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Children's Bookwatch

Volume 31, Number 11 November 2021 Home | CBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice American History Shelf Picturebook Shelf
Historical Fiction Shelf Middle Grade Fiction Shelf YA Fiction Shelf
Fantasy/SciFi Shelf Pets/Wildlife Shelf Graphic Novel Shelf
Activity Shelf Music CD Shelf Christian Shelf
Religion/Spirituality Shelf Metaphysical Shelf Books in Series
Story Monsters Ink Shelf    

Reviewer's Choice

Literally the Coolest Book
Levi Plesset, author
Genevieve duCharme-Hill, illustrator
Pisgah Press, LLC
9781942016632, $17.95

Literally the Coolest Book reaches ages 4-8 with a picture book celebration of English language idioms. Colorfully illustrated by Genevieve duCharme-Hill, this approach provides parents and educators with an unusual opportunity to review the quirks of English in a delightfully amusing manner. Kids (and many an adult) who choose this book for its thought-provoking language reflections receive a fun series of contrasts between phrases and their translation. These range from "wild goose chase" and "knock your socks off" to what it means to "have a ton of friends."

Most of these phrases and descriptions will already be familiar, but Plesset's ability to help young readers differentiate between metaphor and language interpretations reinforces the difference between figurative and literal speech. The facing page contrasts between descriptions come alive with colorful drawings by duCharme-Hill, which add interest and emphasis to these wordplays and expressions.

Parents and educators who want to teach kids more about language usage, words, and expressions will find Literally the Coolest Book is quite literally the clearest interpretation of metaphors and meanings available for the young picture book reader and English language learner.

The American History Shelf

Separate No More
Lawrence Goldstone
Scholastic Focus
c/o Scholastic
557 Broadway New York, NY 10012
9781338592832, $18.99

Separate No More: The Long Road to Brown v. Board of Education by Lawrence Goldstone provides middle grades into early high school with a fine story of how the Supreme Court ruled that separate and equal were different. This focus on a landmark decision that continues to affect Americans in all walks of life provides a close inspection of Constitutional law that personalizes the fight and participants in a manner young history and civil rights readers won't readily forget.

The Picturebook Shelf

Child's Play
9781786285652 $17.99 hc
9781786285645 $8.99 pbk

Intended for children ages 3-7, Choices is a charming picturebook that uses a dark-skinned young girl's day at the pool as a metaphor for the many paths open to her in life. She can choose to stand out or blend in; to go wild or just take it easy; to share lunch with a new friend or dare to dive off the high board. The delightful illustrations add the perfect touch to this gentle and inspirational picturebook, highly recommended especially for public library children's collections.

Evie Doesn't Boo
D.L. Moore
Dorrance Publishing
9781644269268 $16.00 pbk / $11.00 ebook

Evie Doesn't Boo is an adorable softcover picturebook about a little girl ghost who doesn't want to scare people like her sisters. Evie's real talent is singing! Even though Evie Doesn't Boo is Halloween-themed, the positive message about accepting one's own true nature is welcome for all seasons. Evie Doesn't Boo is a delight to read aloud and share with little ones, and also makes an excellent bedtime storybook.

The Neighborhood Surprise
Sarah van Dongen
Tiny Owl
9781910328712, $16.99, HC, 32pp

The Neighborhood Surprise tells of Mrs. Fig's move to a retirement home, and a going-away party that involves the entire neighborhood in the effort. Vegan and vegetarian food must be made so everyone in the neighborhood can enjoy the celebration, and the multicultural cooking effort involves all different kinds of people who share the foods of their cultures. The story is a winning, lovely tale that celebrates diversity in people and food choices, and will delight parents looking to teach kids about neighborhood activities and supportive attitudes towards differences.

Jet the Cat (Is Not a Cat)
Phaea Crede, author
Terry Runyan, illustrator
Barefoot Books
2067 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge MA 02140
9781646861675, $8.99, PB, 32pp

Jet the Cat (Is Not a Cat) tells of a cat who is like any other cat... except that she enjoys swimming. But, everyone knows that cats hate water! Or, do they? Jet proves the legends wrong and also serves to illustrate differences and preferences as young kids receive a colorful, engaging tale of a cat who is unlike any other, and who is not afraid to show off his differences.

Charlie & Mouse Lost and Found
Laurel Snyder, author
Emily Hughes, illustrator
Chronicle Books
680 Second Street, San Francisco, CA 94107
9781452183404, $14.99, HC, 52pp

Charlie and Mouse are finding surprises in all sorts of unexpected places. After Mouse's beloved blanket is lost and then found, they find a lost dog (and eventually her owner), seek out some ice cream, and discover a new puppy friend to take home at last.

"Charlie & Mouse Lost and Found" by the team of author/storyteller Laurel Snyder and artist/illustrator Emily Hughes is the fifth book in the series and another wonderfully entertaining picture book story that is unreservedly recommended for family, elementary school, and community library collections for young readers ages 6-9.

The Dog Walk
Sven Nordqvist
Floris Books
97811782507437, $19.95

The Dog Walk provides a wordless picture book experience that will delight young dog fans who like tales that are whimsical and pictures that are busy, colorful, and detailed.

Grandma's dog is ready for a walk. As boy and dog traverse some odd urban wonders in the course of their walk, read-aloud parents will want to interact with the very young to point out many delights to be discovered in these image-packed pages of adventure. The story and its progression invite kids to hone an attention to detail and artistic surprises that precedes Where's Waldo? and similar explorations.

Up Up You Go Jo!
Mariam Shapera, author
I Cenizal, illustrator
Tellwell Talent
9780228850731, $19.99, HC, 34pp

One morning, music-loving Jo wakes up to discover that his musical notes have disappeared! Where could they have gone to? Children will thoroughly enjoy joining Jo on a dreamy space adventure as he goes in search of his musical notes! Charmingly illustrated throughout, "Up Up You Go Jo!" is especially recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for children ages 4-8. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Up Up You Go Jo!" is also readily available in a paperback edition ( 9780228850748, $14.99).

