teach Air Force officers about those very clouds and the weather-changing winds.

As soon as the war ended, Joanne decided to seriously study the clouds she had grown to love so much. Her professors laughed. They told her to go home. They told her she was no longer needed. They told her, "No woman ever got a doctorate in meteorology. And no woman ever will."

But Joanne was stubborn. She sold her boat. She flew her last flight. She saved her money so that she could study clouds. She worked so hard and discovered so much that (despite what the professors said) she received a doctorate in meteorology. She was the first woman in the world to do so.

"Breaking Through the Clouds" is a picture book biography that tells the story of a trailblazing scientist whose discoveries about clouds and how they work changed everything we know about weather today.

Critique: An inspiring picture book about the woman meteorologist, despite having to endure the sexist discrimination of her male academic superiors, made discoveries that helped us understand how weather actually works. The 'kid friendly' artwork of illustrator Helena Perez Garcia deftly supports the informative text of author Sandra Nickel. The result of their collaboration, "Breaking Through the Clouds" is a fun and inspiring picture book for children ages 6-9 and is especially recommended for elementary school and community library picture book biography and weather collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Breaking Through the Clouds" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note #1: Sandra Nickel is a graduate of the Vermont College of Fine Arts with a master of fine arts in writing for children and young adults.

Editorial Note #2: Currently residing in Madrid, Spain, Helena Perez Garcia is a Spanish illustrator whose work has appeared in magazines, newspapers, and books around the world. Her clients include Penguin Random House, The Body Shop, Tate Publishing, and Reader's Digest, among many others.

Quiet Fire: Emily Dickinson's Life and Poetry
Carol Dommermuth-Costa, author
Anna Landsverk, author
Twenty-First Century Books
c/o The Lerner Publishing Group
241 First Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55401-1607
9781728416342, $37.32, Library Binding, 168pp

Synopsis: Emily Elizabeth Dickinson (December 10, 1830 - May 15, 1886) was an American poet. Little-known during her life, she has since been regarded as one of the most important figures in American poetry. (Wikipedia)

When Emily Dickinson died at her home in Amherst, Massachusetts, she left a locked chest with hand-sewn notebooks and papers filled with nearly 1,800 unpublished poems. Four years later, her first collection was published and became a singular success. Today Dickinson is revered as one of America's greatest and most original poets.

Using primary source materials, including the poet's own letters and poems, "Quiet Fire: Emily Dickinson's Life and Poetry" by the team of Carol Dommermuth-Costa and Anna Landsverk presents the life and art of Emily Dickinson to a new generation of young readers.

Critique: An outstanding and impressively informative literary biography for young readers ages 11-18, "Quiet Fire: Emily Dickinson's Life and Poetry" is nicely illustrated throughout and will prove to be an exemplary contribution to middle school, highschool, and community library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Quiet Fire: Emily Dickinson's Life and Poetry" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.49).

Sandor Katz and the Tiny Wild
Jacqueline Briggs Martin, author
June Jo Lee, author
Julie Wilson, illustrator
Readers to Eaters
9780998047713, $19.95, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: Sandor Katz's love of fermented food started with kosher dill pickles he ate as a New York City kid. As an adult, he left the busy city and moved to a queer community in the mountains of Tennessee. There, his friends grew their own food, cooked and ate together, and sometimes danced in drag when the work was done.

One day, the cabbages were all, ALL ready to be harvested. What to do? Sandor tried to make sauerkraut. Delicious! He kept experimenting, finding old recipes, combining old ideas to make something new. Then, he shared what he learned in bestselling books, in classes, and with a growing group of friends around the world.

Written by award-winning authors Jacqueline Briggs Martin and June Jo Lee, "Sandor Katz and the Tiny Wild" folds timely themes of ecology, community-building, and resilience into a lively picture book biography that closes with a hands-on recipe: just chop, salt, pack, and wait for tiny, wild, invisible microbes to turn raw ingredients into zingy, zangy foods that we love. Sandor believes that making fermented foods connects all, ALL of us on planet Earth - people, plants, and The Tiny Wild.

Critique: With the publication of "Sandor Katz and the Tiny Wild", children ages 8-12 will fully enjoy joining Sandor's crew and share their own dash of dazzle with the world. Fun and informative, "Sandor Katz and the Tiny Wild" is especially appropriate and recommended for elementary school and community library picture book biographies, gardening, country life, and cookbook collections for young readers.

