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Children's Bookwatch

Volume 32, Number 11 November 2022 Home | CBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Social Issues Shelf International Studies Shelf
Environmental Shelf Board Book Shelf Picturebook Shelf
Bilingual Shelf Activity Shelf Music CD Shelf
Pets/Wildlife Shelf Native American Shelf Elementary Grade Fiction Shelf
Historical Fiction Shelf Middle Grade Fiction Shelf YA Fiction Shelf
Mystery/Suspense Shelf Fantasy/SciFi Shelf Judaic Shelf
Computer Shelf Folktale/Fairytale Shelf Biography Shelf
Sports Shelf Psychology Shelf Story Monsters Ink Shelf

Reviewer's Choice

Art With a Heart For Ukraine
Peace Dragon
c/o Flowerpot Press
9781486725830, $10.00, PB

Synopsis: "Art With a Heart For Ukraine" is gift of heart to the children of the world from the children of Ukraine.

It's images represent Hope. Spirit. Bravery. And are touched with the sadness that war subjects upon our most innocent, the children. In their art, these children have created a visual story for every heart to hear and see.

Put together by two strangers who aligned their missions on social media, the gift of a publisher who transformed the collection into a printed and digital book, and most importantly, the students, teachers and parents who spread the word and sent in this phenomenal collection of love. 100% of the profits go the schools, students, families and communities where the war has affected them. Over 250 schools have been demolished. Over 2,500 have been destroyed. Your purchase helps restore and rebuild and in the interim, keep students and communities connected and supported.

In addition to the printed and digital version, there is a retrospective version, which displays all the art and messages from the students who submitted. And to take a little art on the road, the sticker collections offer a way to start a conversation about the sticker on your notebook, water bottle or any place a small billboard of love can be placed!

Critique: Inspiring, heartbreaking, fascinating, uplifting, thought-provoking, "Art With a Heart For Ukraine" is unreservedly recommended for family, elementary school, and community library children's artwork collections. It should be noted that all proceeds from "Art With a Heart For Ukraine" will be donated by Flowerpot Press and The Peace Dragon to the cause of peace and the rescue of Ukrainian children from the horrors of war.

Waiting for Dahlia
Michelle Rodriguez, author
Swapan Debnath, illustrator
Mirror Publishing
9781612254869, $12.99, PB, 28pp

Synopsis: Dannie and her big sister Dahlia are the best of friends sharing walks, talks and dreams. But one day, Dahlia doesn't come home. Where has she gone?

As Dannie struggles to understand where her big sister is, she learns the power of Dahlia's love to help her through.

Critique: Sensitive, compassionate, and appropriate for children ages 4-8, "Waiting for Dahlia" is an especially appropriate introduction to the subject of death and grieving. Considerate, gentle, understanding, "Waiting for Dahlia" is unreservedly recommended for family, preschool, elementary school, and community library collections.

Before You Were You
David & Jonathan Shmidt Chapman, authors
Diane Nelson, illustrator
Brandylane Publishers
5 South 1st Street, Richmond, VA 23219
9781953021441, $23.95, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: How do you make a baby, even when you don't have all the necessary ingredients? What does it take for two daddies to grow a family? "Before You Were You" is the story of how some babies are brought into the world-with the help of an inspiring, creative community of friends, family, doctors, and no small measure of love.

Critique: Tasteful, age appropriate, informative, and especially recommended for children ages 6-8, "Before You Were You" is based on authors David and Jonathan Shmidt Chapman's real life story of becoming a parent with the help of a surrogate mother. Nicely supported with the illustrations of Diane Nelson, "Before You Were You" is a unique, proper, and singular addition to family, elementary school, and community library picture book collections about human reproduction.

Editorial Note #1: David and Jonathan Shmidt Chapman met in an elevator in Times Square, married in 2013, and dreamed of starting a family. After an incredible adventure in egg donation and gestational surrogacy, and with the help of a loving community, the couple welcomed a child into the world in 2017. Trained as artists, educators, and community leaders, David and Jonathan are passionate about creating new stories in which all children see themselves represented within the pages of children's books.

Editorial Note #2: Diane L. Nelson ( is a professional medical illustrator. She has been an artist as long as she can remember and loves to create engaging and fun images that help the reader identify with the story. Diane is the president and art director of BIOMEDIA Corporation, a company she founded, and sole practitioner and owner of, an illustration and visual arts studio. Diane is also the proud Gramma of the child who inspired this story.

The Social Issues Shelf

What Happened to Chester?
Lauren Persons, author
Noah Hrbek & Lydia Whitehouse, illustrators
Loving Healing Press
5145 Pontiac Trail, Ann Arbor, MI 48105
9781615997015, $27.95, HC, 22pp

Synopsis: Rory, an adventurous, take-charge young girl, meets her match in Hobblety Wobblety Chester McDeer. She soon learns that her friend can jump over any obstacle, despite his disability, and make a big difference to family and friends. Colorful, fun illustrations by the artistic team of Noah Hrbek and Lydia Whitehouse fully enhance children's author Lauren Persons picture book story for young readers.

Critique: Original, fun, and with a special value for children ages 8-11 with reference to animal (and by inference, kids) disabilities and the importance self-esteem, "What Happened to Chester?: An En-deer-ing Tale of Hope and Healing" is an especially recommended addition to family, elementary school, and community library picture book collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "What Happened to Chester?: An En-deer-ing Tale of Hope and Healing" is also available in a paperback edition (9781615997008, $15.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.95).

A Beginner's Guide to Being Human
Matt Forrest Esenwine, author
Andre Ceolin, illustrator
Beaming Books
9781506481739, $17.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: Being a human is a lot of work! Thankfully, humans experience many of the same feelings, situations, and challenges, so we don't have to figure it all out on our own -- we can help each other navigate the ups and downs. Full of humor and heart, " Beginner's Guide to Being Human" by the team of author/storyteller Matt Forrest Esenwine and artist/illustrator Andre Ceolin is an engaging guide that inspires kids ages 4-8 to be humans who are kind, empathetic, and thoughtful.

No matter what our day brings, we can choose to practice self-control, compassion, and forgiveness. Don't worry, young human, it's okay to make some mistakes along the way -- just remember that it's love that keeps us all afloat at the end of the day.

Critique: Charmingly illustrated in support of an important message concerning values, emotions and feelings, " Beginner's Guide to Being Human" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for children.

Editorial Note #1: Matt Forrest Esenwine ( has had several adult poems published in independent collections, including the Tall Grass Writers Guild's "Seasons of Change," "The Licking River Review," and the Donald Hall tribute anthology, "Except for Love" (Encircle, 2019), among others. In 2012, his poem, "Apple-Stealing," was nominated by the Young Adult Review Network (YARN) for a Pushcart Prize.

Editorial Note #2: Andre Ceolin ( is a self-taught illustrator from Brazil. There is a gallery of his artwork on display at

The International Studies Shelf

The Story of Ukraine
Olena Kharchenko, author
Michael Sampson, author
Polina Doroshenko, illustrator
Brown Books Publishing Group
9781612546087, $17.99, HC, 36pp

Synopsis: Ukraine is a country rich with history and resources, culture and people, but most of all, in spirit! There is a lot to learn about Ukraine, and one of the best places to start is their national anthem. The lyrics of this once-forbidden song carry deep meaning for many Ukrainians, and are full of passion, strength, and determination, inspiring them to keep their country protected and free.

"The Story of Ukraine" walks young readers through each culturally-significant line of the anthem, providing details of Ukraine's land and life. Presented in both English and Ukrainian, "The Story of Ukraine by Olena Kharchenko and Michael Sampson, and distinctively illustrated by Polina Doroshenko, gives young readers the opportunity to learn more about this mighty and proud nation in Europe. Glory to Ukraine!

Critique: Timely given the Russian invasion of Ukraine, "The Story of Ukraine" is thoroughly 'kid friendly' in its bilingual composition, organization and presentation. Unique, informative, and special, "The Story of Ukraine" is especially and unreservedly recommended for family, elementary school, middle school, and community library European/Ukrainian history collections for children ages 4-8.

Editorial Note #1: Olena Kharchenko is from Dnipro, Ukraine. She is a graduate of Oles Honchar Dnipro National University. She lives in the USA with her husband and daughter. She is actively volunteering in different projects trying to help Ukraine to resist Russian aggression since 2014. Olena hopes that this book will help people around the world to learn more about her motherland.

Editorial Note #2: Michael Sampson is a Fulbright Scholar and author of more than 40 books for children. His books include Armadillo Antics, Ten Little Squirrels, and Chicka Chicka 1, 2, 3.

Editorial Note #3: Polina Doroshenko is a Ukrainian artist and illustrator, living and working in Kyiv. She graduated from the National Academy of Fine Arts and Architecture in Kyiv, and currently teaches at the Department of Graphic Arts of NAOMA. Polina's illustrations were awarded the White Ravens Award, and were among the finalists of the Bologna Children's Book Fair (2022).

The Environmental Shelf

The Living Landscape: Discovering the Critical Zone
Eric Parrish and Suzanne Anderson
Muddy Boots
c/o The Globe Pequot Press
246 Goose Lane, Suite 200, Guilford, CT 06437
9781630763961, $16.95 HC, $12.49 Kindle, 32pp

The Living Landscape: Discovering the Critical Zone is a picture book survey of the thin outer layer of landscapes that form integrated ecological systems filled with life. This is a concept not normally addressed for such a young audience ages 1-12, but is just as critical for early environmental understanding as the myriad of books that narrow the subject to a particular zone of study, such as the seashore. Here, lovely illustrations and evocative descriptions cover scientific process, the changing world of the critical zone, and such diverse topics as the important functions of soil or the life below and above ground which contributes to this zone's importance and landscape. The Living Landscape: Discovering the Critical Zone is highly recommended for any elementary-level picture book reader interested in natural history and ecology.

The Board Book Shelf

Barefoot Books

Barefoot Books has published three outstanding new board books for children ages infancy to 4 years.

Our World: Japan (9781646866298, $9.99, 20pp) : Float through the cherry blossoms, snack at the market and watch the stars twinkle following a day in Japan. With text and artwork developed especially for babies, author Emily Satako Seo and illustrator Aunyarat Watanabe draw on personal experience of life in Japan to create this appealing board book.

Our World: Egypt (9781646867172, $9.99, 20pp) : Come along for a day in Egypt! There's so much to explore -- candy-colored boats, thumping tablas and warm pita bread. Author Aya Khalil and illustrator Magda Azab draw on their personal experience of life in Egypt to create this appealing board book.

Our World: France (9781646867189, $9.99, 20pp) : Spend a day in France counting the dogs un-deux-trois, taking Doudou out for a walk, and playing until it's time for bonne nuit. Author Evelyne Holingue and illustrator Margaux Carpentier draw on their young lives in France to create an authentic picture of modern French life.

All three of these "Our World" titles are unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, and community library board book collections for very young children.

The Picturebook Shelf

Ten Ways to Hear Snow
Cathy Camper, author
Kenard Pak, illustrator
c/o Penguin Young Readers Group
9780399186332, $17.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: One winter morning, Lina wakes up to silence. It's the sound of snow -- the kind that looks soft and glows bright in the winter sun. But as she walks to her grandmother's house to help make the family recipe for warak enab, she continues to listen.