Free to Be Elephant Me
Giles Andreae, author
Guy Parker-Rees, illustrator
Scholastic, Inc.
557 Broadway New York, NY 10012
9781338734270, $18.99,

Picture book readers will find Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees create a fine, whimsical takeoff on the 'free to be' me Margo Thomas theme of decades ago, albeit for young people, in Free to Be Elephant Me. A parade of young elephants seek to impress King Elephant Mighty, but there's one youngster who never seems to make a good impression: Num-Num. He appears to harbor no special talent. Or, does he? Picture book readers will find this an inviting story of differences and personal abilities.

Candlewick Press
99 Dover Street, Somerville, MA 02144

Three new picture books are fine, high-quality presentations that will delight kids looking for superior illustrations and stories.

Mary Lyn Ray's How to Have a Birthday (9781536207415, $17.99) provides a lovely survey of how the very young can understand a birthday's importance: "At breakfast you might be given a crown. Because your birthday is to celebrate that you are here. It's to tell you that you matter." Simple illustrations by Cindy Derby emphasize the importance of the day and various options, both celebratory and internal, for recognizing its value.

Anuska Allepuz's The Walloos' Big Adventure (9781536215311, $17.99) explores what transpires when the Walloo family visits a tropical island. All seems on track for a fun exploration until the land begins to move under them. What can the Walloo family do? An adventure with a surprise twist will delight young readers, while the drawings are fun embellishments.

Wade Bradford's There's A Dodo on the Wedding Cake (9781536208849, $16.99) tells of Mr. Snore, who returns to the Sharemore Hotel to play his violin at a fancy wedding. As he eyes the fancy cake, trouble arises that requires Mr. Snore to step up to save the day. A whimsical adventure enjoys equally zany drawings by Kevin Hawkes as the story takes a number of surprising twists.

All three are excellent picture book stories that excel in the unexpected.


Three picture books works stand out from the crowd and are top recommendations for collections seeking lasting lending value and parents looking for exceptional works.

Theo Thesaurus: The Dinosaur Who Loved Big Words by Shelli R. Johannes (9780593205518, $17.99) receives zany, fun drawings by Mike Moran as it explores a word-loving dino who can't wait to share his passion with others. What he doesn't plan on is a series of conundrums which arise because of them, and which causes misinterpretations and mishaps when his friends embrace a different way of communicating.

Maile Meloy's The Octopus Escapes (9781984812698, $17.99) receives fun drawings by Felicita Sala, who brings to life the story of an aquarium octopus who misses his open sea home. "The same old dinner plopped into the same still water" in his adopted home, and everything is too similar. What's a curious octopus to do? The solution to his problem involves alleviating the boredom that comes when an intelligent species is regulated to a static environment. Kids receive insights on how the octopus differs from other sea creatures during the course of a delightful adventure.

The Giggles Are Coming! by Christopher Eliopoulos (9780593109311, $17.99) is a whimsical story of kids who just can't escape The Giggles. Two best friends look forward to the first day of school, but when The Giggles strike, they worry that their first impression with a new teacher will go awry. How can they thwart The Giggles? Ignoring them doesn't help.

All three are fine picture book stories that deserve a place in any children's book collection.

Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY, 10020-1513

These new picture book arrivals provide young readers with fun stories that fit with the Fall season, but can be enjoyed year-round.

Thankful by Elaine Vickers (9781534477346, $17.99) is a story of gratitude that receives excellent drawings by Samantha Cotterill as it tells of a little girl who writes down the things she is thankful for, making a chain of notes about her observations. From simple comforts to life's good points, this story was inspired by Elaine Vickers' personal family tradition of creating "thankful chains" and holds the ability to involve other families in the effort of acknowledging and representing thanks in a manner especially appropriate for the Thanksgiving season, but applicable to year-round thinking.

Halloween is upon us, and just in time for that holiday is Jessie Sima's Hardly Haunted (9781534441705, $17.99), the story of a spooky old house that just wants to provide a home to her new family. House has a problem, though. With all the creaking and spooky sounds she sports, her family might think she's haunted, not happy. Who would want to live in a haunted house? House must find a way of reaching out with her true identity in this fun story.

The Fan Brothers create an imaginative tale for kids ages 4-8 with It Fell From the Sky (9781534457621, $17.99), a beautifully illustrated picture book about an object that fells near Spider's house and brings with it community amazement and a conundrum. Spider claims ownership and builds a display so all inspects can come admire it. Of course, he has to charge admission for his efforts. But the more he tries to control and supervise its magic, the more other insects become alienated from the opportunity to appreciate it. Largely black and white drawings blend with color to capture the milieu of Spider's dilemma and the community's response to amazing new possibilities.

These are fine, thought-provoking stories highly recommended for a wide audience.

Sleeping Bear Press

Three new picture books are delightful additions to any young reader's collection.

Frank Murphy and Charnaie Gordon's A Friend Like You (9781534111127, $16.99) celebrates the act of making new friends as it explores what it means to be a friend and how different kinds of friendships evolve. Kids receive not only definitions of friendships, but insights into what makes different kinds of friends special, whether they be temporary relationships or long-lasting associations. Kayla Harren provides lovely drawings that celebrate diversity in process of supporting this story's message about supportive relationships.

Susan Blackaby's Where's My Cow? (9781534111073, $16.99) enjoys whimsical drawings by Scott Brundage, whose colorful portrait of Egret, a bird afraid to leave his cow, explores the idea of leaving home and returning to a beloved place and person. In order for Egret to find his way back, Cow must find a way to stand out so Egret can better fit in and find her.

A fun story of creative problem-solving evolves. Jennifer Sattler's Rock and Vole (9781534111035, $16.99) tells of a creature of habit whose routines are the same day after day. Until one day, when she decides she wants to travel. Even this endeavor, though, must be meticulously planned down to the second. However, travel often involves surprises. As Vole discovers a major obstacle to her goal of satisfaction, she must learn new routines and find friendship in unexpected places if she's to gain pleasure from life.

All three picture books for young raders are pleasing, involving stories.