Editorial Note #1: Jacqueline Brigs Martin is the author of award-winning children's books, including Snowflake Bentley (winner of the Caldecott Medal), She maintains a personal and professional website at:

Editorial Note #2: June Jo Lee is a food ethnographer, studying how America eats. She's a national speaker on food trends and consults with organizations such as Google Foods. She co-founded Readers to Eaters, a publisher promoting food literacy through stories about our diverse food cultures. She also co-authored, with Jacqueline Briggs Martin, Chef Roy Choi and the Street Food Remix (a 2018 Sibert Award Honor Book for Most Distinguished Information Book). Her website can be found at:

Editoril Note #3: Artist and illustrator Julie Wilson has created billboards in Times Square in New York and the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles; murals at Coney Island; graphics for Central Park SummerStage, restaurants, a church, and a toy store; and many editorial illustrations for magazines and newspapers. Her artwork has been heavily influenced by TV cartoons and Pop Art. Her website is at:

The Jobs/Careers Shelf

Careers for Girls
Anne Daly
CKD Press
9781739817503, $19.99, HC, 48pp

Careers for Girls: Let Go the Sandbags and Dream BIG is a STEM educational picture book about encouraging girls to dream big. Part of the special irony of this admonition is because STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) guides tend to be largely male-dominated and oriented towards encouraging boys. Anne Daly's survey of careers for girls takes a giant leap forward in addressing the disparity created by male-dominated role models.

Boys are already pushed into STEM programs by parents, teachers, and cultural expectations. Girls need an extra push... and that's where Careers for Girls comes in.

Parents and educators alike are charged with using this book to empower girls because, as Anne Daly points out: "If we don't get girls interested in STEM careers, how can we expect them to choose STEM subjects?"

Ideally, Careers for Girls will be shared between adults and girls. Career ideas range from cartographer and ceramics engineer to data scientist and electrician, covering what skills are involved in each selected career and why and how girls can find them attractive. Geneticists, for example, hold the potential to "make us all superhuman."
From marine biologists to glassblowers, each career is linked to a STEM pursuit and tailored to pique the curiosity and adventurous spirit of a girl who may find that career inviting and exciting. Daly's colorful illustrations compliment facts that survey the careers and the skills sets they use.

Any collection strong in STEM teachings and subjects and early career preparation needs this outstanding picture book survey, which transmits not just facts, but empowerment.

The Graphic Novel Shelf

James Bone: The Tremendous Triceratops Trek
Carole Marsh
Gallopade International
611 Hwy 74 S #2000, Peachtree City, GA 30269
9780635135841, $22.99 Hardcover/$5.99 Paper

James Bone: The Tremendous Triceratops Trek is the second graphic novel in the James Bone adventure series. It will appeal to elementary to middle grade readers with a lively tale of a young aspiring archaeologist and his paleontologist mother, Mommypenny.

James is headed to the Dakotas to unearth a fossil. But what he uncovers is trouble as James and his friends explore the wintry Dakotas in search of the triceratops, only to find their mission thwarted by unexpected developments. Fossils, intrigue, and a lively sense of humor are the attractors in this engaging story of a fossil dig.

James Bone: The Tremendous Triceratops Trek introduces kids to the Dakotas while pairing facts with action, from Mount Rushmore's presidential carvings to navigating the slippery slopes of adventure. Action-packed wild rides permeate a tale filled with fun, wry observations as a mishap leads to the find of a lifetime.

Carole Marsh's engaging story of discovery receives equally compelling illustrations by Lee Barrow. The pairing of these two results in young characters not just engaging, but determined and creative in troubleshooting unusual confrontations. Its special brand of over-the-top adventure is designed to attract and captivate even the most reluctant of young readers as they follow the precocious seven-year-old protagonist and his friends straight into action and fun.

Any elementary-level collection strong in full-color graphic novel adventures needs to include The Tremendous Triceratops Trek in its collection. It stands out with its winning combination of educational facts, humor, and stories of proactive kids who uncover both trouble and success.

The Automotive Shelf

Kimi Weart
Museum of Modern Art
c/o Harry N. Abrams
195 Broadway, 9th Floor, New York, NY 10007
9781633451315, $18.95, HC, 40pp

Synopsis: Rosario Abigail Bergen Delgado loves cars. She knows everything there is to know about cars. And she can't wait until she can drive a car. But which one should she choose? A race car? A spy car? A purple, green, or blue car? It's impossible to pick just one! Featuring 10 cars from the collection of The Museum of Modern Art, New York, "CARS! CARS! CARS!" invites young readers to share Rosario's adventures and to think about what car is best for them, the environment, and the future. Rosario's final choice may surprise you!

Critique: Kimi Weart is an accomplished artist, writer, and graphic designer, but "CARS! CARS! CARS!" all the more impressive as it was the first time she was able to do all three of these responsibilities at once! Of special note is the originality of it being a girl and not a boy who is so fascinated by cars, in this new automotive themed picture book for children ages 4-8. Simply stated "CARS! CARS! CARS!" is a fun read and nicely showcases one of the Museum of Modern Art's specifically notable collections. "CARS! CARS! CARS!" is especially appropriate and recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections.