As Lina walks past snowmen and across icy sidewalks, she discovers ten ways to pay attention to what might have otherwise gone unnoticed. With stunning illustrations by Kenard Pak and thoughtful representation of a modern Arab American family from Cathy Camper, "Ten Ways to Hear Snow" by Cathy Camper is a layered exploration of mindfulness, empathy, and what we realize when the world gets quiet.

Critique: Fun, original, and memorable, "Ten Ways to Hear Snow" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for children ages 4-8.

Editorial Note #1: Cathy Camper ( is the author of the Lowriders in Space graphic novel series. She is a founding member of the Portland Women of Color Zine Collective and works as an outreach librarian, serving schools and kids grades K--12. She can be followed on Twitter @cfastwolf

Editorial Note #2: Kenard Pak ( is an accomplished picture book and book cover illustrator. He's illustrated children's books such as Have You Heard the Nesting Bird? by Rita Gray and The Dinner That Cooked Itself by J. C. Hsyu. He is also the author/illustrator of Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn and Goodbye Autumn, Hello Winter. He can be followed on Twitter @kenardpak

Sophia's Gift
Karen B. Kurtz, author
Loran Chaves, illustrator
Intellect Publishing
9781945190971, $28.00, HC, 30pp

Synopsis: Sophia and her mother, Caroline Strauss, bind up the soldier's wounds and nurse him back to health. When he is well enough to travel, the soldier gives Sophia a china doll she names Grace Darling, after the real British Victorian icon, Grace Horsley Darling. The doll became Sophia's beloved plaything, and still lives on at American Civil War Museum in Richmond, Virginia.

Sophia's Gift is based upon the true story of a Confederate soldier's friendship with child Sophia Strauss in Culpeper, Virginia, in 1862, amid the American Civil War.

Few books provide a glimpse into the daily life of women and children during the American Civil War. Fewer still talk about Jewish Confederates. "Sophia's Gift" by the team of author/storyteller Karen B. Kurtz and artist/illustrator Loran Chavez speaks to the universal truths of courage, compassion, and perseverance. Such a message is eternal, and will survive any war.

Critique: Featuring vivid watercolor spreads, "Sophia's Gift" is is a picture book for children and Junior Collectors ages 8 to 17, as well as adult enthusiasts of doll collecting, history, military, and antiques. Color photos in Historical Note recall Victorian times. While available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99), "Sophia's Gift" is especially and unreservedly recommended for family, middle school, and community library collections Civil War History and Jewish History picture book collections for young readers.

Editorial Note #1: Award-winning author Karen B. Kurtz has published books, essays, poetry, and countless articles for readers of all ages. Her credits include DOLLS, Antique DOLL Collector, DOLL NEWS, Doll Reader, Doll World, Contemporary Doll Collector, Birmingham Arts Journal, Civil War Times, Alabama Heritage, AntiqueWeek, Highlights for Children, Cobblestone, Child Life, Scholastic, Daisy, Country Woman, Instructor, Lady's Circle, Farm Journal and many more. A Coleman Award from United Federation of Doll Clubs (UFDC) empowered Karen's research into American Civil War dolls with provenance. She met the captivating old china doll Grace Darling from Culpeper, Virginia, that was manufactured in the
1850s by Alt, Beck and Gottschalck in Thuringia, Germany.

Editorial Note #2: Loran Chavez is an award-winning, self-taught artist with representation in several Gulf Coast galleries. Her art is to be found in collections all over the world.

Alphabet Antics
Robert Heidbreder, author
Philippe Beha, illustrator
Tradewind Books
9781926890388, $17.95, 56pp

Synopsis: "Alphabet Antics" celebrates the many shapes of the lower case letters in short rhymes and vibrant illustrations. By encouraging children to see the many shapes of the letters, it adds a fresh dimension to the alphabet. Children and adults alike will love reading about the antics the small letters get up to in this lively, distinctive book.

Critique: Fun, informative and effective, "Alphabet Antics" by the team of author Robert Heidbreder and illustrator Philippe Beha is particularly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library Children's Alaphabet and Stories in Verse collections for ages 3-5.

Editorial Note #1: Robert Heidbreder ( is a celebrated and multi-award-winning children's poet and author. He has written over 20 books, including the recent ROAR-chestra! and Crocs in a Box. He taught primary school for 30 years, for which he won the Prime Minister's Award for Teaching Excellence.

Editorial Note #2: Philippe Beha ( has illustrated more than 200 children's books. He is a three-time recipient of the Governor General's Literary Award and a winner of the Mr. Christie's Book Award. He has also been a finalist for the IBBY Hans Christian Andersen Lifetime Achievement Award.

Do Trees Have Mothers?
Charles Bongers
Douglas & McIntyre
c/o Harbour Publishing
9781771623254, $16.95, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: With whimsical art and gentle text by storyteller and artist Charles Bongers, "Do Trees Have Mothers?" translates scientific knowledge about the kinship structures of the forest into a beautiful and affirming picture book story about how trees nurture the young. Children will discover all the ways in which a mother tree protects and nourishes the baby trees of the forest understory, and show young children what it means to care for a community, and for our environment and the earth.

Children will learn that mother trees help seedlings survive by transferring carbon and nitrogen through the mycorrhizal network. That they can even warn baby trees when there are troublesome bugs about! Drawing from scientific research, "Do Trees Have Mothers?" is the perfect book for budding nature lovers, and introduces the forest's complex and fascinating wonders in a friendly and age-appropriate way.

Critique: Unique, informative, charming, simple, elegant, and memorable, "Do Trees Have Mothers?" is especially and unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library environmental and ecology collections for children ages 3-5. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Do Trees Have Mothers?" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.59).

Editorial Note: Charles Bongers ( has had a lifelong passion for nature and the outdoors as a world-class sailor, mountain climber and tree advocate. He is the founder and creative director of Charles Bongers + Co., an eco-focused, brand design company, based in Toronto. Charles also serves as creative advisor to Wild Entrust/Coaching Conservation, a wildlife conservation trust in Southern Africa, and to Woodfield True Nature Campus, a nature-focused retreat dedicated to supporting families experiencing chronic illness. Born in Cape Town, South Africa, Charles now lives in Toronto.

Marky The Magnificent Fairy
Cynthia Kern O'Brien, author
Jeff Yesh, illustrator
Patti Crane, editor
Story Monsters Press
9781589850156, $15.95, PB, 36pp

Synopsis: Believing in yourself isn't always easy. Marky learns that firsthand when the other woodland fairies make fun of her. They laugh at her one small wing and say mean things about her fiery-red hair, her glasses and her freckles.

It is hurtful, but through Marky's determination, she helps them understand that everyone has exceptional qualities. Some are visible. Some are invisible. Through her kindness, Marky teaches her friends about self-love, confidence, acceptance, positivity and compassion. She reminds them they are magnificent.

Young readers of all ages will learn to believe in themselves and the importance of treating everyone with respect and kindness.

Critique: Charmingly illustrated by Jeff Yesh, "Marky The Magnificent Fairy" is a fun and delightful picture book story with an important underlying message about acceptance and the value of compassion by Cynthia Kern O'Brien. Thoroughly 'kid friendly' in tone and presentation, "Marky The Magnificent Fairy" is unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library collections for children ages 5-10.

Editorial Note #1: Cynthia Kern OBrien is the author of the A True Story by Granny debut picture book series: I Used to be a Fairy; The Tooth Fairy and the Baby Elf; and I Don't Want to Go to Preschool, the Fairy Queen Calls. OBrien finds inspiration for her writing in her grandchildren and their world view, aspiring to teach young readers caring and kindness for people and animals of all stripes. (

Editorial Note #2: Jeff Yesh ( is in charge of magazine and web design for Story Monsters Ink.

Sterling and Nugget the Dragon
Judd B. Shaw, author
Marrieta Gal, illustrator
Morgan James Kids
c/o Morgan James Publishing
9781636980270, $18.95, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: In a land far away, many fear a dragon named Nugget -- including Sterling, a brave young boy, who dreams of becoming a knight. Sterling sets out to slay the dragon, until his quest presents him with a choice: fight or help. In choosing kindness and compassion, Sterling becomes a true knight.

Critique: The purpose of "Sterling and Nugget the Dragon" by author/storyteller Judd B. Shaw and artist/illustrator Marrieta Gal is foster growth in the social and emotional development of children ages 3-6. With a special appeal to young readers with an interest in medieval adventure and a valued subtext revealing that 'kindness is mightier than the sword', "Sterling and Nugget the Dragon" is unreservedly recommended as an addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Sterling and Nugget the Dragon" is also available in a paperback edition (9781631959356, $9.95).

Editorial Note #1: Judd B. Shaw ( loves to bring out his inner knight in shining armor. He does that through his work as an attorney representing injury victims and by creative writing. Judd is Founder of Judd Shaw Injury Law and speaks nationally on the subject of client service. Judd shares his passion for helping others with his imaginary character, Sterling the Knight.

Editorial Note #2: Marrieta Gal (Marija Stojisavljevic) has been an art enthusiast from an early age. She has over twenty years of professional experience in illustrating and designing children's magazines and books. As a passionate advocate for the world of art and illustration, Marrieta has illustrated numerous picture books and magazines for domestic and foreign publishers, including Leslie Guzman's Lupita plush doll and bilingual English and Spanish storybook set and Barbara Leary's novel The Climbing Tree. She earned a bachelor's degree in book design and an MA in illustration at Faculty of Applied Arts in her hometown, Belgrade, Serbia, where she currently resides. (

Twelve Days of Winter
Sherri Maret
Muddy Boots
c/o The Globe Pequot Press
246 Goose Lane, Suite 200, Guilford, CT 06437
9781493064090, $16.95 HC, $16.00 Kindle, 32pp

Twelve Days of Winter is based on the traditional Twelve Days of Christmas, but presents a picture book story in which winter wildlife is featured as snow comes. As each animal reacts differently to a new day of winter, the evolving story features a fine display of animals who find different ways to cope with and celebrate the season. Thomas Hilley's engaging animal illustrations will delight young picture book animal enthusiasts.

Candlewick Press
99 Dover Street, Somerville, MA 02144

New titles from Candlewick offer exceptionally engaging stories recommended for young readers and libraries catering to them.

Megan Wagner Lloyd's Haven: A Small Cat's Big Adventure (9781536216578, $17.99) tells of a cat's cozy life as an indoor pet who enjoys the love of her rescuer, Ma Millie. But when Ma becomes ill, Haven decides to go for help, and must brave the forest and wild creatures to help her human ally. The story offers many compelling adventures that will particularly appeal to young readers at the chapter book level and above.

Jamie Michalak's Frank and Bean: Food Truck Fiasco (9781536214413, $16.99) will also appeal to chapter book readers just embarking on this journey, who will appreciate the wealth of zany, colorful illustrations by Bob Kolar. Bean has a food truck and is going to sell donuts. Frank sells oatmeal; but it's too boring. Can Bean's creative donuts help fix Frank's oatmeal dilemma? A fun story of friendship and growth evolves.

Ben Mantle's Frog vs. Toad (9781536223699, $17.99) explores the differences between frogs and toads with a consideration of two very different creatures who want to correct common misconceptions about their nature. They are not two frogs. Clearly, Road is the strongest and Frog is a much better hopper, for one. As the competition between rivals heats up in the swamp, Frog and Toad discover that, even with all their differences, they can come together when a challenge arises. This offers not only science-based facts about swamp life, toads and frogs, but a lesson about friendships between different entities.