Wm. B. Eerdmans
4035 Park East Ct. SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49546

Two new picture books offer fine stories to young readers and read-aloud parents.

Bear With Me by Noemi Vola (9780802855787, $17.99) tells of an uninvited bear who comes over and just won't leave. His presence disrupts the household and changes everything. Parents will appreciate the opportunity to use the bear's lessons to each kids about being good guests: "I'm not talking about any old bear, but the very worst bear on the whole entire planet. The most ugly, fat, fierce, nasty, annoying, naughty, hairy, horrible, rude, out-of-place, demanding, get the gist."

The simple black and white drawings paint an engaging portrait of trouble. Dieter Boge and Elsa Klever's 189 Canaries (9780802855749, $17.99) tells of a yellow canary who sings in a cozy room in Germany, until a bird dealer transports the canary far from his beloved home. It's a long journey, and everything is different to the little bird. Will he ever feel like singing his delight again? Parents who use this story for read-aloud will have the opportunity to teach kids about a sense of place and helping pets, while an afterword of notes on the history of canaries provides plenty of details about their natural history and presence in human lives.

Both of these wholesome and entertaining picture books for young children are inviting reads.

The Historical Fiction Shelf

The Year We Were Famous
Carole Estby Dagg
Independently Published
9781737626305, $15.49, PB, 290pp

An inherently fascinating novel that is based upon a real historical event, "The Year We Were Famous: Helga and Clara Estby's Walk across a Changing America" by Carole Estby Dagg is based on the true story of Clara Estby and her suffragist mother, Helga, who walked 4,000 miles from their farm in Mica Creek, Washington, to New York City in 1896 in a heroic attempt to win $10,000 that would save the family's farm and prove women could do it.

Equipped only with satchels containing compass and maps, first-aid supplies, journals, pistol, and a curling iron, they headed east along the railroad tracks. In 232 days, they wore out thirty-two pairs of shoes, crossed mountains, deserts, and plains, and survived a highwayman attack, flash floods, blizzards, and days with out food and water. For a year, they were famous as they met governors and mayors, camped with Indians, and visited the new president-elect himself, William McKinley.

They intended to write a book about their adventures, but because of the way their trip ended, their journals were burned. Fortunately, newspapers across the country reported on their travels, and "The Year We Were Famous" is based on those articles, with imagination filling the gaps between known facts.

A compelling and entertaining read from cover to cover, "The Year We Were Famous: Helga and Clara Estby's Walk across a Changing America" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to personal reading lists, as well as highschool and community library YA Fiction collections.

The Sand Pounder
M.J. Evans
Dancing Horse Press
9781733020480, $12.95

Young adult historical fiction readers will find The Sand Pounder an intriguing story. It follows a young equestrian who wants to join the U.S. Coast Guard-enlisted horsemen who patrolled the beaches of the West Coast on horseback to watch for an invasion by sea during World War II.

Like everyone around her, seventeen-year-old Jane is concerned about the war and its threat. Forced to grow up early when her parents both died of polio two years earlier, Jane and her brother Luke live in the family's home in the Tillamook Valley in Oregon. Though Hawaii seems very far away, Pearl Harbor's bombing brings the war too close to home. How can she help?

Jane would use her riding skills and her beloved horse Star to help patrol the beaches, but there's one problem -- women and girls are not normally part of this kind of war effort. There's only one solution. As Jane struggles with her new role and secret identity as John Morris, she must make many adjustments to support her new persona: "Pushing down her natural response to express concern, Jane tried to respond as she felt a man would. "Whoa, cowboy! Is that how you were taught to ride?" Jane said as she ran over to him." When she and fellow Sand Pounder Stephen Peters come upon a man who claims to be an American citizen escaped from a Japanese sub, their choices become even more does their friendship, which moves from being comrades to an infatuation and something more, on Jane's part.

History comes to life, as do women's issues and roles during World War II, as Jane struggles with her revised role and its consequences. M.J. Evans does an excellent job of winding the era's history and the lesser-known job of the Sand Pounders into a realistic story of a mature teen's determination to make a difference in her world. Black and white illustrations by Hasitha Eranga and Gaspar Sabater support the story with visuals peppered throughout. Teens interested in realistic historical fiction that is fast-paced, well written, and character-driven by a strong young woman and her dual passion for horses and her country will find The Sand Pounder an inviting read.

The Middle Grade Fiction Shelf


These middle grade reads provide leisure audiences with compelling stories.

Ann Hood's Jude Banks, Superhero (9780593094075, $16.99) tells of young Jude, who loved his sister Katie. Katie died suddenly, and Jude is convinced he was the one who killed her. He must not only go on without her, struggling with the vast changes her absence brings to his world and family, but deals with his guilt, which no other friend can understand. Until new girl Clementine, who also lost a sibling, enters his life. Ann Hood crafts a memorable story of loss, recovery, and friendship that is compelling and involving that will reach middle grades with a warm story of a twelve-year-old's dilemmas.

Ann Braden's Flight of the Puffin (9781984816061, $17.99) will reach advanced elementary to early middle grades with the story of Libby, who comes from a line of bullies and longs to be different. But, how can she change when she's always getting into trouble? Three other kids in different milieus also face their special challenges. It seems unlikely their concerns and worlds will intersect, given geographical distance, but a card with a message sets off a chain reaction in which each character grows and comes to revise their sense of purpose and place in their world. The juxtaposition of these very different lives is well-done and unexpected.

The YA Fiction Shelf

A Clash of Steel: A Treasure Island Remix
C.B. Lee
Feiwel & Friends
c/o Macmillan
9781250750372, $18.99 hc / $10.99 Kindle

Synopsis: 1826. The sun is setting on the golden age of piracy, and the legendary Dragon Fleet, the scourge of the South China Sea, is no more. Its ruthless leader, a woman known only as the Head of the Dragon, is now only a story, like the ones Xiang has grown up with all her life. She desperately wants to prove her worth, especially to her mother, a shrewd businesswoman who never seems to have enough time for Xiang. Her father is also only a story, dead at sea before Xiang was born. Her single memento of him is a pendant she always wears, a simple but plain piece of gold jewelry.