Petey the Pace Car
Tim Packman, author/illustrator
Dorrance Publishing Company
585 Alpha Drive, Suite 103, Pittsburgh, PA 15238
978164610515, $25.00, HC, 38pp

Synopsis: Once upon a time, Petey was a race car. He was very fast before some of the newer cars showed up and went faster. He loved to be around the track with his friends and fans, but knew his time as a race car was coming to an end. The track promoter knew Petey was a fan favorite around the track and didn't want to see him go. So, he become the track's Pace Car where he'd lead every race. Ride along with Petey and learn how you don't have to be in Victory Lane to be a winner!

Critique: A compact and original picture book for children 5-7 who are interest in race cars and the automotive sport of racing, "Petey the Pace Car" by race car expert Tim Packman is both fun and informative. While also available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99), "Petey the Pace Car" will prove to be a welcome and appreciated addition to elementary school and community library automotive themed picture book collections.

Editorial Note: Tim Packman grew up around the short track's of WNY watching his dad and stepfather race, and uncle flag races. Tim started announcing and writing stories for race tracks before following his dream to work in NASCAR. He became an award-winning writer and published two previous books, "Bobby Allison - A Racer's Racer" and "Funny Dan the Race Car Man." During his NASCAR career, Tim has been part of two Daytona 500 wins, three championships and some big victories working at Dale Earnhardt, Inc. and Richard Childress Racing. He then became a track promoter earning Short Track Promoter of the Year honors twice. He is now the co-owner and host of Pub Table Racers online show and website.

The Gardening Shelf

How to Say Hello to a Worm
Kari Percival
Rise x Penguin Workshop
9780593226797, $17.99

Kari Percival's How to Say Hello to a Worm: A First Guide to Outside introduces the very young to a garden by reviewing its insects, blooming wonders, and care and cultivation. Kids who venture into a garden for the first time will do so more effectively with this book in hand, which provides basic instructions on how to plant seeds, welcome worms and ladybugs, and understand the attractions and benefits of a garden.

In Our Garden
Pat Zietlow
9781984812100, $17.99

Pat Zietlow Miller's In Our Garden (9781984812100, $17.99) receives simple but appealing illustrations by Melissa Crowton as it explores a little girl's move from a big city to a place "more than an ocean away." She misses the family garden in her new urban environment, but comes up with an idea that involves not just visionary thinking, but hard work in involving a community in her efforts. She finds that "gardens take hard work," but also reward in community-building ways in this fine picture book of discovery.

Grow: A Family Guide to Plants and How to Grow Them
Riz Reyes, author
Sarah Boccaccini Meadows, illustrators
Harry N. Abrams
195 Broadway, 9th Floor, New York, NY 10007
9781419756658, $22.99, HC, 64pp

Synopsis: Young readers will enjoy discovering 15 plants and fungi with life-changing powers and learn how to grow them at home with "Grow: A Family Guide to Plants and How to Grow Them". Here they will meet such surprising plant relatives such as the tasty tomato who is also the cousin of deadly nightshade!

"Grow: A Family Guide to Plants and How to Grow Them" also unearths their interesting stories such as lettuce being the first plant to be grown in space! Step-by-step instructions to grow and care for each one, whether you have a big backyard garden or a sunny windowsill, add to the information and fun of "Grow: A Family Guide to Plants and How to Grow Them".

Critique: Accessibly written by horticulturalist Riz Reyes and impressively illustrated by Sara Boccaccini Meadows, "Grow: A Family Guide to Plants and How to Grow Them" is the ideal and thoroughly 'kid friendly' introduction to growing plants for families everywhere. While also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99), "Grow: A Family Guide to Plants and How to Grow Them" is an especially recommended addition to family, elementary school, middle school, and community library Gardening collections for children ages 8-12.

Editorial Note #1: Rizanino Reyes is a horticulturalist, speaker, and educator. Growing up in the Philippines, Reyes spent his childhood on a fruit plantation managed by his father before moving to the Pacific Northwest at age seven. Upon arrival in the United States, Reyes learned the names of the new and strange flowers and continued to nurture his love of horticulture ("the art and science of plants") at the University of Washington.

Editorial Note #2: Sara Boccaccini Meadows is a British-born illustrator based in Los Angeles. Her playful and illustrative work, created in watercolor, gouache, and ink pen, and inspired by the great outdoors, has won her an audience of a quarter of a million followers on Instagram.

I Love Strawberries!
Shannon Anderson, author
Jaclyn Singquett, illustrator
Feeding Minds Press
9781948898065, $17.99, HC

Synopsis: Through Jolie's comical scrapbook-style journal entries, young readers will learn how she convinces the "old people" (aka her parents) to let her grow her own strawberries. Growing strawberries is a lot of work and responsibility, but Jolie is ready with the help of her faithful rabbit Munchy! Together they find out just how delicious, rewarding, and sometimes complicated it can be to grow your own food.