Jonathan Stutzman's The Mouse Who Carried a House on his Back (9781536216790, $18.99) receives lovely illustrations by Isabelle Arsenault which combine with cut-away features as the story tells of Vincent the mouse, who carries his home on his back so he can have a home at all times. There's only one problem: the house also attracts a plethora of visitors. How can he turn anyone away? This gentle tale lends particularly well to read-aloud, attracting parents with its lovely illustrations and underlying message about generosity and a sense of place.

Amy Cherrix's Good Night Little Bookstore (9781536212518, $17.99) is a warm acknowledgement of the allure and fun of bookstores, welcoming night in a different way as a neighborhood bookstore becomes a source for bedtime goodnights. Lovely illustrations by E.B. Goodale celebrate the bookstore and the process of winding down from the day's events with a gentle series of observations that read-aloud parents will find alluring.

Octopus Shocktopus! by Peter Bently (9781536223965, $17.99) outlines what happens when, one day, the narrator finds that an octopus "had come to live on top of us." As the giant octopus that lands on the house causes confusion and fear, it's the neighborhood kids who discern its real intentions, illustrating how even adversity can contain the nuggets of good experience. Steven Lenton's colorful, full-page drawings enhance a whimsical story of fantasy and problem-solving.

Carlie Sorosiak's Books Aren't for Eating (9781536214963, $17.99) tells of Leopold the goat, who loves his bookstore and picking out books for his customers. A variety of animals frequent his establishment, but when Leopold meets another goat, trouble evolves. Can Leopold satisfy his troublesome customer's literal appetite for the written word? Cheerful drawings by Manu Montoya add to the attractive story.

All are top recommendations for discriminating elementary-level libraries and read-aloud parents.


Six new picture books are highly recommended for young readers and libraries seeking superior presentations.

Emily Neilson's The Rainbow People (9780593326589, $17.99) is a special recommendation for LGBTQ+ collections looking for standout stories that are different. Mommy, Mama and Emily take the train to the city to watch the Rainbow Parade, but when Mama suggests they join it, Emily is nervous about their public display of support. A first-person presentation captures Emily's experience and discovery about the meaning of a Pride parade in her own life, offering adult readers and kids some fine discussion points.

Also strong in the potential to open the gateway to discussion between different ages is Katrina Moore and Joy Hwang Ruiz's Sometimes Love (9780593323823, $17.99), which follows the kinds of life changes that lead to revised love. Love can mean sharing, but it also can mean saying goodbye. The focus on a military family's experiences of love when a temporary overseas assignment separates them from the family dog offers important lessons about love and adaptation.

Elizabeth Olsen and Robbie Arnett's Hattie Harmony: Worry Detective (9780593351444, $17.99) receives whimsical, fun illustration by Marissa Valdez as it explores a good friend determined to help those around her, especially on the first day of school. Hattie finds it easy to help others calm down, but can she apply her tools to her own fears? This fun story for ages 4-8 offers important lessons in self-help.

Sana Rafi's A Mermaid Girl (9780593327609, $17.99) receives delightful watery illustrations by Olivia Aserr as it explores a girl's ethnic differences at the community pool. She wears a special swimsuit (a burkini), but stands out too much. Can she stay true to her culture while making new friends, even while wearing a yellow burkini?

Rosie and the Pre-Loved Dress (9780593354483, $17.99) by Leanne Hatch explores the dilemma faced by a young girl who finds a lovely yellow dress at her local thrift store, and begins to wonder about its previous owner. As Rosie explores the idea of this other owner's life and connections with the dress, young readers receive a lesson about pre-owned magic and unusual life connections.

Jacqueline Woodson's The World Belonged To Us (9780399545498, $18.99) receives engaging illustrations by Leo Espinosa as it explores summer in the city, where urban kids are released from school to play in the streets until adults call them home. A rhythmic set of descriptions accompanied by lively, action-packed illustrations captures the milieu of a city where fun can come from many different places.

All of these new titles are engaging, unusual, and highly recommended picture book tales for family, elementary school, and community library collections for young readers.

Sleeping Bear Press

New titles from Sleeping Bear Press are outstanding picture book recommendations for school and community elementary-level libraries and their young patrons.

Keri Claiborne Boyle's The Black Hole Debacle (9781534111523, $17.99) tells of aspiring young astronomer Jordie, who loves everything about space. However, when a powerful, hungry black hole appears inside her desk and begins eating everything, Jordie doesn't find it as appealing when she brings it home and it begins consuming the things she loves. Deborah Melmon's alluring illustrations add to the whimsical conundrum of too much of a good thing.

Rebecca Gardyn Levington's Brainstorm! (9781534111486, $17.99) follows a young student who is stuck in her school assignment. Her mind is mired much like the rainy weather outside...until the skies begin pouring and her ideas spark. Sentences, phrases, and rhymes follow from her soul and the reader's experience as inspiration takes place, connected to the weather. Kate Kronreif provides the fun drawings that accompany this whimsical account of creativity and storms of inspiration.

Frank Murphy and Charnaie Gordon's A Planet Like Ours (9781534111530, $17.99) is illustrated by Kayla Harren. It celebrates the wonders of Earth and instructs young readers on how to care for the environment. The basics of recycling and reducing one's footprint move to higher-level actions, from planting a community garden to becoming involved in politics. Especially lovely visuals accompany this call to action and environmental awareness.

Elisa Boxer's Splash! Ethelda Bleibtrey Makes Waves of Change (9781534111431, $17.99) provides a picture book biography of an athlete who suffered from polio at an early age, yet made her mark in swimming when she moved from its therapeutic benefits to competition. Ethelda became a three-time Olympic gold medalist and a health advocate and activist. This follows her dreams and ability to turn her life into a success story to influence others, and receives good-quality illustrations by Elizabeth Baddeley that bring her biography and achievements to life.

Sophie Kennen's Some Bodies (9781534111417, $17.99) receives appealing illustrations by Airin O'Callaghan as it surveys the usefulness of bodies and how they come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. Youngsters receive a lively celebration of these differences that teaches them about acceptance, self-image, and the opportunities to change or augment themselves in different ways. The result is a lesson not just in differences, but in social and self-acceptance which will provide read-aloud adults with a fine opportunity to help youngsters better understand diversity in the world around them.

Devin Scillian's A Parliament of Owls (9781534111448, $17.99) enjoys especially fanciful, colorful animal illustrations by Sam Caldwell as the story explores mischiefs of mice, shivers of sharks, and other groups of animal plurals. From the crash of rhinoceroses to the tiniest culture of bacteria, readers receive lively insights into words and collections of creatures that prove both inviting and intriguing, spiced with a colorful sense of fun that adds to the educational wordplay and natural history of this book.

Karen Konnerth's The Snowman Waltz (9781534111271, $17.99) enjoys lovely illustrations by Emily Neilson as it follows a dozen snowmen that make their way through the woods sporting classy top hats and matching mittens. Their dance brings them to equally exuberant penguins that seem to move to a different tune. Can the two join their disparate forces? Counting, marching, and colorful displays mark a story replete in educational opportunities for read-aloud parents.

Luna's Green Pet by Kirsten Pendreigh (9781534111615, $17.99) tells of the search for a pet that evades an apartment's strict policy of no pets (which includes fish). Luna finds the perfect pet, but then stumbles into a conundrum in keeping it. Carmen Mok's engaging, fun drawings enhance a delightful story.

All of these are excellent picture books, and highly recommended for discriminating collections and young readers.

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

Two new books from Eerdmans provide fine stories and illustrations that are highly recommended for discriminating picture book audiences and their adult choosers.

Alice Faye Duncan's Yellow Dog Blues (9780802853534, $18.99) tells of Bo Willie, who finds his dog is missing and has run away. Aunt Jessie helps Bo search for his missing puppy and together they journey through various communities and musical influences to find him. Readers receive a light education on boogie-woogie music, the Mississippi blues, and a rollicking verse that blends with hand-embroidered art pictures to represent an intriguing world.

Deborah Lock and Helen Cann's A World of Praise (9780802855954, $27.99) will appeal to ages 4-8 with its exploration of how God is celebrated in different countries around the world. From nature's beauty to landscapes that are appealing, gratitude is expressed as young people learn how to praise God and recognize His hand in all things.

Sterling Children's Books
122 5th Ave Fl 7, New York, New York, 10011

Two fun children's books by Marty Kelleyare attractive presentations highly recommended for unusual and enlightening reading.

Almost Everybody Farts (9781454919544, $12.95) offers a playful consideration of this bodily function that identifies flatulence as a common occurrence, whether in grandmothers, terrifying creatures, dainty little fairies, or goldfish and canaries. The diverse display of creatures and different language associated with flatulence makes for a delightful story that kids will find fun.

Just when you think it's all been covered, Almost Everybody Farts the Reek-Quel (9781454943778, $16.99) appears to expand the theme with a rollicking rhyme that is hilarious: "When you're out in the woods and a roar fills the air, that's the terrible wind from a bear's derriere."

Kids who are enthralled by bodily functions and dysfunctions will find both of these new books hilariously entertaining, while read-aloud adults will find them both educational and fun.

The Bilingual Shelf

El cumpleanos de mi hermana Dulce / My Sister Dulce's Birthday
Erika Said, author
Claudia Navarro, illustrator
Arte Publico Press
4902 Gulf Freeway, Bldg 19, Rm 100, Houston, TX 77204-2004
9781558859548, $18.95, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: Six-year-old Dulce loves sweets, which is fitting since her name means "sweet." She especially relishes the candy in birthday pinatas, and she and her sister can't wait for her own party "with candles and cake, / balloons, music and a pinata." Kids will eagerly follow Dulce and her sweet tooth in search of the perfect birthday treats.

At the store, there are brightly colored pinatas shaped like stars, cacti, donkeys and even a guitar! How to decide?!? And what does she want to fill its belly with? There are "mountains of delicious candies" to choose from! There are mazapanes, tamarindo and sweet toffee! Crunchy wafers with teeth made of seeds and sugar-crusted sweet potato slices!

Claudia Navarro's colorful illustrations joyfully depict two girls' excitement at a traditional Mexican birthday celebration where hitting the pinata leads to a cascade of sweet treasures. Children - and some adults too - will enjoy identifying their favorite candies, and this bilingual picture book for children ages 4-8 is sure to inspire kids' plans for their own birthday celebrations!

Critique: A charmingly entertaining bilingual (Spanish/English) picture book by the team of author/storyteller Erika Said and artist/illustrator Claudia Navarro is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library collections.

Editorial Note #1: A Ph.D. student in the Creative Writing Program in Spanish at the University of Houston, Erika Said ( is the author of iPoems: Poemas en Shuffle (El Humo, Queretaro, 2013) and co-author of Fuego del Aire (Media Isla, 2015). Her work has been published in Mexican and US magazines such as Revista de Literatura Mexicana Contemporánea and Círculo de Poesía. Her writing has been anthologized in numerous books, including Lados B (Nitro Press, 2018), Viejas Brujas II (Aquelarre Editoras, Mexico DF, 2017), Along the River II (VAO, McAllen, 2012) and El infierno es una caricia (Fidaura, Mexico DF, 2011).