But the pendant's true nature is revealed when a mysterious girl named Anh steals it, only to return it to Xiang in exchange for her help in decoding the tiny map scroll hidden inside. The revelation that Xiang's father sailed with the Dragon Fleet and tucked away this secret changes everything. Rumor has it that the legendary Head of the Dragon had one last treasure - the plunder of a thousand ports - that for decades has only been a myth, a fool's journey.

Xiang is convinced this map could lead to the fabled treasure. Captivated with the thrill of adventure, she joins Anh and her motley crew off in pursuit of the island. But the girls soon find that the sea - and especially those who sail it - are far more dangerous than the legends led them to believe.

Critique: A Clash of Steel: A Treasure Island Remix is a young adult novel inspired by the classic "Treasure Island", and set amid the South China Sea in 1826, when the golden age of piracy is coming to a close. Xiang is a young woman estranged from her business-focused mother, and Xiang's only link to her deceased father is her golden pendant. When another girl shrouded in mystery tells Xiang that her pendant is the key to a legendary hidden cache of pirate's plunder, they embark on a high seas adventure to find it - but the seas are a dangerous place, traveled by ruthless outlaws! Exciting and enthralling from cover to cover, Clash of Steel will appeal to readers of all ages and is highly recommended for both personal and public library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that Clash of Steel is also available in a Kindle edition ($10.99).

Editorial Note: C.B. Lee is a Lambda Literary Award nominated writer of young adult and middle grade fiction. Her works include A Clash of Steel: A Treasure Island Remix (Feiwel and Friends), the Sidekick Squad series (Duet Books), Ben 10 graphic novels (Boom! Studios), Out Now: Queer We Go Again (HarperTeen), Minecraft: The Shipwreck (Del Rey Books), and From A Certain Point Of View: The Empire Strikes Back (Del Rey Books). Lee's work has been featured in Teen Vogue, Wired Magazine, Hypable, Tor's Best of Fantasy and Sci Fi and the American Library Association's Rainbow List.

Danny Chung Sums It Up
Maisie Chan, author
Natelle Quek, illustrator
Harry N. Abrams
9781419748219, $16.99, HC, 240pp

Eleven-year-old Danny's life is turned upside down when his Chinese grandmother comes to live with his family in England. Things get worse when Danny finds out he'll have to share his room with her, and she took the top bunk!

At first, Danny is frustrated that he can't communicate with her because she doesn't speak English -- and because he's on the verge of failing math and Nai Nai was actually a math champion back in the day. It just feels like he and his grandmother have nothing in common. His parents insist that Danny help out, so when he's left to look after Nai Nai, he leaves her at the bingo hall for the day to get her off his back. But he soon discovers that not everyone there is as welcoming as he expected !

Through the universal languages of math and art, Danny realizes he has more in common with his Nai Nai than he first thought. Filled with heart and humor, "Danny Chung Sums It Up" shows that traversing two cultures is possible and worth the effort, even if it's not always easy.

Original, entertaining, and with an important underlying message about prejudice and multi-generational family life, "Danny Chung Sums It Up" is very highly recommended, especially for family, elementary school, middle school, and community library general fiction collections for children ages 8-12. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Danny Chung Sums It Up" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

How It Happens
Jean Alicia Elster
Wayne State University Press
9780814348697, $18.99 pbk / $9.99 Kindle

Synopsis: How It Happens follows the story of author Jean Alicia Elster's maternal grandmother, Dorothy May Jackson. Born in Tennessee in 1890, Dorothy May was the middle daughter of Addie Jackson, a married African-American housekeeper at one of the white boardinghouses in town, and Tom Mitchell, a commanding white attorney from a prominent family. Through three successive generations of African-American women, Elster intertwines the fictionalized adaptations of the defining periods and challenges - race relations, miscegenation, sexual assault, and class divisions - in her family's history.

A continuation of the plots begun in Elster's two novels Who's Jim Hines? and The Colored Car, How It Happens continues the story for an older audience and begins with Addie's life before the turn of the century in the South as a married Black woman with three biracial daughters navigating the relationship between her husband and Tom Mitchell. Later the story shifts to Addie's daughter Dorothy May's experiences both as a child and later, as a teacher who, choosing between her career and marriage to a man she barely knows, moves to Detroit. The story moves along with Dorothy May's daughter Jean, who, with the support of her mother and the memory of her grandmother, confronts and comes to terms with her role in society and the options available to her as a college-educated Black woman in the post-World War II industrial North. While there is struggle and hardship for each of these women, they each build off one other and continue to demand space in the world in which they live.

Written for young adult readers, How It Happens carries the heart through the obstacles that still face women of color today and persists in holding open the door of communication between generations.

Critique: A story that will resonate with young adults and adults alike How It Happens is a novel based on the true story of author Jean Elster's maternal grandmother, and continues the saga of Elster's previous novels Who's Jim Hines? and The Colored Car. How It Happens portrays the lives of black women in 1900's America, before and after World War II, and the challenges they face amid a society that seeks to strictly limit their options for marriage, education, careers, and everyday life. A captivating narrative of struggle and determination, which does not shy away from portraying class divisions, racism, and sexual assault in American society, How It Happens is highly recommended especially for school and public library YA Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that How It Happens is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

Editorial Note: A 2017 Kresge artist fellow and a former attorney, Jean Alicia Elster is a professional writer of fiction for children and young adults. She is the great-granddaughter of Addie Jackson, whose family story is the basis of How It Happens. Elster is the author of the Michigan Notable Books Who's Jim Hines? (Wayne State University Press, 2008) and The Colored Car (Wayne State University Press, 2013).

Scholastic, Inc.
557 Broadway New York, NY 10012

Three young adult titles offer diverse themes and engaging stories that will attract teen leisure readers with standout reads.

Brianna Bourne's You & Me at the End of the World (9781338712636, $18.99) tells of what happens when Hannah wakes up to silence and an empty city around her. Only Leo, a walking disaster, however attractive, remains. Can they survive in a world with no support systems? And how does the lack of people around them change their perceptions of who they are and their purpose in life? A thoroughly engrossing story evolves.