Creating a garden calendar and notebook, how strawberries grow, what pests to look out for in a garden, why ladybugs are helpful, and how a good gardener takes care of strawberry plants are all explained in this fun and educational picture book story by the team of author/storyteller Shannon Anderson and artist/illustrator Jaclyn Sinquett.

Informational backmatter includes tips on growing strawberries, an explanation of integrated pest management for greener, safer gardening, and even tips for how to find a pick your own strawberry patch near you. "I Love Strawberries" makes a great read before a family trip to a strawberry patch, a garden store, or in a classroom talking about healthy eating and growing your own food.

Critique: Fun and informative from beginning to end, "I Love Strawberries" will be an immediately and enduringly popular addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for children ages 4-8 who have an interest in gardening and the environment.

Editorial Note #1: Shannon Anderson has taught for twenty-five years, from first grade through college level. Shannon is also an award-winning children's book author and has served as the Indiana Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators Regional Advisor for many years. She maintains an informative website at

Editorial Note #2: Jaclyn Sinquett grew up playing in her dad's garden, feeding worms to box turtles, and tossing French fries to seagulls at the Jersey shore. An illustrator of books for children, She maintains her artwork website at

The Self-Help Shelf

I Am Thinking My Life
Allysun Atwater, author
Stevie Lewis, illustrator
Bala Kids
c/o Shambhala Publications, Inc.
300 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston, MA 02115-4544
9781611808971, $16.95, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: Children will enjoy following along as a young girl discovers the relationship between her thoughts, actions, and her place in the world in "I Am Thinking My Life". This empowering story by the team of author/storyteller Allysun Atwater and artist/illustrator Stevie Lewis is all about dreaming, doing, and becoming, and how the power of positive thinking can transform and affect our lives (and the lives of those around us) forever.

Critique: With its theme of using our minds and imaginations to improve our lives (whatever our circumstances might be), "I Am Thinking My Life" is a welcome and recommended addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library Self-Esteem, Values, and Life Skills picture book collections for children ages 3-7. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "I Am Thinking My Life" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note #1: Allysun Atwater is an educator, author, and a non-practicing attorney. She grew up in Odessa, Texas, where she was a quintessential eighties latchkey kid and an avid reader with an insatiable love of the library. She has been a decades long practitioner of mindfulness and meditation, which have been key components in her chronic illness recovery plan. She has a website at

Editorial Note #2: Stevie Lewis is an illustrator of children's books. Her latest illustrated work includes "Moon! Earth's Best Friend" by Stacy McAnulty, "Where is our Library?" by Josh Funk, and the upcoming books "Tale of the Shadow King" by Daniel Haack and "Fatima's Great Outdoors" by Ambreen Tariq. There is a Stevie Lewis website at

I Am Able to Shine
Korey Watari, author
Mike Wu, illustrator
Two Lions
c/o Amazon Publishing
9781542031530, $17.99, 40pp

Synopsis: Each night a little girl named Keiko whispers to her crane, "I wish to change the world." She is kind, and she has big dreams. But at times she feels invisible; she knows some people misjudge her. Keiko is also loved, so she perseveres and stands strong. Over time, her confidence grows, she shares more of herself, and she helps lift up others -- and eventually lead them. She understands that no matter what, she can shine.

Critique: Charmingly illustrated and a thoroughly 'kid friendly' story with an important underlying life skill message about perseverance and self-esteem, "I Am Able to Shine" by the wife and husband team of author/storyteller Korey Watari and artist/illustrator Mike Wu is unabashedly and enthusiastically recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for children ages 3-7. It should be noted that "I Am Able to Shine" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99).

Editorial Note #1: Korey Watari is a sansei, or third-generation Japanese American, born and raised in Los Angeles. Korey has worked in the animation and fashion industries for companies such as Disney and the Gap. This is her first picture book. Those interested can learn more at or on Twitter at @tinyteru

Editorial Note #2: Mike Wu is the author and illustrator of the acclaimed, bestselling Ellie series, the first picture book of which was named one of NPR's best books of the year. He is also a Pixar artist and has worked on films including The Incredibles, Ratatouille, Up, Toy Story 3, Coco, and Soul. His illustrations have been hailed as "reminiscent of classics like Harry the Dirty Dog and Curious George." He has a website at and can be followed on Instagram at @wudog23

This Could Be You
Cindy Williams Schrauben, author
Julia Seal, illustrator
Cardnal Rule Press
PO Box 930237, Wixom, MI 48393
9781735345130, $16.95, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: Words for believing in yourself are the stars of "This Could Be You: Be Brave! Be True! Believe! Be You!", a sweetly charming picture book that empowers children of all abilities and backgrounds to not only believe in themselves but to be strong and resilient in the pursuit of their dreams. The theme is that a teacher, a scientist, an activist, or anything else could this be you. Through lyrical rhymes and vibrant illustrations the consistent message for young readers is that yes, it very well could be!

