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Children's Bookwatch

Volume 32, Number 9 September 2022 Home | CBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Holiday Shelf Psychology Shelf
Health Shelf Science Shelf Pets/Wildlife Shelf
Folktale/Fairytale Shelf ABC Shelf Counting Shelf
Board Book Shelf Picturebook Shelf Elementary Fiction Shelf
Middle Grade Fiction Shelf Young Adult Fiction Shelf Mystery/Suspense Shelf
Fantasy/SciFi Shelf Graphic Novel Shelf Music CD Shelf
Multimedia Shelf Activity Shelf Biography Shelf
Language Studies Shelf Books in Series Story Monsters Ink Shelf

Reviewer's Choice

You Got a Phone! (Now Read This Book)
Elizabeth Englander, Ph.D. and Katharine Covino, Ed.D., authors
Steve Mark, illustrator
Free Spirit Publishing
6325 Sandburg Road, Suite 100, Minneapolis, MN 55427-3674
9781631986406, $10.99, PB, 128pp

Synopsis: Modern smartphones are super fun, really convenient, and amazingly useful tools! But when kids and smartphones are together, problems can pop up. "You Got a Phone! (Now Read This Book)" offers fun and straight-to-the-point advice for kids who have phones and parents who want to keep phone trouble at bay.

Kids need to know about the screen-related cyberbullying, neurological changes, and sleep problems that come with having a phone -- before it becomes an issue. "You Got a Phone! (Now Read This Book)" features a humorous yet supportive tone and hilarious illustrations that draw readers in and keep them engaged.

This instructive guide shows kids can do awesome things with their phones, starting with six basic phone rules to help keep kids safe online with a healthy life balance, "You Got a Phone! (Now Read This Book)" also includes information on: How to avoid muddled misunderstandings; Bullying, cyberbullying, and phone-y meanness; Safely posting and sharing photos online and how to avoid phone-related stress or anxiety.

Of special note is that at the end of each chapter, "You Got a Phone! (Now Read This Book)" provides kids with additional tips and information for smart and safe phone use.

Critique: Considering the possibilities and perils of social media and the smart phone, "You Got a Phone! (Now Read This Book)" is a vital resource for parents to help their children use the modern smartphone responsible, safely, and effectively. Simply stated, "You Got a Phone! (Now Read This Book)" should be read by every kid with a phone -- or who wants to have one when their parents think they are ready for that responsibility. "You Got a Phone! (Now Read This Book)" must be considered an essential and unreservedly recommended addition to family, elementary school, middle school, and community library Life Skills safety & self-esteem collections for children ages 8-13.

Editorial Note #1: Elizabeth Englander is a college professor who has spent more than 25 years doing research and thinking about ways to help kids be happier, less worried, and make more friends as they grow up. She's written eight books and about a hundred really nerdy, technical articles in research journals. She has a web page on the Bridgewater State University website at

Editorial Note #2: Katharine Covino is a college professor who teaches teachers how to teach. She's been a teacher for almost 20 years. She's interested in finding ways of helping young teachers who are just starting out. She also writes about her work asking young kids interesting and tough questions. She believes that all students should be able to see themselves reflected in the books and stories they read. She has a dedicate web page on the Fitchburg State University website at

Editorial Note #3: Steve Mark is a freelance illustrator and a part-time puppeteer. He has illustrated many books for children, including the Little Laugh & Learn series and all the books in the Laugh & Learn(R) series for older kids. He has a website at

Leo Learns to Meditate
Francesca Hampton, author
John Ledda, illustrator
Bala Kids
c/o Shambhala Publications, Inc.
300 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston, MA 02115-4544
9781611809169, $17.95, 44pp

Synopsis: Everyone in Leo's family meditates but him -- and that includes his mom, his dad, his older sister, and even his stuffed bear, Teddy! But what does it mean to "meditate," and is it something that Leo can do too?

When Mom becomes his meditation teacher, Leo discovers that it's about more than just sitting still. After starting to get the hang of it, he's got to apply what he's learned off the cushion and out in the world when a bully targets him at school and steals his piece of apple pie.

Through his experiences, Leo learns to meditate in the up times, the down times, and the in-between times.