Jordan Sonnenblick's The Boy Who Failed Show and Tell (9781338647235, $17.99) provides middle graders with the story of Jordan, who feels that everything is going wrong this year, at school. His teacher hates him, his asthma is getting worse, he needs to find a home for too many pet snakes, and bullies threaten him. This and more challenges keep Jordan on his toes as he tries to develop better responses to a series of life adversities.

Josephine Against the Sea by Shakirah Bourne (9781338642087, $17.99) tells of eleven-year-old Josephine who is desperate to attract her often-absent fisherman father's attention to keep him from wanting to date. However, Josephine can't do enough to prevent this from happening. And an inadvertent wish complicates matters when Daddy brings home a new catch who is on to Josephine's methods of dissuading his romantic interests. A fine story of adaptation and understanding evolves.

The Fantasy/SciFi Shelf

Lis Anna-Langston
9781684630677, $16.23 Paper/$8.49 Kindle

Readers ages 8-11 who look for Christmas and sci-fi chapter books will find Gobbledy appealingly different in both its subject and adventure. Gobbledy is an alien found by eleven-year-old Dexter Duckworth and his brother, Dougal. He was hatched from a rock, and is lost on Earth. Dexter is "ready for adventure." He admits: "Mom said space is full of magic, but there isn't much magic since she left."

Black and white illustrations by Rich Powell pepper a story of children who stumble into an adventure that takes them away from the grief of missing their deceased mother. As the hole in their lives left by her absence and imagination is filled by the little alien's penchant for attracting trouble, young readers receive a lively story of an alien who 'gobbles' (thus, the children name him 'Gobbledy') his way into confrontational situations with adults and the mysterious Planetary Society who would capture him.

This chapter book embraces many different themes, from aliens and holidays to grief, recovery, and adventure. Lis Anna-Langston creates an engaging and action-filled fantasy that rests on the shoulders of two realistic kids who find their good intentions constantly thwarted as they attempt to save Gobbledy and his beloved rock.

Gobbledy is evocative and unexpected in its twists and turns as Dexter, Dougal, and friend Fi learn about the kinds of magic that stay in one's heart forever, even when everything seems to end. Chapter book readers and adults who encourage reading through choosing lively adventure-oriented stories that hold underlying messages about adaptation, courage, and grief will find Gobbledy a fine leisure read.

The Pets/Wildlife Shelf

As Large As Life
Jonny Marx
360 Degrees/Tiger Tales
9781944530341, $24.99

As Large As Life is beautifully illustrated by Sandhya Prabhat and captures the scale of different animals in nature as it explores 26 habitats that hold over 250 animals. A fold-out chart in back of the book allows for cross-comparisons of sizes, while each region of the world (the Himalayas, the Antarctic, and Africa, among others) receives a colorful inspection of the variety of creatures that life there. Suitable for eye-catching display, As Large As Life's gorgeous drawings allow kids to absorb animal facts and interconnected ecological information while attracting leisure readers.

The Graphic Novel Shelf

Jarad Greene
Harper Alley
c/o HarperCollins
9780063032859 $22.99 hc / $10.99 Kindle

Synopsis: When Jay starts eighth grade with a few pimples he doesn't think much of it at first... except to wonder if the embarrassing acne will disappear as quickly as it arrived. But when his acne goes from bad to worse, Jay's prescribed a powerful medication that comes with some serious side effects. Regardless, he's convinced it'll all be worth it if clear skin is on the horizon!

Meanwhile, school isn't going exactly as planned. All of Jay's friends are in different classes; he has no one to sit with at lunch; his best friend, Brace, is avoiding him; and - to top it off - Jay doesn't understand why he doesn't share the same feelings two of his fellow classmates, a boy named Mark and a girl named Amy, have for him. Eighth grade can be tough, but Jay has to believe everything's going to be a-okay... right?

Critique: A-Okay is a semi-autobiographical graphic novel for all ages, about a eighth-grader's struggle to find his place. Jay has serious problems with acne; his skin looks terrible and the prescription medicine to treat it has major side effects. His friends seem to be drifting away from him. Perhaps most confusing of all, two of his fellow classmates - a boy and a girl - are each attracted to him, but he doesn't seem to have feelings like that for anyone at all. The simple, colorful comic art tells a highly relatable, slice-of-life story of learning to accept oneself on the inside and out, and the challenges of maintaining friendships especially when one's common interests with friends diverge. A-Okay is highly recommended for young adults and adults alike, and a choice pick for both school and public library graphic novel collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that A-Okay is also available in a Kindle edition ($10.99).

The Activity Shelf

Mercury: 100 Piece Puzzle
Chronicle Books
9781797210346 $19.99

Created from photography from the archives of NASA, Mercury: 100 Piece Puzzle is an educational jigsaw puzzle for young people ages six and up. The large pieces are accessible to young hands, and the completed puzzle is a gorgeous, color-base map of the planet mercury, approximately 2.5 feet across. Mercury: 100 Piece Puzzle is an excellent rainy-day or playtime activity, and also makes a wonderful family gift.

The Music CD Shelf

Louis & Dan and the Invisible Band
Privately Published
$TBA CD / $7.92 MP3

Smorgasbord is an upbeat, all-ages album brimming with humor, smart lyrics, cheerful tunes, and a heady sense of celebration. The songs are a special treat for parents and families, including car trips, children's sleepovers, and rainy day playtime. Smorgasboard is highly recommended, for both personal and public library music collections. The tracks are The New Invisible Band, I'm a Turkey, Mind Your Monkey, Happy Day, Minneapolis the Musical City, What is a Family? (feat. Helen Forsythe), Joy to the World, and I'll Take Myself to Bed.

The Christian Shelf

c/o HarperCollins Children's Books

Zonderkidz has two newly published board books for children ages 1-4.