"This Could Be You" also comes with a free Reader's Guide for children. The guide contains interactive lesson plans that encourage children to adopt a growth mindset over a fixed one. One activity asks children to rewrite fixed mindset statements like "This is too hard!" and turn them into something positive. The guide is available for free download from the publisher website at

Critique: Also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99), and with its underlying message supporting the importance of self-confidence, "This Could Be You: Be Brave! Be True! Believe! Be You!" by author/storyteller Cindy Williams Schrauben and artist/illustrator Julia Seal is especially and unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for ages 4-8.

The LGBT Shelf

Pride: An Inspirational History of the LGBTQ+ Movement
Stella Caldwell
Penguin Workshop
c/o Penguin Young Readers Group
9780593382943, $14.99, HC, 128pp

Synopsis: The LGBTQ+ community is so much more than rainbow flags and the month of June. "Pride: An Inspirational History of the LGBTQ+ Movement" by Stella Caldwell is a beautifully designed and dynamic book with which young readers will learn about LGBTQ+ groundbreaking events, including historic pushes for equality and the legalization of same-sex marriages across the world. They will dive into the phenomenal history of queer icons from ancient times to the present and read about Harvey Milk, Marsha P. Johnson, Audre Lorde, and more.

Including several personal current essays from inspiring young, LGBTQ+ people, Pride: An Inspirational History of the LGBTQ+ Movement" encourages young readers to take pride in their identity and the identities of those around them. To note just learn about LGBTQ+ history but to take pride in it!

Critique: The lively four-color interior, including photographs and bold illustrations, enhances the text and makes "Pride: An Inspirational History of the LGBTQ+ Movement " a beautiful and dynamic addition to any collection. Especially timely when anti-gay bigots all around the country are now trying to suppress LGBTQ+ information and history from elementary school curriculums and remove LGBTA+ books from school and community libraries, "Pride: An Inspirational History of the LGBTQ+ Movement" should be a part of every elementary school, middle school, and community library collection in every city, town and village in America.

Editorial Note: Currently residing in Oxfork, UK, Stella Caldwell is an experienced children's author. She studied English Literature at university, and has worked in book publishing as an editor and author for many years.

The Temperature of Me and You
Brian Zepka
9781368064712, $17.99

Brian Zepka's The Temperature of Me and You tells of teen Dylan Highmark, who is facing a boring winter of work at the Dairy Queen until he falls in love with a boy who may be trouble. As they spend time together and grow their affection, the unexpected happens as Dylan begins coughing flames and finds he is latching onto more than just a romance. Fantasy and reality mingle in a love story that takes a different turn than most, proving delightfully unexpected.

Books in Series

Shattered Midnight
Dhonielle Clayton
9781368046428, $18.99

The second novel in "The Mirror" series, Dhonielle Clayton's Shattered Midnight is a young adult story set in 1928 New Orleans. It tells of Zora Broussard, who is on the run from an accident she caused by using her errant magic. She's just trying to blend into her relatives' family life and be normal, but Zora faces a final decision about her evolving powers and her role as a young Black woman living in the South. The weave of fairy tale and cultural insights during segregation makes for a revealing, unusual story with facets that defy the usual staid categorization of a fantasy read.

Big Ideas for Little Environmentalists
$8.99 each

The board book biography series "Big Ideas for Little Environmentalists" ($8.99 each) features the biographies of four different individuals who worked for environmental causes, presenting each in a board book for young readers and read-aloud parents. Lovely drawings by Robin Rosenthal attract a younger audience than is usually presented with either biographies or environmental stories.

Maureen McQuerry's Preservation With Aldo Leopold (9780593323724) surveys Leopold's ideas about preserving wilderness areas. His ideas ("...we should treat our world - the water, sky, ground, and animals - like we would treat a neighbor.") are quite accessible to the very young as kids are invited to consider their own connections to nature.

Ecosystems with Rachel Carson (9780593323649) presents links between how Carson viewed the world around her and how she established important research connections between ecosystems and human lives.

Restoration with Wangari Maathai (9780593323687) surveys a Kenyan environmentalist who planted trees to make peoples' lives better. Her story and efforts demonstrate how individuals can improve both the land and human society.

Conservation with Jane Goodall (9780593323601) follows Goodall's love for all animals and chimps in particular. Her decision to help save them also asks big questions and encourages kids to reflect on them, providing answers to help young readers understand their connections to the world around them.

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.