Editorial Note #2: Claudia Navarro is an accomplished artist/illustrator with a roster of her children's books listed at

The Activity Shelf

Social Skills Activities for Kids
Natasha Daniels
Independently Published
ASIN: B08TRQR7M8, $29.95, Spiral Bound

Synopsis: With the publication of "Social Skills Activities for Kids: 50 Fun Exercises for Making Friends, Talking and Listening, and Understanding Social Rules", author Natasha Daniels informs young readers ages 5-11 about: What are the Dos and Don'ts for making and keeping friends? How can you decode body language clues? What's the best way to keep a conversation going? and more!

Just like learning multiplication tables, social skills don't come naturally -- but every child has to learn them if they are to succeed in life. Luckily, the exercises comprising "Social Skills Activities for Kids" makes mastering social skills super fun with 50 awesome activities.

"Social Skills Activities for Kids" also gives children the confidence to successfully navigate social situations at home, school, and the world in between. From keeping the conversation ball moving to learning to compromise to practicing good table manners, these engaging activities help kids develop and use their social skills super powers.

"Social Skills Activities for Kids" features: Life Lessons (Kids learn how to handle everyday social situations like communicating with peers and adults, using and interpreting body language, reading social cues, and more); 50 Interactive Activities (Games, fill-in-the-blank exercises, and reflective entries keep kids learning and engaged); Real Scenarios (Including up-to-date topics like bullying and using social media).

Critique: Fun and effective, and also available in a paperback edition (9781641522960, $15.99) as well as in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99), "Social Skills Activities for Kids: 50 Fun Exercises for Making Friends, Talking and Listening, and Understanding Social Rules" is especially and unreservedly recommended for family, caregiver, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library Manners, Friendships, and Social Skills collections for young children.

Editorial Note: Natasha Daniels is a child therapist who has worked with children, teens and families for over 20 years. With her raw, direct approach to anxiety, Natasha has helped thousands of children, teens and parents in both her practice and through her writing. Natasha is passionate about helping children and teens with anxiety and OCD. When she is not working in her private practice, you can find her writing about anxiety on her site, creating podcast episodes on the AT Parenting Survival Podcast, making Youtube videos on her channel Ask the Child Therapist and teaching online classes at

The Music CD Shelf

Dear Heart
Martin and Rose Music
Privately Published
$TBA CD / $9.49 MP3

The sixth album by award-winning husband-and-wife musicians Stefani Rose and Daniel Martin (also known as Martin and Rose Music), Dear Heart is especially dedicated to parents, children, and caregivers with strong positive messages about sharing, forgiving mistakes, celebrating differences, finding community in the world around oneself, and more. The songs also touch upon very serious themes, such as how the world had to virtually shut down at the start of the COVID pandemic. Dear Heart is engaging, uplifting, and highly recommended for family and public library children's music collections. The tracks are Half Right, Cars, Duck Boots, Dream, Small World, Big Dog, Bully, Cool As You, Lemonade, Goodnights Aren't Goodbyes, and Dear Heart.

Privately Published
$TBA CD / $9.49 MP3

The self-titled debut album Musiquita is a Spanish/English festival for the whole family, showcasing the multi-lingual, multi-talented group Musiquita. An upbeat, energetic celebration of Latin/Jazz/Funk rhythms, cross-cultural improvisation, and freewheeling fun, Musiquita is a delight to enjoy and share. The tracks are Musiquita Theme, Shape Song, Me Gusta La Lluvia, To Grow Is Play, Mucho Mochi Mama, Unique New York, Big & Little Thoughts, Parents Are Not Superheroes, Un Besito, Viento, Sopa De Tomate, Cepillar Los Dientes, Chao Chao, and Quiet Grooves.

The Pets/Wildlife Shelf

John Audubon and the World of Birds for Kids
Michael Elsohn Ross
Chicago Review Press
814 North Franklin Street, Chicago, IL 60610
9781641606189, $18.99, PB, 144pp

Synopsis: As a child, John James Audubon would often skip school to roam the countryside. He collected bird nests, unique stones, bits of moss, and other items of interest and developed his talent for creating dramatic bird portraits and skills for observing them in the wild.

Using his abilities as an acute observer, skilled writer, and exceptional artist, Audubon wrote and illustrated a book, Birds of America. Cataloging all these creatures took enormous time and effort -- but even more difficult was finding a way to publish it. To make his book a reality he had to persuade wealthy investors to support his dream. The stories of his adventures pursuing the unique birds of the America captured the imagination of audiences.

Audubon became a larger-than-life figure and dubbed himself "the American Woodsman". Years after his death his artwork is still considered a major accomplishment that inspired a greater interest in American birdlife.

Critique: A coffee-table style paperback (11 x 0.3 x 8.5 inches, 1.06 pounds), "John Audubon and the World of Birds for Kids" by Michael Elsohn Ross includes 21 hands-on activities and is valued and informative resource for budding young ornithologists hiking in his bird watching, bird appreciation footsteps. Audubon's passion for birds inspired a national movement to protect birds and their habitats -- and with the publication of "John Audubon and the World of Birds for Kids" will go on to similarly inspire a whole new generation. While also available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.49), "John Audubon and the World of Birds for Kids" is especially and unreservedly recommended for family, elementary school, middle school, and community library Avian Wildlife and American Biography collections.

Editorial Note: Michael Elsohn Ross is an award-winning author of over 40 books for children, including Salvador Dali and the Surrealists, She Takes a Stand, Plantology, and A World of Her Own. (

The Journey of Neil The Great Dixter Cat
Honey Moga, author
Dabin Han, illustrator
Regan Arts
9781682451939, $19.99, HC, 72pp

Synopsis: "The Journey of Neil The Great Dixter Cat" by author/storyteller Honey Moga and artist/illustrator Dabin Han is the magnificently illustrated and true story of Neil, the Great Dixter Cat, who escapes being a stray in war-torn Kabul, Afghanistan, to live in one of the greatest curated wild gardens in the world.

"The Journey of Neil The Great Dixter Cat" takes young readers on a journey with a delightful stray cat in Kabul, Afghanistan, as she travels through the history of the moguls, madmen and conquerors who dominated the region, and then finds the loving men who would rescued her and bring her to live out her days in the most beautiful wild garden in the world -- the Great Dixter Garden.

Critique: Honey Moga, the author, plays a role in the unique story that is "The Journey of Neil The Great Dixter Cat". Her introduction is also fully illustrated by Dabin Han and includes her dream of being an author after her husband walks out on her, leaving her alone with nine children. Inspiring, uplifting and true, this is a a very special and true history, as well as a beautifully illustrated depiction of the magical garden where the courageous cat Neil now resides happily. While highly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library collections for children ages 4-8, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Journey of Neil The Great Dixter Cat" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $5.99).

Editorial Note: Honey (Sullivan) Moga was born in 1930 in Evanston, Illinois and died in 2016 in Terre Haute, Indiana. Honey lived in Lake Forest/Lake Bluff, Illinois for 25 years, where she raised her nine children. Honey received her B.A. degree in Psychology from Lake Forest College (1975) and Masters in Library Science from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana (1987). She served as a member and President of the Women's Board of Misericordia Heart of Mercy for many years and was an avid reader and writer. Although she never was able to publish her writing during her life, her children and grandchildren helped publish "The Journey of Neil" in honor of Honey after her death.

The Native American Shelf

The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Life in Native America
David Treuer
Viking Books for Young Readers
c/o Penguin Young Readers Group
9780593203477, $19.99, HC, 288pp

Synopsis: "The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee (Young Readers Adaptation): Life in Native America" by David Treuer is a Native American history of resilience and reinvention which has been adapted for young readers ages 12-17 from an adult nonfiction book of the same name.

Since the late 1800s, it has been believed that Native American civilization has been wiped from the United States. But with the publication of this adapted edition of "The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee" David Treuer argues that Native American culture is far from defeated -- if anything, it is thriving as much today as it was one hundred years ago.

"The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee" examines Native American culture as it exists today -- and the on-going fight to preserve Native American languages and traditions.

Critique: Expertly adapted for young readers, "The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Life in Native America" especially appropriate for middle school and highschool Native American History curriculum studies lists. In addition to being recommended for school and community library Native American History collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Life in Native America" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99).

Editorial Note: David Treuer ( is a member of the Ojibwe tribe from the Leech Lake Reservation in northern Minnesota. The author of four previous novels, most recently Prudence, and two books of nonfiction, Treuer has also written for The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Esquire, Slate, and The Washington Post, among others. He has a PhD in anthropology and teaches literature and creative writing at the University of Southern California.

The Elementary Grade Fiction Shelf

Amazingly Angus
Kiki Thorpe
Disney Press
9781368972250, $14.99

Amazingly Angus is a Level 2 chapter book adding to Disney's Horsetail Hollow series. Illustrated by Laura Catrinella, it tells of the adventure experienced by sisters who live on a farm with a magical wishing well. When a mixed-up wish brings them a horse named Maximus, the two must found out how to get him back home. And then another horse appears, as if by magic... The appealing story is highly recommended for chapter book readers who enjoy stories of horse dilemmas and magical influences alike.

The Historical Fiction Shelf

The Boy Behind the Door
David Tabatsky
Amsterdam Publishers
9789493276314, $22.95, HC, 194pp

Synopsis: "The Boy Behind The Door: How Salomon Kool Escaped the Nazis" by David Tabatsky is an historical novel inspired by the true story of Salomon Kool, a Dutch teenager who evaded the Nazi dragnet and survived the German occupation of the Netherlands from May 1940 to the end of WWII.

Sal had just celebrated his Bar Mitzvah when the city of Amsterdam was invaded. After hiding behind the door of his bedroom as Nazis searched his house, he was soon on the run, terrified and never sure who he could trust or if he was safe.

Sal survived the war through a combination of wit, guts, good luck, and the help of a few courageous Dutch Christians. But like millions of others, his parents and three siblings disappeared and later died in concentration camps before the Allies liberated the Netherlands. Sal had to grow up and adapt without a role model and had to learn to control his emotions in the midst of a turbulent and hazardous situation, full of life-and-death decisions.

Sal's story is a powerful and moving document of a period in world history we must never forget. It can be difficult to find Holocaust literature that will interest and enlighten young readers, especially boys, but "The Boy Behind the Door" is appealing and accessible to emerging adults of all reading levels.

Critique: Although a work of historical fiction, author David Tabatsky has paid diligent attention to provide an authentic World War II and Holocaust background details, making "The Boy Behind The Door: How Salomon Kool Escaped the Nazis" and riveting, thought-provoking, and deftly crafted read for young readers ages 15-18. While highly recommended for highschool and community library YA Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Boy Behind The Door: How Salomon Kool Escaped the Nazis" is also available in a paperback edition (9789493276314, $14.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $2.99).

Editorial Note: David Tabatsky ( is a writer, editor, and performing artist, based in New York City. His memoir, American Misfit, was released in 2017. He is the co-author of several books about cancer, including Rx for Hope, Reimagining Women's Cancers and Reimagining Men's Cancers, The Cancer Book: 101 Stories of Courage, Support and Love and the author of Write for Life: Communicating Your Way Through Cancer. He coauthored The Intelligent Divorce, The Wright Choice: Your Family's Guide to Healthy Eating, Modern Fitness and Saving Money, and was consulting editor for Marlo Thomas and her New York Times bestseller The Right Words at the Right Time, Volume 2: Your Turn.