"The Beginner's Bible First 100 Bible Words" (9780310766858, $8.99, 22pp) is the perfect way to introduce little ones to their first words from the Bible. This brightly illustrated board book with its vibrant colors and child-friendly illustrations offers preschoolers with an opportunity to learn words and concepts from beloved stories from the Bible. This sturdy board book is perfect for little hands and contains engaging 3-D art with plenty of details to hold a young child's attention.

"The Beginner's Bible First 100 Animal Words" (9780310770633, $8.99, 22pp), with its child-friendly illustrations, is beautifully illustrated board book that offers: Emerging readers ages 0-4 an opportunity to learn words from beloved Bible stories; A sturdy format that is perfect for toddlers' little hands; Engaging 3D art with plenty of details to hold a young child's attention. The Beginner's Bible First 100 Animals Words is great for: Birthdays, Easter baskets, Children's Baptism and holiday gifting; Road trips, boredom busters, and activity time; Home school and Children's Ministry (Sunday school) use.

While very highly recommended for family, church, and community library board book collections for young children, it should be noted that both of them are also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99).

The Religion/Spirituality Shelf

Embracing Peace: Stories from the World's Faith Traditions
Rev. Vicki Michela Garlock, Ph.D., author
Raman Bhardwaj, illustrator
Stacy Gray, illustrator
Eaton Press
9781947486195, $20.00, PB, 157pp

A boy who is wiser than a king. A boar who saves the earth from the depths of the sea. A fire-keeper who stands between two brothers. A camel who waits on the signing of a treaty. What do all these stories have in common? They're all about peace! They're also drawn from the vast, ancient literature of the world's religions. Young readers of "Embracing Peace: Stories from the World's Faith Traditions" will travel through the ages and around the world as they learn about eight different faith traditions and the inspiring stories that are part of their lore. Nicely illustrated, "Embracing Peace: Stories from the World's Faith Traditions" is highly recommended for family, elementary school, middle school, Sunday School, and community library Religion/Spirituality collections for children ages 5-12.

The Metaphysical Shelf

A Natural History of Magick
Poppy David, author
Jessica Roux, illustrator
Quarto Group Children's Books
c/o Quarto Publishing Group USA
100 Cummings Center, Suite 265D, Beverly, MA 01915
9780711260276, $30.00, HC, 64pp

Featuring a gold foil-embossed cloth cover, a ribbon marker and sprayed gold edges, "A Natural History of Magick" by author/storyteller Poppy David and artist/illustrator Jessica Roux is a simply gorgeous volume is filled from cover to cover with intriguing sketches and precise notes detailing the secret world of magic, a natural force hidden all around us. Inside, children ages 7-9 will delight in discovering the history of magic and its dazzling array of practices around the globe.

"A Natural History of Magick" presents: Different types of magic (Explore divination, tarot reading, astrology, numerology, alchemy, and more.); Powerful plants (Peppermint is fantastic for cleansing, and also known to ward off vampires.); Wand trees (Apple tree wands are helpful in matters of love and fertility while beech is best for scholars using wordy spells.); Familiars (Choose the perfect magical companion. If you love to gossip, you might choose a ferret as your familiar or, for improved thinking, an owl.); The most magical of days (Discover the power and stories of Imbolc, the solstices, All Hallows' Eve, and more.); Magical scripts (Learn about the secret languages used through history for communicating with the spirit world.)

With "A Natural History of Magick" as an informative and entertaining guide, young readers can tap into the powerful energies that will help them discover their own magic. Simply stated, "A Natural History of Magick" would grace any family, elementary school, and community library Children's Fantasy & Magic collection!

Books in Series

Tilly and Sam series
Hannah Phillips
Independently Published

Hannah Phillips is a retired psychologist with a 30 year career treating children, teenagers, and adults. She understands the importance for young children of feeling good about themselves. She has created a series of seven life-skills oriented books where the child is the illustrator. On the top of each page is the simply but effective story line, along the bottom is a succinct description of what the characters are doing and is the basis for the young reader's drawing that particular scene.

A thoroughly 'kid friendly' series of activity books featuring with life skill themes, the seven titles comprising this unique and original series for children ages 4-6 by Hannah Phillips are: Tilly And Sam Solve The Problem (9798739015440, $13.95, PB, 24pp); "Tilly And Sam Reach Agreement" (9798744677664, "$13.95, PB, 24pp); "Tilly And Sam Chill Out" (9798747629486, $13.95, PB, 24pp); "Tilly And Same Make Peace" (9798749117189, $13.95, PB, 24pp); "Tilly And Sam Make Plans" (9798501355880, $13.95, PB, 24pp); "Tilly And Sam Make Decisions" (9798512380291, $13.95, PB, 24pp); "Tilly And Sam Speak Up" (9798512399286, $13.95, PB, 24pp).

This is especially recommended for children.

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.

Out to Sea
Helen Kellock
Thames & Hudson
9780500652367, $17.95

Christine Irvin

Grief can be overwhelming for children, especially the grief of losing a close family member. Lara's grief, after the death of her grandmother, is strong enough to sweep her "out to sea" on a wave of tears. A moving story of how a young child learns to overcome her grief. (Ages 3-5)

Superhero Gran
Timothy Knapman, author
Joe Berger, illustrator
Nosy Crow
c/o Candlewick
9781536214420, $15.99

Christine Irvin

She might not lift buildings or go whooshing through the sky, but she can plan super sleepovers, tell tickle-filled stories, and even put together great disguises to make a superhero team with her grandchildren. This is a colorful, expressive celebration of a grandmother's superpowers of unconditional love and devotion to her grandchildren. (Ages 3-7)

I Am You: A Book about Ubuntu
Refiloe Moahloli, author
Zinelda McDonald, illustrator
Amazon Crossing Kids
9781542035668, $17.99

Christine Irvin

The people of southern Africa believe in ubuntu. This is the idea that all humans, no matter where they are from or what they look like, are connected. This heartwarming book, with its wonderful artwork and lyrical text, illustrates this idea beautifully. (Ages 3-7)

Dakota Crumb: Tiny Treasure Hunter
Jamie Michalak, author
Kelly Murphy, illustrator
9781536203943, $17.99