Ear Worm!
Jo Knowles, author
Galia Bernstein, illustrator
9781536207835, $17.99

Christine Irvin

A musical treat for the ear and eye, this antic tale of a worm on a mission doubles as a cozy bedtime book. This book is sure to get the little ones up dancing about and asking for an encore. The cover makes you want to dance before you even open the book! Filled with repetition, add-ons, and lively illustrations, it will be everyone's favorite. (Ages 2-5)

Mystery at Sea: A Noah's Ark Tale
Sylvie R. Bordzuk
Red Penguin Books
9781952859830, $9.95

Deb Greenberg

Go on a treasure hunt with the animals on Noah's Ark, as they search for Noah's "what'sits-name" that disappeared. Kids are sure to enjoy the rhyming words and colorful illustrations as they cruise from the anteater all the way to the zebra to see if their favorite animals can help him. Do they solve the mystery at sea? The perfect picture book for read-alouds or for beginning readers. (Ages 2-7)

I Am Able to Shine
Korey Watari, author
Mike Wu, illustrator
Two Lions
9781542031530, $17.99

Christine Irvin

Keiko often feels invisible to others. As an Asian American, she looks different from many of the kids around her and feels that she is often ignored. But Keiko knows she is loved by her family and she is strong, and she wants to "change the world." She taps her inner courage and gives herself a pep talk each day. Little by little, she finds her place and becomes a leader in her world. This is an uplifting story about finding yourself. The story is based on author Korey Watari's personal experience. (Ages 3-7)

Scarlet's Tale
Audrey Vernick, author
Peter Jarvis, illustrator
Little, Brown
9781368043083, $17.99

Christine Irvin

When Scarlet was born, her parents did the usual counting. Two eyes. One nose. Ten fingers. Ten toes. Also: one long, fluffy, fuzzy, furry tail. That was a surprise.... Author Audrey Vernick puts a delightful twist on a new tail by delivering a fun story that teaches children that it's okay to be different. (Ages 4-8)

Take Off Your Brave
Nadim, poet
Yasmeen Ismail, illustrator
9781536223163, $17.99

Christine Irvin

Look at the world through the eyes of a 4-year-old in preschool, and I guarantee you will see things in a different way. This delightful book is filled with poems written mostly by Nadim during his year of preschool, but there are also some poems by his sister and some of the kids in Nadim's class. You can just feel the love and hope shining through the pages of this book. I would like to see another edition with more insightful poems! (Ages 4-8)

Ready for the Spotlight!
Jaime Kim
9781536205183, $17.99

Christine Irvin

It's tough when you feel you are always in someone else's shadow, particularly when that someone is your older sister and she always gets the spotlight when you know you're ready for it. Will Tessie find a way to share the spotlight with her big sister, Maya, or will she always be left in the shadows? This is a story many kids can relate to, one that is written well and filled with expressive, kid-friendly illustrations. (Ages 4-8)

Everywhere with You
Carlie Sorosiak, author
Devon Holzwarth, illustrator
Walker Books
9781536214970, $18.99

Christine Irvin

There are two houses: one where a young girl lives and one where a dog lives. The houses are separated by a fence but that doesn't stop the two from forging a bond. The girl comes to the fence night after night and reads books to the dog. This is a touching story about friendship between human and animals, written in a kidfriendly manner with expressive illustrations. (Ages 4-8)

Wombat Underground: A Wildfire Survival Story
Sarah L. Thomson, author
Charles Santoso, illustrator
Little, Brown
9780316707060, $18.99

Christine Irvin

When the forest catches on fire, Wombat burrows into the safe den he has dug deep in the ground. But he's not alone; other animals come to him for shelter. Inspired by the true stories of fires in the Australian forests, author Sarah L. Thomson teaches kids not only about wombats, but also about other creatures native to Australia. The Author's Note at the end of the book offers additional information about forest fires and how they affect Australia's wildlife. (Ages 4-8)

Dino Pajama Party
Laurie Wallmark, author
Michael Robertson, illustrator
Running Press Kids
9780762497751, $17.99

Christine Irvin

Who wants to go to bed? These dinos don't. They want to have a pajama party! And they do. Written in lively verse and filled with colorful illustrations, this delightful book will have youngsters dancing along with the dinos as they all prepare for bed. (Ages 4-8)

The Star Jumped Over the Moon
John Schlimm, author
Susanna Covelli, illustrator
9781641705769, $17.99

Christine Irvin

What happens when a little star finds himself all alone in a tree? He tries so hard to get back into the sky, but he just can't make it work. Days turn into weeks, which turn into months. As the seasons change, the little star wonders if he will ever find his way home. Delightful illustrations, repetitious and lyrical text, and an endearing storyline will have young readers rooting for the little star all the way to the end. (Ages 4-8)

Lucy's Marathon
Jane Huddleston, author
David Robinson, illustrator
Sunburst City Dragons
9781838308063, $11.99

Deb Greenberg

The dragon clan is at it again in another rhyming tale in the Sunburst City Dragons series. Dragon Lucy bakes gingerbread? A llama and a camel in a marathon? Can Lucy run a race in the human world? A runner in a dragon costume? Follow along to see if Lucy can accomplish her dream. Based on stories the author's family created about ten dragons in a cave up a hill that looks like a sleeping dragon. (Ages 4-8)