Critique: The graphic-novel illustration style by artist John Ledda gives Leo's story by author Francesca Hampton a fun and easy-to-follow narrative arc. It also gives parents, guardians, and teachers an opportunity to playfully introduce children to meditation and even includes a step-by-step guided practice at the end to get their kids started. A unique and thoroughly 'kid friendly' approach to explaining the value and practice of medication, "Leo Learns to Meditate: A Curious Kid's Guide to Life's Ups and Downs and Lots In-Between" is especially and unreservedly recommended for family, elementary school, and community library health, self-esteem, and medication picture book collections for children ages 6-9. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Leo Learns to Meditate: A Curious Kid's Guide to Life's Ups and Downs and Lots In-Between" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99).

Editorial Note #1: Francesca Hampton has been a Buddhist practitioner since the '70s and helped to establish Tibetan Buddhist centers in California. She later worked as an English language editor at the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives and spent a number of years in India and Tibet. She eventually settled into a career as an English as a Second Language and Adult Education teacher. She has authored a few self-published short stories and children's books.

Editorial Note #2: John Ledda is a lifelong lover of children's books and holds an MFA in illustration from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. He creates charming, humorous, and heartfelt images and stories for readers of all ages. He has a dedicated website at

Everyone Belongs
Heather Avis, author
Sarah Mensinga, illustrator
WaterBrook Press
c/o WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group
10807 New Allegiance Drive Suite 500, Colorado Springs, CO 80921
9780593232675, $12.99, HC, 40pp

Synopsis: Macy and Tru are putting on a spectacular talent show to highlight the ways they love to perform. Other kids arrive, eager to participate but unsure if they'll be welcomed. Since the two sisters know that everything is a lot more fun when everybody's included, they're determined to find a role in the show for each person.

Inspiring, encouraging, and packed with joy, "Everyone Belongs" by the team of author/storyteller Hather Avis and artist/illustrator Sarah Mensinga reminds children that it is possible to make room for all people and all abilities -- and that life is brighter when we give every person a chance to shine!

Critique: With a delightful rhyming text entertainingly supportive and charming illustrations, "Everyone Belongs" will prove a treasured addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library Life Skills picture book collections for children ages 3-7. Of special appeal to young readers with an interest in children's books with the theme of coping with disabilities, and the values of friendship, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Everyone Belongs" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $6.99).

Editorial Note #1: Children's books author Heather Avis also has a podcast at, as well as being an influencer on Instagram at @TheLuckyFewOffical

Editorial Note #2: Canadian children's book illustrator Sarah Mensinga has a dedicated website at Sarah Mensinga

Norton and the Bear
Gabriel Evans
Berbay Publishing
9781922610447, $17.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: Is imitation the sincerest form of flattery? Or is it just annoying? "Norton and the Bear" by storytelling artist Gabriel Evans is an hilarious read-aloud picture book that explores every child's least favorite form of admiration: copying. It also helps young readers deal with the sensitive topics of conformity, individuality, and belonging in an accessible, kid-friendly way. Ultimately, setting boundaries should be empowering for kids, just like it is for Norton.

Critique: A fun read with a significant message about manners, emotions, and friendship for children ages 3-6, "Norton and the Bear" by author/illustrated Gabriel Evans is highly recommended as a prized addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library Life Skills picture book collections.

Editorial Note: Gabriel Evans is an Australian picture book author and illustrator who was shortlisted for the Children's Book Council of Australia Picture Book of the Year for Norton and the Bear. Gabriel is also the winner of the inaugural SCBWI Australian Picture Book Illustrator Award in the "Established Illustrator" category. Gabriel has a dedicated website at

The Holiday Shelf

Our Day of the Dead Celebration
Ana Aranda
Nancy Paulsen Books
c/o Penguin Young Readers Group
9780525514282, $17.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: The Day of the Dead is a happy day when Mar's family gathers together. There are favorite dishes to enjoy, games to be played, and most importantly, stories to tell. No one in the family is forgotten because this is the day of the year when the dead come to visit the living -- and for this holiday it is almost as if they're alive again, as the family takes great joy in celebrating the things that made them special.