Christine Irvin

In a clever take on the "night at the museum" theme, a little mouse with a genius for collecting leads picture book readers - and seek-and-find aficionados - on a thrilling nocturnal caper. Kids and adults alike will delight in the adventures of Dakota Crumb. (Ages 3-7)

Hugo Deani Runs Late
Sharon CassanoLochman, author
Pearly Lim, illustrator
Ontario Shore Publishing
9781734288155, $24.99

Christine Irvin

Hugo Deani is given a task to run to the store and get a cake, some ice cream, and some flowers. He is told to not be late. Of course, he is late as he takes time to play on the way home. By the time he gets home, both the cake and the ice cream are ruined. Hugo Deani learns a valuable lesson about the importance of being on time, told through a story that kids will relate to. (Ages 3-7)

Mr. Mole Moves In
Lesley-Anne Green
Tundra Books
9781101918029, $17.99

Christine Irvin

When Mr. Mole moves into to Juniper Hollow, he sets the small town buzzing with his odd ways, such as talking to watermelons (giving them compliments) and offering erasers to children to eat. Although the town people don't know what to make of him at first, they welcome him anyway because they are very friendly folk. This is a good story with a good lesson about kindness and accepting people who are different than you are. The illustrations were painstakingly done using stuffed, felted characters. (Ages 3-7)

Green Toenail Soup and Bat Fuzz
Sharon CassanoLochman, author
Lucy Belle, illustrator
Ontario Shore Publishing
9781734288117, $24.99

Christine Irvin

After a bad storm has left the town of Madwacky covered in a dense blanket of fog, the townspeople ask the old wizard for help. He refuses, claiming to be too sick and telling them they are on their own. No one will take charge and try to dispel the fog except for Tito, the youngest, most inexperienced wizard-in-training. His magic spells are not successful (although they are silly and delightful) until he remembers "the magic word." Every kid should know what "the magic word" is! (Ages 3-7)

Moose's Book Bus
Inga Moore
9781536217674, $17.99

Christine Irvin

What do you do when all your friends want to share your library books with you but they have no way to get to the library and they can't read books on their own? If you're Moose, you create your own mobile library so they can borrow books and then you teach them to read! Children will identify with Moose's dilemma and agree with the way he solves it. They will also enjoy the warm, inviting illustrations that complement the text. (Ages 3-7)

Andrew Root, author
Erin Kraan, illustrator
Beach Lane Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
9781534460058, $17.99

Diana Perry

This is a delightful Picture Book! Fern is not your usual cow. Unlike the others, she doesn't like going to the Sparkle Dance Parties. All she talks about is science stuff that everyone finds boring. They make fun of her and she feels left out, until one day something terrible happens that makes the others need her and her science-y brain. Early readers will want to keep reading as this is a fun story with a solid moral lesson which is to try things that others like and who knows - you may find you have more in common than you think. (Ages 3-8)

The Boy Who Turned Lives Around as the World Turned Upside Down!
Celene Ting, author
Tommy Wong, illustrator
Partridge Publishing Singapore
9781543763119, $39.88

Darleen Wohlfeil

Hard times can bring out the best in us, or the worst depending on our focus. This interesting story shows us what can be accomplished when a young family finds themselves burrowed down in a pandemic. Filled with care and concern for their garden and community, young Tommy and his dad set about to bring creative ways to adjust in their hard times. It is an inspiring and hopeful story. Reminding us to keep a positive focus, even in dark times. (Ages 4+)

The Girl with the Magic Ponytails
Karen J. Young
Huqua Press
9780990696681, $12.99

Christine Irvin

Riley imagines her ponytails are magic and she can use them to do unusual things like fly through the skies and jump over a rainbow. It's a book for all young dreamers and encourages children to explore their own unique magic and vivid imagination. (Ages 4-7)

Sophie and the Tiny Dognapping
Jamie Michalak, author
Lorian Tu, illustrator
Charlesbridge Publishing
9781623542757, $12.99

Christine Irvin

Another book from the Chicken Soup for the Soul Kids series, this one teaches children a lesson about "doing the right thing" by telling the truth. This book follows the pattern of others in the series, i.e., a valuable lesson is learned by showing how a wrong can be righted and not by judging why the wrong was committed in the first place, making this a good book for kids. (Ages 4-7)

The Sunshine Squad: Discovering What Makes You Special
Jamie Michalak, author
Lorian Tu, illustrator
9781623542740, $12.99

Christine Irvin

If it comes from the Chicken Soup for the Soul Kids publishers, you know it's a feel-good book. It's also a story about finding your strengths, or in this case, your superpowers. In other words, it's a good book for young readers. (Ages 4-7)

Battle of the Butts: The Science Behind Animal Behinds
Jocelyn Rish, author
David Creighton-Pester, illustrator
Running Press Kids
9780762497775, $17.99

Christine Irvin

Kids (and adults, too) will laugh, giggle and guffaw as they learn how useful a butt can be. Fun tidbits are concealed in the bright, amusing, and interesting pages of this book. The book is also interactive as the reader is asked to rate their opinions of each critter's behind, from terrific to boring. At the end of the book they can choose the overall winner for Best Butt (Just writing that made me smile!). A Glossary of terms completes the package. (Ages 4-8)

Keeping the City Going
Brian Floca
Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy
9781534493773, $17.99

Christine Irvin

We are here at home now, watching the world through our windows. Outside we see the city we know, but not as we've seen it before. The once hustling and bustling streets are empty. Well, almost empty. Around the city there are still people, some, out and about. This book is a lovely tribute to all the essential workers who keep things going when there is a crisis, such as the COVID pandemic quarantine. (Ages 4-8)

Magic Candies
Heena Baek, author and illustrator
Sophie Bowman, translator
Amazon Crossing Kids
9781542029599, $17.99

Christine Irvin

Imagine finding magic candies that allow you to hear things you wouldn't normally hear - like what the dog has to say, how your sofa feels about you, and being able to hear and speak with your grandma who has passed. The story's a bit strange and quirky, but it's also comforting. It's a book that kids will definitely be able to relate to. (Ages 4-8)