Courage is Contagious: Codas and the Coronavirus
Smart Start LLC
Smart Start LLC
9781736738108, $10.99

Deb Greenberg

Kids can relate to Codas right from the beginning, as he doesn't understand why he can't go to school and see his friends. Follow along as he adjusts to virtual learning, is taught about the importance of sanitation, learns ways to feel empowered, and is eventually able to go back to school. With the included teaching activities, you'll want to add this to your stack of informative and educational books about Covid. (Ages 4-8)

Honey Harvest
Elissa Kerr, author
Zoe Saunders, illustrator
Scenic Route Publishing
9781735236353, $18.99

Deb Greenberg

Did you know that jars full of honey are magically produced and appear on store shelves? Well, not exactly, but if you're wondering how the jars get filled, read this wonderful introduction to the tools and traditions involved in beekeeping and harvesting honey. Tag along with a little girl as she learns about the process: after the frames go through the extractor and the honey is bottled, the wax is removed. Super interesting and informative, and also includes instructions in the back about harvesting and storing this sweet delight. (Ages 4-8)

Theo's Birthday
Jane Huddleston, author
David Robinson, illustrator
Sunburst City Dragons
9781838308049, $11.99

Deb Greenberg

It's Theo the dragon mechanic's birthday in another story from the Dragons series, as he goes off to work, unaware that his dragon friends are planning something special. Can they pull it off? Bright and engaging illustrations and rhyming text entertain little readers and spark their imaginations, as they'll be looking and listening for clues that dragons do exist. Based on stories created by the author's family about ten dragons in a cave up a hill that looks like a sleeping dragon. Ages (4-8)

Baloney and Friends: Dream Big!
Greg Pizzoli
Little, Brown
9780316218559, $12.99

Diana Perry

Another misadventure with Baloney, Peanut, Krabbit, and Bizz. Young readers will surely enjoy this graphic novel as Baloney makes a cake for Bizz's birthday. As usual, his friends manage to mess it up. Now Baloney has a dilemma. How can he host the birthday party for Bizz without a cake? Kids will laugh out loud as Baloney's friends try to help him fix the problems they made. I believe these stories will definitely encourage them to want to read more. (Ages 6-9)

Acoustic Rooster's Barnyard Boogie Starring Indigo Blume
Kwame Alexander, author
Tim Bowers, illustrator
Sleeping Bear Press
9781534111141, $16.99

Christine Irvin

On the eve of singing at a community festival, a bout of stage fright threatens a little girl's confidence. This delightful picture book is filled with great illustrations, a lively text, colorful
characters, and just plain fun. Follow Indigo as the animals in the barnyard help her overcome her stage fright. (Ages 6-8)

The Wind's Tale
As told by Paul Steven Stone
Carla Carey, illustrator
Eifrig Publishing
9781632332912, $12.99

Deb Greenberg

Simple yet thought-provoking words combine magically with amazing watercolor illustrations to tell the story of a boy who cannot speak or move but is still able to experience a world of imagination, an ability that only his older brother can recognize. Look out the window with him and see the seagulls, the setting sun, and the stories told by the wind, and learn a lesson about focusing on what we have been given. (Ages 5-10)

Jefferson Measures a Moose
Mara Rockliff, author
S.D. Schindler, illustrator
9780763694104, $17.99

Christine Irvin

Thomas Jefferson was wild about numbers. He was constantly counting, measuring, and observing things that caught his interest. He loved sharing his discoveries and reading the discoveries of others. But when a famous Frenchman published a book about America, Jefferson was appalled: all the information in the book was wrong! Detailed illustrations, interesting text, and an unusual story about a former president make this book great reading for children interested in learning more about historical figures. (Ages 6-9)

Millie's Book
Jane Huddleston, author
David Robinson, illustrator
Sunburst City Dragons
9781838308070, $11.99

Deb Greenberg

Join the Sunburst City Dragon crew on their adventures in the human world. The 10 friendly dragons must stay in their secret cave halfway up a mountain hidden from humans while they work and play. They're friends with two children who are often called upon to help them out. In this rhyming story with colorful and inviting illustrations, a dragon bike race fuels Millie's inspiration for a new book. (Ages 4-9)

Ase Omavuaye Otite
Independently Published
9781733544511, $15.99

Christine Irvin

Happystarville is a magical village deep in the forest filled with wonder and surprise. Until one boy decides to disobey the King - will his actions change Happystarville forever? The story teaches young readers a lesson about obedience and how badly things can go wrong when rules aren't followed. (Ages 6-12)

Bruno the Beekeeper: A Honey Primer
Aneta Frantiska Holasova
9781536214611, $19.99

Christine Irvin

This kid-friendly story about a bear that keeps honeybees gives young readers a glimpse into where honey comes from and how it is produced. The abundance of hand-drawn illustrations all have a warm, golden, honey-like color, and are sure to please any young reader who is interested in the topic. (Ages 7-10)