The Middle Grade Fiction Shelf

Haven Jacobs Saves the Planet
Barbara Dee
c/o Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 4th floor, New York, NY 10020
9781534489837, $17.99, HC, 304pp

Synopsis: Twelve-year-old Haven Jacobs can't stop thinking about the climate crisis. In fact, her anxiety about the state of the planet is starting to interfere with her schoolwork, her friendships, even her sleep. She can't stop wondering why grownups aren't even trying to solve the earth's problem -- and if there's anything meaningful that she, as a seventh grader, can contribute.

When Haven's social studies teacher urges her to find a specific, manageable way to make a difference to the planet, Haven focuses on the annual science class project at the local Belmont River, where her class will take samples of the water to analyze. Students have been doing the project for years, and her older brother tells her that his favorite part was studying and catching frogs.

But when Haven and her classmates get to the river, there's no sign of frogs or other wildlife --but there is ample evidence of pollution. The only thing that's changed by the river is the opening of Gemba, the new factory where Haven's dad works. It doesn't take much investigation before Haven is convinced Gemba is behind the slow pollution of the river.

She's determined to expose Gemba and force them to clean up their act. But when it becomes clear taking action might put her dad's job (and some friendships) in jeopardy, Haven must decide how far she's willing to go.

Critique: Holding a special appeal for young readers with an interest in protecting the environment, recycling and 'Green Living', Barbara Dee's new novel, "Haven Jacobs Saves the Planet" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to elementary school, middle school, and community library collections for ages 4-8. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Haven Jacobs Saves the Planet" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99).

Editorial Note: Barbara Dee ( is the author of twelve middle grade novels including Violets Are Blue, Haven Jacobs Saves the Planet, My Life in the Fish Tank, Maybe He Just Likes You, Everything I Know About You, Halfway Normal, and Star-Crossed. Her books have earned several starred reviews and have been named to many best-of lists, including The Washington Post's Best Children's Books, the ALA Notable Children's Books, the ALA Rise: A Feminist Book Project List, the NCSS-CBC Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People, and the ALA Rainbow List Top Ten.

The YA Fiction Shelf

Dogs of the Deadlands
Anthony McGowan
Rock the Boat; US edition
9780861543199, $17.99, HC, 320pp

Synopsis: Chernobyl, 1986. Without humans, how will dogs survive? As humans fled the nuclear disaster, they were forced to leave their pets behind. Without people, nature began to return to the woods surrounding the power plant -- lynx, bear, and wolves. But the overgrown forest is no place for dogs. Can Zoya, and her pups Misha and Luka, learn to survive in the deadlands? And will Zoya ever find her way home to her beloved owner?

Critique: With a special appeal for young readers ages 10-16 with an interest in dogs, "Dogs of the Deadlands" by Anthony McGowan that underscores the dangers of nuclear power plants and their catastrophic effects on pets and wildlife when problems arise like the Chernobyl meltdown. A story that will linger in the mind and memory of its young readers, "Dogs of the Deadlands" is highly recommended for elementary school, middle school, highschool, and community library fiction collections. It should be noted that "Dogs of the Deadlands" is also available in paperback edition (9780861543267, $12.99), in a digital book format (Kindle, $5.99), and as a complete and unabridged audio book (9781038623362, $19.99, CD).

Editorial Note: Anthony McGowan ( is one of the most widely acclaimed young adult and children's authors in the UK. In 2020, he was awarded the CILIP Carnegie Medal for Lark. He was also shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal with Rook and won the Booktrust Teenage Prize and the Catalyst Award for Henry Tumour. His YA novel The Knife That Killed Me was made into a critically-lauded film in 2014.

The Mystery/Suspense Shelf

The Christmas Curse of Krampus: Secrets in the Ice
Devin Arloski
EurOwnAmerica Publishing
9798218044305, $9.99

Curses and mystery aren't typical holiday reading, but Devin Arloski's The Christmas Curse of Krampus: Secrets in the Ice continues his tradition of providing a holiday story with a twist for children who look for more than the usual Christmas themes. A year has passed since Max's original involvement in a Christmas curse, and the holidays are once again fast approaching as December 4th opens the story. A mysterious letter that warns "I found them" could be from Santa, portending another adventure that draws Max and his father even as they are still settling down from last year's Christmas explosion. Things are now better between Max and his father, and he hates to rock that boat. He's also managed to keep these past events secret from even his best friend Mina. It's unlikely she'll be open to the possibility that Santa is real, much less the magic that surrounds him.

Forced to make adjustments in his relationships for the sake of undertaking a new mission, Max finds himself once again immersed in a Christmas mystery that sends him into an icy world where Krampusnacht is threatened by his involvements. Greenland's Inuit mythology and a host of creepy creatures coalesce to make this story a far different experience than the usual holiday read. Forced to tell his dad and Mina, the truth, Max finds himself on a new adventure with his best friend that even threatens the wise leader Santa. While The Christmas Curse of Krampus: Secrets in the Ice needs no prior familiarity with its predecessor in order to prove thoroughly engrossing to newcomers, those who have read the first book will be in a better position to appreciate the protagonist and plot's evolutionary process.

Advanced elementary through middle grade readers and up will find the adventure satisfying, the interpersonal relationships and conundrums realistic and involving, and the holiday overlay a cut above the traditional seasonal read. The action is fast-paced as the important adults in Max's life join in to rescue him from an impossible situation. The result is another winning story that turns the usual holiday theme on end with an exciting adventure backed by Santa and, this time, reaching out to involve Max's parents and friends in unusual ways.

Simone LaFray and the Red Wolves of London
S. P. O'Farrell
Brandylane Publishers
5 South 1st Street, Richmond, VA 23219
9781953021359, $32.95, HC, 248pp

Synopsis: After her triumph at the Chocolatiers' Ball, Simone LaFray wants to fade into the shadows and avoid her newfound popularity - but that is not to be. Duty calls when a fellow junior spy goes missing from the posh Claymoore School in London, and Simone jumps at the assignment. Going undercover, she soon finds herself embroiled in a complicated game involving dark forces, the enigmatic OmniKey, and an unruly royal. First looks can be deceiving, but could a certain redheaded thief be pulling the strings?

Simone must navigate school rivalries, oversee the opening of a new LaFray's Patisserie, and finds herself questioning her loyalties as she prowls under the moonlight with the notorious Red Wolves. And to top it all off, the most popular boy in school can't stop staring at her. The life of the world's most promising young spy is about to get messy.

Critique: A fun read from cover to cover, "Simone LaFray and the Red Wolves of London" by S.P. O'Farrell ( is the second volume in the author's Simone LaFray Mysteries series, and unreservedly recommended for middle school, highschool and community library Mystery/Suspense collections for young readers, It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Simone LaFray and the Red Wolves of London" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9781953021366, $17.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $3.99).

The Pursuit of the Pilfered Cheese
Haley Stewart, author
Betsy Wallin, illustrator
Pauline Books & Media
9780819860514, $24.95, HC, 80pp

Synopsis: Beneath the floorboards of G. K. Chesterton's home, a thrilling pursuit is about to unfold among the mice who live there! Sister Seraphina was pleased that everything was ready for the school fair. But when the prize cheese goes missing, the Sisters of Our Lady Star of the Sea and their brave students will need all their detective wits to solve the mystery. With a little literary inspiration from their upstairs neighbors, can they band together to solve the case -- and save Saint Wulfhilda's School?

Critique: The first installment of the new Sister Seraphina Mysteries series by the team of author/storyteller Haley Stewart and artist/illustrator Betsy Wallin, "The Pursuit of the Pilfered Cheese" is a charmingly entertaining story that will have a very special appeal for children 4-8 -- making it an ideal and unreservedly recommended addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library Animal Fiction and Children's Mystery/Detective storybook collections.

Editorial Note #1: Haley Stewart ( is an award-winning author and the Managing Editor of Word on Fire Spark. Her family lived on a farm for a year, and she wrote a book about it (for grown-ups) titled The Grace of Enough. Haley and her husband have four children, an enormous dog named Samwise, and a grumpy cat named Lillian, but (as far as they know) no mice under the floor- boards.

Editorial Note #2: Betsy Wallin ( who is the author and illustrator of My First Farm Friends: Books in a Barn, grew up drawing horses and barns in the countryside of upstate New York. She studied Art History at Vassar College and the University of California, Berkeley, and received training in illustration at Pratt Institute in New York.

The Fantasy/SciFi Shelf

Krystal Winkle and the Peacemaker of Kigali
Carolyn White
Windstorm Publishers
9780578591391, 308pp (Ages 9-12)

Synopsis: Krystal Winkle has never befriended a silverback gorilla or little people who live on bananas. She's never been hunted by albino snakes, confronted a soul-sucker, encountered a fortuneteller, or even a 150-year old Maasai Warrior. But all of that is about to change during the summer of 1970 when Krystal turns ten and discovers that, although she appears to be an ordinary 10-year old American girl, she is far from it.

After Krystal's father relocates her family to Africa, she confronts danger and places her life at risk to fight injustice -- all the while continuing to unravel the mystery of who she really is, how to control her hidden power, and what her destiny will require of her -- that is, if she can survive the evil which is right in front of her.

Critique: Of special appeal to young readers with an interest in fantasy adventures, endangered animals, and African folklore/mythology. A fun and fascinating read by an author with a genuine flair for originality and the kind of narrative driven storytelling that makes for a truly engaging read from first page to last, "Krystal Winkle and the Peacemaker of Kigali" is especially and unreservedly recommended for family, elementary school, middle school, and community library collections for children ages 8-12.

Editorial Note: Carolyn Roth-White ( is an author of children's fantasy adventure series for middle graders featuring Krystal Winkle, a clever ten-year-old girl of mystic birth. Carolyn's goal is to take her young reader around the world in an entertaining way by combining fantasy, an animal conservation message, and a bit of education tossed in.

The Bear House: Scales and Stardust
Meaghan McIsaac
Holiday House
9780823446612, $18.99, HC, 368pp

Synopsis: The war in the Bear Highen is over. Aster, at thirteen, has defeated her uncle and become the High Queen. Peace is good, but things are still difficult: political challenges confront her, personal challenges stymie her, and the massive Hemoth Bear, symbol of the House of the Bear, is beginning to resist her control.

When, during a royal hunt, Aster stumbles on a young girl living in a nest of wyverns, matters become even more complex. Because this girl is not a girl at all. She is a living star, come down from her constellation, on a mission both terrible and glorious. And there is no shortage of those who want to use her cosmic powers for their own ends, including rival kings, rival friends, and even three deadly sisters from the plane of demons -- one of whom has an offer for Aster she may find it difficult to refuse!

Critique: "The Bear House Scales and Stardust" is the sequel to author Meaghan McIsaac's fantasy novel "The Bear House" and continues the deftly crafted and inherently fascinating story of Aster and her world. A fun and compelling read from cover to cover, "The Bear House Scales and Stardust" is especially recommended for young readers ages 10-14. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of young fantasy fans that "The Bear House Scales and Stardust" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99).

Editorial Note: Meaghan McIsaac ( is the author of several books for young readers, including The Boys of Fire and Ash, which was shortlisted for the Manitoba Young Readers' Choice Award; and Movers, which was a Shining Willow Finalist for the Saskatchewan Young Readers' Choice Awards.