Jenny the Chimpanzee
Lotus Kay, author
Chey Diehl, illustrator
Eifrig Publishing
9781632332479, $9.99

Darleen Wohlfeil

We are all a beautiful manifestation of all that came before us. This young teen author has discovered the wonder of this truth, even beyond our own person. She sees all life is intertwined, and dependent on each other to sustain balance. When we begin to live selfishly, we will tilt the balance. We will waste our resources, and find our connections lost. The referenced facts of Jane Goodall are warm and inspiring. We must all find our place and harmony in this cosmic space we share. (Ages 4-9)

The Braggin' Dragon
Anders Roseberg, author
Narayan Baidya, illustrator
Independently Published
9781952199028, $14.99

Diana Perry

This early reader teaches young ones a valuable lesson in humility. The dragon in this story loves to brag how everything his friends do, he can do better. He hurts everyone's feelings until finally he finds himself with no friends. Kids will love the illustrations as much as the story and hopefully learn that to have a friend, you must first be a friend. (Ages 4-10)

Lila Lou's Little Library: A Gift From the Heart
Nikki Bergstresser, author
Sejung Kim, illustrator
Cardinal Rule Press
9781735345116, $16.95

Diana Perry

Lila Lou loves to read morning, noon, and night. Books are everywhere in her house. Lila Lou has so many books, she makes forts out of them! But when her mom decides that Lila Lou has one too many books, will Lila Lou be forced to get rid of her cherished books? Find out how Lila Lou uses her creativity and activism to save her books and inspires a community. Early readers will love this story. (Ages 5-7)

Grow: Secrets of Our DNA
Nicola Davies, author
Emily Sutton, illustrator
9781536212723, $17.99

Christine Irvin

A fact-filled, but also a fun-filled, book about the wonders of DNA. Expressive illustrations combined with kid-friendly text tell the story of DNA - how it works and what it does. The Afterword offers additional information about how our DNA makes us grow. This is a must-have book for a child's science library. (Ages 5-9)

Prehistoric Pets
Dean R. Lomax, author
Mike Love, illustrator
c/o Candlewick
9781536217148, $17.99

Diana Perry

This hardback book has pages that open up. Early readers will thrill over the illustrations while learning how the modern animals we know and love today are descendants of prehistoric ones. With the pop-ups in each section, it makes learning fun. Kids will think twice about a rabbit or a cat once they see who they're ancient relatives were. My favorite parts were the canary and the cat histories. (Ages 5-9)

Story Monsters Among Us: A Brief History of Human Storytelling
Conrad J. Storad, author
Jeff Yesh, illustrator
Story Monsters Press
9781589852426, $14.95

Deborah Edmisten

A joy to read! The text by Conrad J. Storad and the unique and colorful illustrations by Jeff Yesh made the information about the history of storytelling come alive. The mysterious shapeshifting Story Monster that moves throughout the past and into the future will most definitely engage young readers as they learn about various cultures and the art of storytelling. The addition of word definitions and an activity guide at the end of the book are a great bonus that parents and teachers will especially appreciate. (Ages 6+)

Oliver and the Wishing Star
Jennifer Decker, author
Chrish Vindhy, illustrator
Dandelion Books
9781737764410, $11.99

Darleen Wohlfeil

When things aren't going our way it's easy to look around and think everyone's got it better than we do. In Oliver's case, he even thought the dog had it better than him. His disgruntled attitude led him to a foolish wish that he could be as carefree as a dog. He quickly discovers his mistake, but can he get back to his own life? The illustrations in this story are warm and captivating, as well as the importance of early development in healthy emotional management. (Ages 6+)

Alicia Connected: Tricked With Treats
Derek Fisher
Securely Built
9781087951515, $6.49

Darleen Wohlfeil

This is an important story for our younger computer generation. The benefits of tech-savvy kids are numerous, but so are the dangers. This story brings the awareness of such pitfalls to them on their own level. We so often learn more by example than we do by lecture. They will follow their peers, so to speak, into the danger and safely out with a deeper sense of caution, and friendship. This is a great learning tool and would make a great family night read and discussion. (Ages 6-9)

I Survived the Galveston Hurricane, 1900
Lauren Tarshis
9781338752533, $5.99

Diana Perry

This is the story of 11-year-old Charlie Miller as he describes how he survived the terrible hurricane in 1900. This book has illustrations to give visuals to the story. Some scenes are intense but this book shows heroic people at one of the worst disasters in Texas. It also includes activity pages, and an article on what to do if you're caught in a hurricane. (Ages 8-12)

Awesome Chesapeake: A Kid's Guide to the Bay
David Owen Bell, author
Marcy Dunn Ramsey, illustrator
Schiffer Kids
9780870336058, $11.95

Diana Perry

For any child who is curious about places they haven't been or even for kids in the Chesapeake Bay area either in New York or Virginia, this book will tell the rich history of the Bay. Young readers will definitely want to go there after reading this book; I know I do. There are fun facts all throughout and many educational activity pages included. (Ages 8-12)

Long Distance
Whitney Gardner
Simon & Schuster
9781534455658, $14.99

Diana Perry

Vega's summer vacation is not going well. When her parents decide it's time to pack up and leave her hometown of Portland, Oregon, behind for boring Seattle, Washington, Vega is more than upset - she's downright miserable. Forced to leave her one and only best friend, Halley, behind, Vega is convinced she'll never make another friend again. Young readers will find this story out of the world, and that's a fact. I really loved this fast-paced tale that all mid-graders should read at bedtime, on a picnic, but especially at summer camp! (Ages 10+)

Welcome Back, Maple Mehta-Cohen
Kate McGovern
9781536215588, $16.99

Diana Perry

The worst thing that could happen to any middle-grader happens to Maple. Can anything be more mortifying to a sensitive young girl than to learn at the end of fifth grade that she's being held back? Mehta must figure out how to tell her friends and family and how to face everything when she repeats fifth grade. Those who suffer with dyslexia will see through Mehta's eyes how to cope and get better and be more understanding of someone with this condition. This book should be in every school and library; it was both educational and heartwarming. (Ages 9-12)

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