Mar realizes she is just like her Grandpa Ramon, who kept a journal. And her sister, Paz, plays accordion, just like their great-grandfather. There are so many things that connect them all -- and at dinner, Abuelita spins even more stories that make them feel close to the ones they will love forever. Ana Aranda's tender text and vibrant art make the joy felt on this sweet day totally palpable.

Critique: "The Day of the Dead Celebration" by storyteller and artist Ana Aranda is a particularly charming, entertaining, and illustrative story of a little girl and her family celebrating an important holiday in Mexican culture. While especially and particularly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library Holiday picture book collections for children ages 3-7, it should be noted for personal reading lists that ""The Day of the Dead Celebration" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99).

Editorial Note #1: Author and artist Ana Aranda has also illustrated Moth & Butterfly: Ta-da! (by Dev Petty) and The Chupacabra Ate the Candelabra (by Marc Tyler Nobleman). She was born and raised in Mexico City, and completed her undergraduate studies in illustration in France. In San Francisco, she painted murals in the Mission District, for the Consulate General of Mexico, and for the prestigious de Young Museum. Her biggest inspirations are her childhood memories, the vibrant colors of Mexico, and music. She has a dedicated website at

Editorial Note: #2: The Day of the Dead (Spanish: Dia de Muertos or Dia de los Muertos) is a holiday traditionally celebrated on November 1 and 2, though other days, such as October 31 or November 6, may be included depending on the locality. It largely originated in Mexico, where it is mostly observed, but also in other places, especially by people of Mexican heritage elsewhere.

The Psychology Shelf

Sometimes When I'm Bored
Deborah Serani, author
Kyra Teis, illustrator
Free Spirit Publishing
6325 Sandburg Road, Suite 100, Minneapolis, MN 55427-3674
9781631986956, $14.99, HC, 40pp

Synopsis: Sooner or later, every child will announce "Momma, I'm bored."

"Sometimes When I'm Bored" by the team of author Deborah Serani and illustrator Kyra Teis addresses a common complaint from children: boredom and loneliness. Along with the main character, children learn how to recognize boredom and see the opportunities it might present. "Well, what a wonderful thing to be! When you're bored, something special is waiting for you."

Helping young children learn how to redirect feelings of boredom deepens problem-solving skills and builds the ability to shift negative thoughts to more positive ones. Using gentle and straightforward language, "Sometimes When I'm Bored" describes a child's experience with boredom and loneliness and the many fun ways to relieve the feeling of boredom.

Of special note is the inclusion of a section for adults that offers more information on how boredom can be spotted in children of varying ages (including infants) and discusses how to help children relieve feelings of boredom. Especially useful for counselors, social workers, teachers, parents, and any other adults caring for children who experience boredom and loneliness.

Critique: With its important message of assurance for children by Deborah Serani and Kyra Teis that "Now when I'm bored, I know something special is waiting for me. I just have to find it." their picture book "Sometimes When I'm Bored" will prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library Life Skills picture book collections for children ages 4-8.

Editorial Note #1: An award-winning author and psychologist in practice for thirty years, Deborah Serani is also a professor at Adelphi University, and her writing on the subjects of depression and trauma has been published in academic journals. Her interviews can be found in Newsday, Psychology Today, The Chicago Tribune, The New York Times, the Associated Press, and affiliate radio programs at CBS and NPR, among others. She is also a TEDx speaker and has worked as a technical advisor for the NBC television show Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. She has a dedicated website at

Editorial Note #2: A children's book author-illustrator, a graphic novelist, and an avid sewer of costumes and clothing, Kyra Teis works in a cozy studio in central New York, which is crammed full of books and fabrics from all over the world. She has a website at

The Health Shelf

Healthy as a Dragon!
Stepnka Sekaninova, author
Veronika Zacharova, illustrator
Scott Alexander Jones, editor
Albatros Media
9788000066028, $14.95, HC, 26pp

Synopsis: "Ow! Ow! That hurts!" Just listen to that wailing. A little Dragon from a cave has a toothache -- and no idea that a headstrong little Princess is about to take him in hand. Now, now, little Dragon, that's enough of that! Take this toothbrush and toothpaste and our lesson can begin.