Leonardo and the Time Travelers
Patty McGuigan, author
Marian Lye, author
Rebekah Reif, illustrator
Overcup Press
9781732610385, $18.95, HC, 184pp

Synopsis: "Leonardo and the Time Travelers" by novelists Marian Lye and Patty McGuigan is the story of Jack and Nick who are in Silicon Valley for a summer technology class, when they discover a secret time travel app. They bring back the world's first time traveler, Leonardo da Vinci! Joined by Jack's sister Poppy, the boys solve problems, meet other time travelers, and have a summer they will never forget!

Critique: Original, fun, and illustrated by Rebekah Reif, "Leonardo and the Time Travelers" will prove to be a welcome addition to elementary school, middle school, and community library Science Fiction collections for young readers ages 9- 12.

Editorial Note #1: Marian Lye's love of history led her to write Weymouth at War, an account of World War 2 on the south coast of England. The book, now in its second edition, features the dramatic build up to D-Day in June 1942, when thousands of American servicemen set sail from the twin ports of Weymouth and Portland, bound for "Omaha Beach" in Normandy.

Editorial Note #2: Patty McGuigan is a successful commercial real estate agent, a past high school English teacher, and active in her Bay Area community. Patty has created numerous books of her artwork and travel memories. Her creativity has been her defining factor throughout her life, and indeed she does believe in time travel.

Editorial Note #3: Rebekah Reif is based in New Hampshire, where she recently graduated from the School of Art and Design at New England College. An up and coming artist, she has a natural talent for drawing, and amazed her collaborators on this project with every new scene she sketched out. Rebekah specializes in comics, and enjoys drawing stories from battles to slices of everyday life.

The Beyond the Hostile Sky Cycle Part 0: After the Breaking
Karen J. Laakko
Atmosphere Press
9781639882755, $13.99

The Beyond the Hostile Sky Cycle Part 0: After the Breaking will delight young adult and teen readers with its especially creative blend of sci-fi, puzzle, and cyclic organization, which is deftly identified and explained in the author's opening notes: " will start with some very important events (Part 0), reset itself (Part 1), and then slowly make its way back."

This prepares readers for the recurring turn of events that keeps them on their toes and prepared for interlinks, making it especially important to attend to close inspection of the unfolding events, lest they come full circle with further expansion. The fallen realm of Vilse resides in the desolate far reaches of this world, which portends a similar fate to three explorers who stumble upon it and seek to learn the truth about what happened.

The 'Part 0' which this cycle opens with actually takes place after the reset button on life has been hit, in a new dark age that divided the world and those who looked over it, both moral and gods. From the very start, Karen J. Laakko creates an evocative blend of observation and connection that draws readers into the new observers, participants, and adventurers in this realm: "This must have been a wondrous realm once, but now it looked like some immense creature had chewed it up, spat it out, and then set fire to it. And yet, as Brinna stood near the top of the mountain trail and gazed on the dimly lit devastation, she could not help but feel a sense of relief, even of fond nostalgia: the wave of emotions experienced by one who has finally returned home after a long time. Those, she knew, were extremely dangerous feelings -- especially here.

The emotion-driven responses to these discoveries are embedded in the story, lending it a power gained from strong characterization and events that range from discoveries and realizations about the world to personal challenges, such as Keraunia's failure to take a place among the warriors, and the tragedy that befell her parents.

At this point, it should be noted that a wide cast of characters, special interests, history and discovery demands of its young adult readers an attention not just to detail, but to names and phrases that have Greek roots. This adds a level of complexity that will satisfy older YA audiences, but may belay some of the attraction for younger readers. However, it also serves to extend the interest level of this YA-oriented fantasy into adult circles.

As Laakko weaves her story of magic and growth, readers absorb the dilemmas of immense power, clashing worlds, and different forms of magic which not just command the involvement in, but challenge the belief systems of different characters. As new and old earth mages face misfortune and the impact of poor decisions based on flawed realities, readers become immersed in the fast-paced and well-drawn tension of a wide range of special interests.

The result is a complex YA read that is recommended for mature teens, adults, and those who look for multifaceted stories spread across different worlds and (likely) future books in the series. As a study defining cyclic plots and their evolutionary process, ideally The Beyond the Hostile Sky Cycle Part 0: After the Breaking will also attract and be utilized in creative writing circles and sci-fi reader groups as an especially strong example of how genre boundaries can be broken to expand their potential audience reach beyond the usual formula genre reader.

The Judaic Shelf

The Very Best Sukkah: A Story from Uganda
Shoshana Nambi, author
Moran Yogev, illustrator
Kalaniot Books
9781735087580, $19.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: Sukkot is Shoshi's favorite Jewish holiday. She and her brothers love to decorate their sukkah, the hut where her family will celebrate. But who will win the Ugandan Abayudaya community's annual sukkah contest? While only one sukkah can be the best, everybody wins when neighbors work together.

Critique: A wonderfully charming collaboration between author/storyteller Shoshana Nambi and artist/illustrator Moran Yogev, "The Very Best Sukkah: A Story from Uganda" is a unique celebration of a major Jewish holiday set in the African state of Uganda. While unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library Jewish themed picture book collections for children ages 4-8, of special note is the inclusion of a Glossary and relevant information on who the Abayudaya are, their culture and their music.

Editorial Note #1: Shoshana Nambi grew up in the Abayudaya Jewish community in the eastern part of Uganda. When she finishes her rabbinical training in 2024, she will be the first female rabbi in Uganda.

Editorial Note #2: Moran Yogev ( is an Israeli illustrator and graphic designer.

Mendel's Hanukkah Mess Up
Chana & Larry Stiefel, authors
Daphna Awadish, illustrator
Kalaniot Books
9781735087573, $19.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: Mendel is always messing up. So, no one is more surprised than he, when the rabbi asks him to drive the Mitzvah Mobile through the streets of New York's Lower East Side and invite everyone to the Hanukkah Bash. What if he messes up again? But as Mendel begins to spread the joy of the holiday to his neighbors, he learns that mistakes can happen and sometimes that's not so bad.

Critique: A fun, original, and charmingly illustrated picture book for young readers ages 4-8, "Mendel's Hanukkah Mess Up" is especially and unreservedly recommended, especially for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections.

Editorial Note: Chana Stiefel is the author of more than 25 books for children, both fiction and nonfiction. Chana loves visiting schools and libraries and sharing her passion for reading and writing with children. Her husband, Larry Stiefel is a pediatrician and author of the The Maggid of Bergenfield short story blog, from which this picture book was created with the artistry of illustrator Daphna Awadish.

The Computer Shelf

Python for Kids: A Playful Introduction To Programming
Jason R. Briggs
No Starch Press
9781593274078, $34.99, PB, 344pp

Synopsis: Python is a powerful, expressive programming language that's easy to learn and fun to use! But books about learning to program in Python can be kind of dull, gray, and boring, and that's no fun for anyone. "Python for Kids: A Playful Introduction To Programming to life and brings students ages 9-16 (along with their parents!) into the world of programming as the ever-patient Jason R. Briggs guide them through the basics as they experiment with unique (and often hilarious) example programs that feature ravenous monsters, secret agents, thieving ravens, and more. New terms are defined; code is colored, dissected, and explained; and quirky, full-color illustrations keep things on the lighter side.

Each chapters ends with a programming puzzles designed to stretch the brain and strengthen understanding. By the end of "Python for Kids" students will have programmed two complete games: a clone of the famous Pong and "Mr. Stick Man Races for the Exit" -- a platform game with jumps, animation, and much more.

With "Python for Kids", children will strike out on a genuine and motivating programming adventure where they will have learned how to: Use fundamental data structures like lists, tuples, and maps; Organize and reuse your code with functions and modules; Use control structures like loops and conditional statements; Draw shapes and patterns with Python's turtle module; Create games, animations, and other graphical wonders with 'tkinter'.

Critique: Fun and effective, "Python for Kids: A Playful Introduction To Programming" is an ideal and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, family, middle school, highschool, and community library Computer instructional reference collections. Ideal for DIY studies and also available in a digital book format (Kindle, 20.99) and in a Spiral Bound edition ($36.90), "Python for Kids" is the perfect introduction to the wide world of computer programming.

Editorial Note: Jason Briggs has been a programmer since the age of eight, when he first learned BASIC on a Radio Shack TRS-80. Since then he has written software professionally as a developer and systems architect and served as Contributing Editor for Java Developer's Journal. His articles have appeared in JavaWorld, ONJava and ONLamp.

The Folktale/Fairytale Shelf

The Fairy Atlas: Fairy Folk of the World
Anna Claybourne, author
Asiain Lora Miren, illustrator
Laurence King Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group
1290 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10104
9781913947286, $19.99, HC, 48pp

Synopsis: Magical, mysterious and sometimes mischievous, the fairy folk of the world are notoriously elusive, but "The Fairy Atlas: Fairy Folk of the World" by the team of author/storyteller Anna Claybourne and artist/illustrator Asiain Lora Miren is a thoroughly charming compendium revealing all their secrets.

From Cornish pixies and Spanish goblins to the forest gnomes of the Congo, welcome to the world of the fairy folk in a captivating, beautifully crafted volume that features a mix of fairy 'facts' and short retellings of some of the most magical fairy tales of the world.

Critique: Beautifully enhanced with memorably impressive and museum quality artwork throughout, "The Fairy Atlas: Fairy Folk of the World" is an extraordinary and inherently fascinating encyclopedic atlas that is a fun, informative, and unreservedly recommended addition to family, elementary school, middle school, and community library Mythology, Folklore, Fantasy, Magic, and Fairytale collections.

Editorial Note #1: Anna Claybourne ( has written over 150 children's books on all kinds of subjects, from sharks, black holes and splitting the atom to how to draw, Shakespeare's life, and Greek myths and legends.

Editorial Note #2: Miren Asiain Lora ( is an award-winning illustrator, currently living in Buenos Aires. Miren has created beautiful illustrations for picture books, posters and more.

The Lore of the Land
Claire Cock-Starkey, author
Samantha Dolan, illustrator
Wide Eyed Editions
c/o Quarto Publishing Group USA
9780711269842, $24.99, HC, 80pp

Synopsis: From thundering rivers to shady groves, flickering marshes to lightless caves, and from snow-capped mountains to the depths of the ocean, with the publication of "The Lore of the Land: Folklore and Wisdom from the Wild Earth" author/storyteller Claire Cock-Starkey and artist/illustrator Samantha Dolan showcase the folklore of Earth's wildest places stories and spirits abounding in these landscapes and seascapes -- where traditional wisdom and mysterious magics have intertwined over centuries.

Each of the six chapters comprising "Lore of the Land" covers a different natural landscape, revealing the worldwide folklore surrounding Woodlands, Seas & Oceans, Wetlands, Mountains, Rivers & Streams, and Hills & Caves. Beginning with tales from cultures spanning the globe, each chapter then dives into the legends of how these places were formed, their place in the human imagination, and their natural and otherworldly denizens.

Young readers will learn how the forests hold up the sky in M ori tradition; how in Ireland, seaweed was once thought to predict the weather; and that the ancient Greeks believed Mount Etna housed the fiery forge of the gods. All this and more is accompanied by beautiful artwork based on real folklore, uncovering the secrets of our natural world as never before.