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

Diana Perry

A warm, cozy lap. The toasty smell of baking bread. Tasty food served in a bright-blue bowl. These make Haven's life as an indoor pet heaven. All thanks to her beloved human and rescuer, Ma Millie. But when Ma Millie becomes too sick to care for her, the cat's cozy life is turned upside down, and Haven decides she must seek out another human for help. This story reads more like an adventurous fairy tale in a realistic setting. I hope it makes young readers realize the love that they get from their pets. (Ages 8-12)

Embassy of the Dead
Will Mabbitt, author
Taryn Knight, illustrator
Walker Books
9781536210477, $16.99

Christine Irvin

When Jake Green opens a mysterious box containing a severed finger, he accidentally summons a grim reaper intent on dragging him to the Eternal Void (yes, it's as fatal as it sounds). Spooky characters, a haunting story line, some gruesome details, add a dash of creativity and you have a recipe for a satisfying read. The ending suggests a second course. Bon appetit. (Ages 8-12)

Bigfoot and the Gold Star Kid
Shelley Anne Richter
Doodle and Peck Publishing
9798985335101, $9.99

Diana Perry

Heistin's father was a soldier killed in Iraq. Now it's just him and his mom, a Gold Star family, living on the edge of a swamp. Since Mom must work, Heistin stays home by himself a lot. Between his chores and his comic books, he's usually not too afraid. Until one night he hears a loud noise and someone jiggles the doorknob. Young readers will find several revealing surprises, especially the ending. They'll also be able to put themselves in the place of what it's like to be a Gold Star kid. I loved the bigfoot facts at the end. (Ages 7-12)

The Rizzlerunk Club: The Big Bad Lies
Leslie Patricelli
9780763651053, $16.99

Diana Perry

Lily Lattuga finally feels settled after moving to a new town and starting the fourth grade at a new school. She gets to live right across the lake from her best friend, Darby, who loves frogs and drawing just as much as Lily does. They even have their own club: the Rizzlerunks. But then things start going wrong: the new boy in class is a liar and a bully, and Darby begins acting strangely - she even breaks the Rizzlerunk pledge of honesty and gets Lily into trouble! A great teaching tool to demonstrate to young readers just why lying never works. (Ages 8-12)

Keepers of the Secret Code
K.J. Williams and Teresa R. Kemp
Doodle and Peck Publishing
9781735830674, $10.99

Diana Perry

A poignant tale of an enslaved family making the difficult decision to "do their part" for their kinsmen instead of running together toward their own freedom. Young readers will not only enjoy the story, they'll really love the glossary of historic terms. I found this story courageous and uplifting. A must for every school and library. (Ages 8-12)

The Puffin Keeper
Michael Morpurgo, author
Benji Davies, illustrator
9780735271807, $17.99

Diana Perry

As a child, Allen is saved from a nautical disaster by Benjamin Postlethwaite, a solitary lighthouse keeper. Years later, Allen returns to the lighthouse, and the two nurse an injured young puffin back to health. When Allen is called up to fight in World War II, he's not sure he'll see his mother or Benjamin again, but his fond memories of his time at the lighthouse keep him going, even through prison camp. This is a grand adventure for young readers, boys and girls alike, but there are many moral lessons within like paying back someone who helped you. (Ages 9-12)

The Sisters of Straygarden Place
Hayley Chewins
9781536212273, $16.99

Christine Irvin

Silver grass that grows as tall as a house, wanderroot trees that float around in the air, a magic house, and characters with names like Tutto, Mysteriessa, Mayhap, and Pavonine. Put them all together and you have a wonderfully creative story about the importance of family and doing the right thing. (Ages 10-14)

The Brainiac's Book of the Climate and Weather
Rosie Cooper, author
Harriet Russell, illustrator
Thames & Hudson
9780500652466, $17.95

Christine Irvin

Packed with facts, trivia, stories, and interactive activities and written in a comicbook style, this is the perfect addition to any school science library as well as to a child's personal collection. Readers will learn the difference between climate and weather (and how they are interrelated) and why these topics are so important to our very survival. (Ages 9-12)

The Munchkins
Candice Zee
Independently Published
9781737233909, $9.99

Deb Greenberg

When thirteen quirky kids mysteriously appear at a children's home, a man named Casey Munch adopts all of them. At age ten, they stop aging and are gifted with special abilities like manifesting objects. Casey restricts the use of their powers and keeps them secret. Then Big Boss moves in next door and harasses the kids, desiring their powers for his own intentions. How does he know their names and that they have incredible abilities? Filled with suspense, this fantasy will have your middle-schoolers quickly turning pages to see the drama intensify as Big Boss infiltrates the family in ways they never imagined. (Ages 9-12)

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

Copyright ©2001

Site design by Williams Writing, Editing & Design