The next thing we know, the weeping, messy little Dragon will be a friend for all seasons! Thanks to the Princess, he will learn the right way to wash his hands and brush his teeth, and a little about keeping things clean and tidy. He will eat green vegetables and exchange his boredom for sports.

Children will enjoy joining little Dragon in learning about a healthy lifestyle and having the little Princess show them (and the little Dragon) how it's done! A original and fun picture book for children ages 3-6 by the team of author/storyteller Stepanka Sekaninova and artist Veronika Zacharova, "Healthy As A Dragon" is especially recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections.

Editorial Note #1: Stepanka Sekaninova is a graduate in Czech and History from the Faculty of Arts of Masaryk University. While still a student, she started work at Czech Television in Brno. She later switched from reporting to the production of light entertainment and children's programmes for the Brno studio. Stepanka loves books and has always longed to write, so when her life's journey presented her with the opportunity to work as a literary editor for Albatros Media, she accepted it with alacrity. And so she writes, surrounded by beautiful books, realizing a dream she's had since childhood. She has a page on the Albatros Media website at

Editorial Note #2: Veronika Zacharova is a graphic artist, illustrator, and animator from the Czech Republic. She has made several animated films and projects, some of which have won festival awards. She is an author of the visual identity and the jingle for Anifilm, a Czech animation festival. She has a page on the Albatros Media website at

Rest to Recharge
Jennifer Law, author
Brian Martin, illustrator
Boys Town Press
13603 Flanagan Blvd, Boys Town, NE 68010
9781944882914, $10.95, PB, 31pp

Synopsis: Rather than get all the nighttime sleep Gabe is a young boy who needs to keep his body healthy and mind alert. He stays awake into the wee hours playing games and watching videos. Now, it's taking a toll. He nods off during class. He's sluggish on the soccer field. And he's an all-around grouch. His energy is zapped, like a battery about to die.

To help her son get much-needed shuteye, Mom lays down the law! Gabe cannot use or access any electronics between bedtime and morning breakfast. But when Gabe breaks the rule on night one, his alarm clock, named Buzz, comes to life. Buzz reminds Gabe he should be sleeping, not playing, and promises Gabe he'll feel better, think better, and perform better if he just relaxes and rests.

Will Gabe really listen to a talking clock, and will he stick to Mom's rule? Or will he choose more sleepless nights and exhausted days?

Critique: "Rest to Recharge: A Story about the Importance of Sleep" offers a light-hearted look at a serious issue for children and adults alike -- the power of sleep and its ability to heal, rejuvenate, and energize the body and the mind! Of special note is the tips page written specifically for adults offers suggestions on how to help children develop better sleep habits. While also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.76), "Rest to Recharge: A Story about the Importance of Sleep" is especially and unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library Life Skills picture book collections for children ages 4-11.

Editorial Note #1: Jennifer Law is an elementary school counselor and has been an educator for more than 15 years. In addition to her master's degree in school counseling, she has a K-6 teaching certificate and a bachelor's degree in psychology. Jennifer is also the author of Pause Power, a fun and popular children's book that teaches children how to stay calm when someone pushes their buttons.

Editorial Note #2: Brian Martin earned his BFA in Illustration from Rhode Island School of Design and his MFA in Painting/Drawing from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He has exhibited his art nationally from New Mexico to New England and internationally in Australia. Brian loves teaching drawing, painting, and illustration to eager art students. In addition to making art and teaching. She has a website at

You Are So Much More
Serena Tejpar, author
Anoosha Lalani & Iman Tejpar, illustrators
Loving Healing Press
5145 Pontiac Trail, Ann Arbor, MI 48105
9781615996339, $29.95, HC, 44pp

Synopsis: Research has shown that building resilience in the face of adversity or challenges helps children and young people develop effective coping strategies and improve long term outcomes across a spectrum of illnesses. "You Are So Much More: An Inspiration for Children Healing from Illness or Injury" by author Serena Tejpar and illustrators Anoosha Lalani and Iman Tejpar reminds children who have gone through or are going through an illness or injury, that they are indeed so much more.

With the publication of "You Are So Much More: An Inspiration for Children Healing from Illness or Injury", trauma survivor and medical student Serena Tejpar shares a story of inspiration, reflection, and encouragement that can be read over and over again.