A treasury of fascinating tales and ancient wisdom, the "Lore of the Land" is sure to fire the imaginations of young nature-lovers, and delight anyone who has ever wondered whether there is more to our natural world than meets the eye.

Critique: Beautifully and profusely illustrated, "The Lore of the Land: Folklore and Wisdom from the Wild Earth" is the sequel to "Lore of the Wild: Folklore and Wisdom from Nature" and will have a very special appeal to young readers ages 6-12 who have an interest in fairytales, folklore, and mythology. "The Lore of the Land: Folklore and Wisdom from the Wild Earth" is especially and unreservedly recommended for family, elementary school, middle school, and community library collections.

Editorial Note #1: Claire Cock-Starkey has worked for BBC Radio 4 and written many other miscellanies and fact-filled books on history, libraries, words, books, and museums, including: Penguins, Pineapples and Pangolins (British Library, 2016), The Book Lovers' Miscellany (Bodleian Library Publishing, 2017). (

Editorial Note #2: Samantha Dolan ( is an artist and illustrator from Scotland. She uses her favorite mediums, pencil, ink, and gouache paint, to create art inspired by the natural world around her. She is inspired by nature and plants along with a love of myth and folklore.

How the Oceans Came to Be
Arvis Boughman, author
Alfreda Beartrack-Algeo
7th Generation
c/o The Book Publishing Company
9781939053442, $14.95, PB, 40pp

Synopsis: "How the Oceans Came to Be" by the team of author/storyteller Arvis Boughman and artist/illustrator Alfreda Beartrack-Algeo is a delightful Lumbee story in which clever Rabbit outsmarts a selfish Great Snapping Turtle. When Rabbit discovers many animals could not find water, he sets out to solve the mystery. What he finds is the Great Snapping Turtle blocking the water of the Mother Spring. When the stubborn turtle refuses to move, Rabbit figures out a way to let the water flow. As the water flowed to all creatures, it also created the oceans of Turtle Island.

Critique: A thoroughly charming and traditional Native American folklore story for children ages 3-5, "How the Oceans Came to Be" is a fun read and certain to be an enduringly popular addition to family, daycare center, preschool, kindergarten, and community library picture book collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "How the Oceans Came to Be" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note #1: Arvis Boughman ( is an enrolled member of the Lumbee Indian tribe of North Carolina. He works with adults and children, as an elementary school teacher and a speech/language pathologist. He has worked with children from many different Nations including First Nations children from the Lumbee, the Eastern Band of Cherokee, and the Sioux.

Editorial Note #2: A storyteller, poet, artist and illustrator, Alfreda Beartrack-Algeo ( recent book, "The Day the Earth Rose Up", is her Lakota version of the story of the Pleiades star constellation. She is a member of the Lower Brule Lakota Nation, Kul Wicasa Oyate, Lower Brule, South Dakota.

The Biography Shelf

Hero for the Hungry: The Life and Work of Norman Borlaug
Peggy Thomas, author
Sam Kalda, illustrator
Feeding Minds Press
9781948898096, $15.99, PB, 160pp

Synopsis: Can a quiet Iowa farm boy grow up to change the world? Norman Ernest Borlaug did.

Born in 1914, raised on a small farm, and educated in a one-room schoolhouse, Norman Borlaug learned to work hard and excelled in sports, and later studied forestry in college, eventually becoming a plant scientist.

Young readers will discover how even from an early age Norman Borlaug dedicated his life's work to ending world hunger. Working in obscurity in the wheat fields of Mexico in the 50s and 60s, Norm and his team developed disease-resistant plants, and when widespread famine threatened India and Pakistan, Norm worked alongside poor farmers, battled bureaucracy, and fearlessly stood up to heads of state to save millions of lives from mass starvation.

Often called the "Father of the Green Revolution," Norm helped lay the groundwork for agricultural technological advances that alleviated world hunger, and he went on to win the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1970. He was a true hero for the hungry.

"Hero for the Hungry: The Life and Work of Norman Borlaug" features: Sidebars on the science of plant hybridization and pathology Norman was using to produce new and better wheat varieties; Information on a range of agriculture and plant life concepts, including agronomy, wheat genes, photoperiodism, stem rust, nutrients and more; Back matter including a timeline of events and discoveries, and a call to action for readers to think about how they can use science to solve problems and how they can do small things to help with hunger and food waste.

Critique: An informative and inherently interesting biography for young readers ages 10-15, "Hero for the Hungry: The Life and Work of Norman Borlaug" by author Peggy Thomas and illustrator Sam Kalda is unreservedly recommended for elementary school and middle school science class learning about genetics, agriculture class agronomy curriculums, as well as school and community library biography collections..

Editorial Note: Feeding Minds Press is a project of the American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture, whose mission is to build awareness and understanding of agriculture through education. Their focus on helping young readers understand where their food comes from, who grows it, and how it gets to them and believe in cultivating curiosity about food and farming and how agriculture plays a role in our daily lives. All books from Feeding Minds Press have accompanying lessons, activities, and videos to further learning available on their website,

Kid Trailblazers
Robin Stevenson, author
Allison Steinfeld, illustrator
Quirk Books
215 Church Street, Philadelphia PA 19106
9781683693017, $14.99, HC, 224pp

Synopsis: Featuring kid-friendly text by Robin Stevenson and full-color illustrations by Allison Steinfeld, "Kid Trailblazers: True Tales of Childhood from Changemakers and Leaders" highlights contemporary figures who have led the way in government, social activism, environmental justice, and the arts.

Young readers will learn how these figures got their start as kids just like them, with impactful stories and fun facts such as: German chancellor Angela Merkel once won a trip to Moscow, where she bought a Beatles album; Political activist Stacey Abrams and her siblings played pretend as librarians for fun; Former Vice President Al Gore lived in a hotel as a kid and liked to drop water balloons off the roof!

"Kid Trailblazers" explores the childhood stories of leaders who have taken on the most pressing issues of our time by expressing themselves and challenging the world.

Critique: As fun as it is informative, "Kid Trailblazers: True Tales of Childhood from Changemakers and Leaders" is a compendium of succinct biographies that range from environmental activist Greta Thumberg to the late congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis. While also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.99), and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Blackstone Audio, 9798200905157, $21.95, CD), "Kid Trailblazers: True Tales of Childhood from Changemakers and Leaders" is and ideal and highly recommended addition to family, elementary school, middle school, and community library Biography collections for children ages 8-12.

Editorial Note #1: Robin Stevenson ( is an award-winning author of thirty books for kids and teens. Her writing has been translated into a number of languages and published in more than a dozen countries.

Editorial Note #2: Allison Steinfeld ( obtained a BFA from the School of Visual Arts in New York City. She loves to create fun and playful work that can be enjoyed by readers of all ages.

I Am Coco: The Life of Coco Chanel
Isabel Pin
Prestel Junior
c/o Prestel Publishing
9783791375083, $17.95, HC, 96pp

Synopsis: Young Gabrielle came from a poor family, was orphaned at age 12, and learned to sew in a convent school. She worked as a seamstress and sang in cabarets, where she was given the nickname Coco.

"I Am Coco: The Life of Coco Chanel" is the story of a remarkable career and is exuberantly told in Isabel Pin's simple yet detailed illustrations. Young readers will learn about Coco's beginnings as a hat designer, and how her earliest creations presaged the concept of sportswear.

They'll learn about her iconic designs including the little black dress, the impeccable suit, the squared-off perfume bottle, and the acclaimed logo. And they will learn how a freethinking young artist who freed women from the corsets and extravagant ornamentations of the early 20th century grew into a ferociously ambitious designer who staged her own comeback at the age of 70.

Whether they are interested in the history of fashion, or looking for encouragement to pursue their own dreams, young readers will find this entertaining biography both fascinating and inspiring.

Critique: Informative and fun, "I Am Coco: The Life of Coco Chanel" showcases the life and accomplishments of a gifted woman who rose from poverty to be one the most influential fashion experts of her time. "I Am Coco: The Life of Coco Chanel" is an unreservedly recommended addition to elementary school and community library biography collections for young readers ages 6-9.

Editorial Note: Born in France, and currently residing in Berlin, Germany, Isabel Pin is an award-winning illustrator who has published more than 40 books, received numerous awards, and was nominated for the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award in 2011 and 2012.

The Sports Shelf

Hubi's Surf Atlas - Part 1
Joachim Chrisgau, author
Alex Whitman, author
Wilder World
9788794043007, $29.95, HC, 96pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "Hubi's Surf Atlas - Part 1" co-authors Joachim Chrisgau and Alex Whitman takes young readers on a global surf odyssey to 15 amazing destinations. Children will fully enjoy joining a young boy named Hubi as they dive into surf facts, local culture, oceanography, marine wildlife, and science.

A compendium of more than 200 fun facts, maps and infographics, "Hubi's Surf Atlas - Part 1" ignites curiosity as it answers such questions as: How do tidal bores make it possible to surf rivers? How do surfers prepare for the planet's biggest waves? What is a seamount? Can a frog weigh as much as a surfboard?

Immersing themselves in stories, reports, and spot guides from every corner of the globe, young readers will shiver with Hubi beneath the Northern Lights in Norway; sail to cold and windy Antarctica with good friends; and surf through the Amazon rainforest.

Critique: A sturdy 96-page, "Hubi's Surf Atlas - Part 1" is a beautifully illustrated atlas makes learning fun and can be appreciated by any adventuring young spirit Reading to and developing basic STEM concepts among early readers as part of an exploration for chapter book capable readers, and independent reading for middle-grade readers, "Hubi's Surf Atlas - Part 1" has multiple layers that will entertain and inform, making it an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to family, elementary school, and community library collections for children ages 6-12.

Editorial Note: International teammates Joachim Christgau & Alex Whitman have lived, worked, studied, and surfed around the globe -- from the NorCal wilderness to Baja California Mexico's dusty puntas y arroyos; to the booming North Shore of Oahu; to secrets in the Caribbean, Central, and South America; to the South Pacific and Southern Africa; to the tempestuous and sometimes frozen North and Baltic Seas. Inspired to create by the incredible people, adventures, learning and wildlife that they've met and experienced along the way, their books aim to weave discovery, action, and inspiration to ignite children's imaginations.

The Psychology Shelf

Hi, It's Me I Have ADHD
Katelyn Mabry, author
Charles J. Friedel, illustrator
Purple Butterfly Press
9781955119320, $18.99, HC, 28pp

Synopsis: From thinking fast, to thinking slow, from feeling high, to feeling low; "Hi, It's Me!, I have ADHD" is the story of a child who wishes adults could see inside her head.

Based on the author Katelyn Mabry's personal experience with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, "Hi, It's Me" shares the thoughts, feelings, emotions, and experiences of a young girl who is dealing with the many challenges of ADHD.

Offering insight into the world of ADHD and presenting a list of tips and a printable coloring/journal pages; this rhyming picture book helps children struggling with ADHD feel empowered. It lets kids know that the diagnosis does NOT define them and that there are so many gifts beneath the diagnosis. It communicates that they can find peace knowing they're not alone in how they think and feel.

Critique: Enhanced with the supporting illustrations of Charles J. Friedel, "Hi, It's Me!, I have ADHD" will prove a welcome and informative addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library Learning Disabilities and Self-Esteem collections for children ages 4-9.