Critique: Thoroughly 'child friendly' in storyline and presentation, "You Are So Much More: An Inspiration for Children Healing from Illness or Injury" is a superbly crafted picture book for children ages 5-7. While very highly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library health/medicine collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "You Are So Much More: An Inspiration for Children Healing from Illness or Injury" is also available in a paperback edition (9781615996322, $16.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.95).

Editorial Note: Serena Tejpar is a medical student at the Temerty Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto with a Master of Science in Global Health and a Certificate in Narrative-Based Medicine. Serena carries a passion for the intersection of health humanities and clinical practice. She was commended for her commitment to improving the Canadian healthcare system and addressing inequities in healthcare systems worldwide following her experience as a trauma patient after a near-fatal motor vehicle collision in 2015. She has received numerous awards and honours in recognition of her leadership, community service, and resilience including being named YMCA Ontario's Young Woman of Excellence, Top 50 Emerging Canadian Leader, and a Young Director with G(irls)20.

The Science Shelf

Kitchen Science
Laura Minter, author
Tia Williams, author
Button Books
c/o The GMC Group
9781787081222, $19.99, PB, 128pp

Synopsis: When it comes to educating children about science, forget about sterile laboratories and stuffy classrooms, there are oodles of awesome science experiments waiting to be done in the family kitchen!

With the publication of "Kitchen Science: 30 Awesome STEM Experiments to Try at Home", children will learn about how microwaves work, why honeycomb is full of bubbles, how to make plastic out of milk, and so much more! Plus there is the added bonus of making some yummy treats as part of some experiments!

Ideal for parents/caregivers who have experienced home-schooling fatigue and cupboard-raiding children who want to inject some practical fun into their learning, "Kitchen Science: 30 Awesome STEM Experiments to Try at Home" provides an accessible and stimulating way to explore STEM themes at home. Each experiment is accompanied by an illustrated explanation of the science behind it and how it works.

Critique: Thoroughly parent and child friendly in organization and presentation, "Kitchen Science: 30 Awesome STEM Experiments to Try at Home" by Laura Minter and Tia Williams is profusely and informatively illustrated throughout, making it an ideal reference and recommended resource -- especially for home schooling parents with children ages 7- 11.

Editorial Note: Laura Minter and Tia Williams are two creative mums based in Sussex, UK. They started Little Button Diaries, their crafting and baking blog, in 2013 and its popularity has seen them blog for companies such as Paperchase, Laura Ashley, Halfords and Hobbycraft as well as contributing to The Sun and magazines including Creativity, Essentials and Mollie Makes. Since 2016, they have written a variety of craft books for kids and parents such as; Science School, The Horrible Craft Book, The Big Book of 100 Little Activities, The Big Book of 100 Outdoor Activities, The Big Book of Dressing Up, The Pirate Craft Book, The Space Craft Book, The Superhero Craft Book, The Dinosaur Craft Book, The Mermaid Craft Book and Mini Makers.

We Are the Ocean
Captain Paul Watson, author
Sarah Borg, illustrator
GroundSwell Books
c/o Book Publishing Company
9781939053466, $17.95, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: A picture book by the team of author Paul Watson and illustrator Sarah Borg, "We Are the Ocean" helps young children ages 3-5 discover a personal connection to water. The author beautifully describes the importance of the ocean in sustaining life of all living plants and animals. Through the eyes of children with their doggie companions, the question of "what is the ocean?" is answered.

Captivating artwork and imagery show the continuous cycle of water on earth and teach children that water is in all the cells of plants and animals, and even in their own bodies. Young readers will be surprised to find that their drinking water was "once in the bodies of dinosaurs!" When children learn that the ocean is part of them, they will hopefully learn to love and appreciate it, and take care of the ocean as they grow older.