Koala Ballerina's Superhero Bowling Rescue
Sheri Poe-Pape
Sheri Poe-Pape, Publisher
9798402873964, $11.95 Paper/$17.99 Hardcover

To play a game of bowling is Koala Ballerina's "happiest dream." She is a "frisky, strong joey" able to leave other bowlers "in total awe" of her strengths and abilities despite the fact that she wears a dancer's tutu and a tiara to her bowling game.

As Sheri Poe-Pape's rollicking rhyme covering Koala Ballerina's latest exploit is accompanied by whimsical and colorful illustrations by Nejla Shojaie, the story unfolds to become more than about ballet, bowling, or sports abilities.

Poe-Pape's story is also about pride, "acting childlike" with enthusiasm over personal achievements, and stepping up to help friends like poor Wilfrid Wombat who, in contrast to the powerful achiever Koala, is inept and has problems coordinating and concentrating.

When Wilfrid attracts the attention of a bully in the neighboring lane, it's up to Koala to employ her spunk, courage, and determination in more than just achieving personal success. Poe-Pape's story explores the complex subjects of ADHD and life interactions in a way that young picture book readers can readily understand.

In building a foundation first with Koala's successful strengths and abilities, then contrasting these with Wilfrid's experiences in and view of his world, understanding is promoted through a story that adult participants can use to explain not just ADHD, but bullying and different ways of approaching life.

As Super Koala Ballerina assumes her alter-ego after perceiving Wilfrid is in trouble, young readers gain insights into what they, too, could do when they see bullying and observe peers who act differently. Koala's solution goes beyond rescue, delving into creating bridges of understanding that adults can use to show the young how to foster cooperation in their own young worlds.

By using the image of a proactive, strong female who figures out how to not just be a superhero, but help educate those around her, the story moves beyond an action figure's rescue attempts to delve into the bigger picture of emotional barriers to acceptance, and understanding how to address them.

Libraries and adults looking for picture books that feature strong female characters, attract attention with vivid color drawings and the familiar superhero concept, then take the next step into linking these attractors to better life choices and true heroism will find Koala Ballerina's Superhero Bowling Rescue a winner.

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.

Twas the Night Before Pride
Joanna McClintick, author
Juana Medina, illustrator
9781536213430, $17.99

Christine Irvin

This book uses the format of the well-known poem Twas the Night Before Christmas with its opening line and its rhyming text. Of course, the subject matter is completely different. Author Joanna McClintick gives young readers a glimpse into the topic of gay pride and into the history of the Pride movement. It's a great introduction for young readers. (Ages 4-8)

Wait and See
Helen Frost, author
Rick Lieder, illustrator
9781536216318, $17.99

Christine Irvin

Minimal text and exquisite photos make this a treat for both the reader and the viewer. Both will learn more about the fascinating praying mantis as well as learn a lesson about taking the time to wait... and see what happens next. (Ages 3-7)

So Much More to Helen!
Meeg Pincus, author
Caroline Bonne-Muller, illustrator
Sleeping Bear Press
9781534111516, $17.99

Christine Irvin

Many of us are familiar with the story of Helen Keller, a girl who was born blind and deaf, but who learned how to communicate through sign language. But did you know she was also an activist and a performer (among other things)? She didn't let her physical challenges limit her life. Author Meeg Pincus presents readers with an intriguing look at the real-life story of this extraordinary woman. (Ages 4-8)

The Clown Said No
Mischa Damjan, author
Torben Kuhlmann, illustrator
Anthea Bell, translator
NorthSouth Books
9780735844766, $17.95

Christine Irvin

What happens when the clown says no? When the ringmaster says it's time to start the show, the clown just says, "No." Petronius, the clown, is tired of doing what the ringmaster tells him to do. So are his animal friends, the horse, the donkey, the lion, the giraffe and the dog. Collectively, they shut down the circus when they walk away. But then, what happens next? It takes a while for them to figure it out, but in the end, they discover they are happiest when they do what they want to do. Expressive, full-color illustrations, several of them covering double-page spreads, complement the story. (Ages 4-8)

The Waiting Place
Dina Nayeri, author
Anna Bosch Miralpeix, illustrator
9781536213621, $18.99

Christine Irvin

Author Dina Nayeri and photographer Anna Bosch Miralpeix take readers through the streets of the Katsikas refugee camp, which is located in Greece. Together, they illustrate the lives of 10 young people who are "waiting" in the camp, which has come to be known as "the waiting place." The children live in shipping containers that have been converted into "houses." The Waiting Place is an unflinching look at ten young lives suspended outside of time - and bravely proceeding anyway. (Ages 12-17)

A Dream of Birds
Shenaz Patel, author
Emmanuelle Tchoukriel, illustrator
Amazon Crossing Kids
9781662500930, $17.99

Christine Irvin

Whenever Sara sees birds, she thinks of her grandfather. He loved birds. They came to visit him every day in his backyard. On her way to school, Sara comes across a large cage filled with bright, colorful parakeets. They remind her of the birds who used to visit her grandfather. Sara is filled with sadness because the birds are locked in a cage. She wants to set them free, but what can she do? Colorful, expressive illustrations adorn the pages of this beautifully written book. (Ages 5-8)

A Day by the Sea
Barbara Nascimbeni
Thames & Hudson
9780500652954, $14.95

Christine Irvin

When Frido takes a trip to the beach by the sea with his owner, he is instructed to, "Be a good dog and stay here with me." Frido doesn't want to disappoint his owner, but he is a very curious dog, and he just has to look at the water ... just for one minute. But, of course, there are so many things to see and do at the beach that he just might get a little carried away. Simple but fun illustrations pair with minimal text for a book that all can enjoy. (Ages 3-5)

Field Day for Eugene: Kindness, Acceptance, Inclusion
Maria Lei Antonio, author
Bonnie Lemaire, illustrator
Halo Publishing
9781637650776, $13.95

Deb Greenberg

Eugene doesn't let being in a wheelchair stop him from practicing the water balloon toss all summer with his sister in preparation for Field Day with his class. But when another student questions his ability to participate, Eugene and his classmates learn a valuable lesson. This sweet story teaches kindness and acceptance as the kids work together with Eugene, and see that he is capable of everything they are and is as excited as they are on Field Day. A definite keeper for your child's bookshelf. (Ages 5-8)

The Sun on My Face
Pamela C. Rice
Kidshelf Books
B0BGQLMR6D, $6.99

Deb Greenberg

Witness nature through the eyes of young Lulu, as she makes the most of every opportunity in the outdoors. From watching small animals, feeding fish, and flapping her arms with the birds to splashing her toes in the water, listening to the chorus of crickets and insects as the sun sets, and catching fireflies, this is where Lulu can be herself. Spark your children's interest in the amazing outdoors, as they turn the pages and share in Lulu's fascination with nature. (Ages 6-11)

Finding Joy
Raven Howell, author
Pamela C. Rice, illustrator
Story Monsters Press
9781589850125, $15.95

Deb Greenberg

A little girl and her brother experience all kinds of adventures with Joy, their adopted dog, romping through snow and splashing in puddles. When one day Joy isn't there to greet them after school, the siblings learn about loss... that it's normal to be sad but also important to think of all the joyful moments. Then, as a new season arrives, so does a new furry friend in need of a loving home. Soft and warm artwork contributes to this soothing story. (Ages 4-7)

Can You Survive the Wonderful Wizard of Oz?
Frank L. Baum, original author
Adapted by Ryan Jacobson
Lake 7 Creative
9781940647715, $9.95

Deb Greenberg

This creative and interactive adaptation of the classic novel puts readers in control of the action. As Dorothy, the main character, you must choose your own adventure wisely and use your knowledge and collection of strange friends to combat angry trees, winged monkeys, and tiger-bears as you travel the yellow brick road. Jump right into the Land of Oz and see where your decisions take you. (Ages 9-13)

Baa, Baa, Tap Sheep
Kenda Henthorn, author
Lauren Gallegos, illustrator
Sleeping Bear Press
9781534111561, $17.99

Deb Greenberg

When three little ones settle in for the night, the sheep that are supposed to be counting them down to slumber have other ideas for the evening... their waltzing, tango-ing, and boogie-ing have the trio giggling and wiggling. Your kids will be toe-tapping along, until they're danced out and the nap sheep take over. A sweet rhyming story with the most adorable illustrations to spark imaginations. (Ages 2-5)

The Circles in the Sky
Karl James Mountford
Candlewick Studio
9781536224986, $18.99

Deb Greenberg

Drawn toward the forest by the singing of birds, Fox sees a small bird, silent and still. When the bird doesn't move or sing no matter what Fox does, he experiences a range of emotions from confusion to anger, until a friend shares his thoughts about the circles in the sky... the sun, even after it sets, is reflected in the moon and the stars. Mountford brings to light a sensitive topic with his tender story and soothing artwork. (Ages 3-7)

Going on a Ghost Hunt
Dianne Moritz, author
Vickie Kastl Moritz, illustrator
Doodle & Peck Publishing
9798985335170, $10.99

Dr. Dawn Menge

What could be more fun than three dog friends exploring the fall outdoors right before Halloween? Can you guess what they found? Scrunch, Scrunch, scrunch, squish, squish, squish, scuff, scuff, scuff and what did they tip, tip, toe through? Their adventure leads them straight back to their home where a new surprise was waiting for them. Our class enjoyed this fun fall read and the sounds that were made as the dogs ventured out into the world. (Ages 4-8)

Story Monsters Among Us
Conrad J. Storad, author
Jeff Yesh, illustrator
Story Monsters Press
9781589852426, $14.95

Dr. Dawn Menge

Conrad Storad's book on the history of storytelling is a must-read. Stories are powerful forces that follow us through generations and centuries. Story Monster travels through China's Han Dynasty, Kiva of a Zuni Pueblo, Britain, Stratford-upon-Avon in England, La Jolla, California, a library in Phoenix, Arizona, and finally into the spaces of Mars where the astronauts use storytelling to pass their time. The impact of the storyteller is never forgotten. (Ages 5+)

The Fog Catcher's Daughter
Marianne McShane, author
Alan Marks, illustrator
9781536211306, $18.99

Diana Perry

A daughter embarks on a perilous journey to rescue her father in this beautiful, eerie, and timeless original folktale. Haunting watercolor paintings evoke the beauty of the Irish coastline in an imaginative coming-of-age tale about honoring the past and taking courage with an open heart. Early readers will love this story as they learn the truth about fairies and how leaving butter for them may help you stay safe, even for a little while. (Ages 5-8)

Ballet Kids
Holly Sterling
9781536220377, $18.99

Diana Perry

Stretchy leggings on? Ballet shoes in the bag? Let's go! Join Thomas and his fellow dancers as they're welcomed into the studio for their Saturday ballet class. This story shows that ballet is for both girls and boys and that they all have different types of jobs as ballet dancers. Little ones will learn the terms and positions that a ballet dancer must know. I feel that this book will have many more little ones asking to go to ballet school when they see how much fun it can be. (Ages 3-7)

Burt's Way Home
John Martz
Tundra Books
9780735271029, $12.99

Diana Perry

Burt is an alien from a distant galaxy with advanced technology, but an accident has made his parents disappear and trapped him on Earth. And no matter what he does, he can't seem to get lowly Earth technology to work well enough to get him home. Beginning readers will absolutely love reading this graphic novel and will find this story intriguing, funny, suspenseful, heartwarming and well-plotted as they practice their reading. (Ages 6-9)

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