Critique: Thoroughly 'kid friendly' in commentary, organization and presentation, "We Are the Ocean" is recommended as a prized addition to family, daycare center, preschool, kindergarten, and community library water science picture book collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "We Are the Ocean" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note #1: Captain Paul Watson is a Canadian-American marine conservation activist who founded the direct-action group Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in 1977. Watson's other recent releases include Defending Orcas (2022), Urgent! (2021), Death of a Whale (2021), and Orcapedia (2020). He has a dedicated website at

Editorial Note #2: Sarah Jane Borg has been a professional artist for 40 years known for her portraits of dogs, horses and people in both watercolors and oils. Born in Devon, England, Sarah helped set up Sea Shepherd UK in 1985 which launched the campaign to stop the annual pilot whale slaughter in the Danish Fareo Islands. Concerned about children growing up in a doomsday scenario, she was delighted to team up with Paul Watson to help them understand their connection to the ocean. She has a dedicated page on Facebook at:

Pavla Hanackova, author
Diarmuid O Cathlain, illustrator
Albatros Media
9788000063492, $14.95, HC, 20pp

Synopsis: Karl the kiwi bird is interested in just that. His biggest dream is to visit space as an astronaut. "Rockets" by the team of author Pavla Hanackova and illustrator Diarmuid O Cathlain is all about what breathtaking objects and man-made machines are flying around in our skies and outer space and the men and women who will fly them. It will have particular appeal for young readers thinking about becoming an astronaut as, together, Karl and kids will learn many interesting things about all kinds of spacecraft. They will meet the most famous types and also catch a glimpse of what goes on before even getting to go to space including astronaut training and liftoff! Kids will enjoy joining Karl in his spacecraft, getting to know the solar system, and even more!

Critique: Fun, informative, 'kid friendly' in organization and presentation (and with an oversized board book feel), "Rockets" will prove to be a prized and appreciated addition to family, elementary school, and community library Space Exploration & Rocket Science picture book collections.

Editorial Note: Pavla Hanackova (1990-2021), born in the Czech Republic. She came from a picturesque Moravian village surrounded by vineyards. Her greatest passions were travelling, food, and everything associated with it. There is a dedicated webpage for her at

Editorial Note #2: Diarmuid O Cathain is an Irish illustrator and picture book maker. After obtaining a degree in Visual Communications, he worked in the Graphic Design field, before pursuing a career in Illustration. He has a dedicated website at

The Pets/Wildlife Shelf

The Lucky Hermit Crab and Her Swirly New Shell
Janice S. C. Petrie
Seatales Publishing Company
9781733051729, $14.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: When the lucky hermit crab outgrows her favorite, swirly shell, will she be able to let go of her special seashell to find a bigger one that will keep her safe and comfortable? "The Lucky Hermit Crab and Her Swirly New Shell" by author/illustrator Janice Petrie's is the fourth title in her children's picture book series 'Seatales Sea Animal'

"The Lucky Hermit Crab and Her Swirly New Shell" is a rhyming adventure, with brightly colored illustrations that bring to life authentic tales of what really happens with hermit crabs at the edge of the sea.

Critique: Fun and informative, "The Lucky Hermit Crab and Her Swirly New Shell" is an ideal and unreservedly recommended addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library Marine Life picture book collections for children ages 3-10. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Lucky Hermit Crab and Her Swirly New Shell" is also available in a paperback edition ($10.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $3.99).

Editorial Note: Janice Petrie has been enchanted by the sea for as long as she can remember. She became a certified SCUBA diver while in high school and spent many years exploring coastal waters. Her fascination with marine invertebrates grew while working for the New England Aquarium as an Outreach Specialist. Since then, she has spent years caring for coastal marine animals and providing hands-on experiences to children in schools throughout the United States. Petrie holds a B.S. and M. Ed., and a B.A. in Art with a concentration in Graphic Design. She has a dedicated website at

If We Could Get a Dog...
Susan Lynn Ford
Dorrance Publishing Company
585 Alpha Drive, Suite 103, Pittsburgh, PA 15238
9781639372034, $24.00, HC, 36pp

Synopsis: Many animals need homes, but also many pets are not properly cared for and some people don't seem to take into account the commitment it requires to take care of a pet throughout its life.

"If We Could Get a Dog...Henry Finds His Forever Home" is about adopting a dog, and all the preparation, thought, consideration, and work that goes into that decision. This story is easily read by a child of eight years old and up, but also can be read to younger children by their parents.

As a picture book story "If We Could Get a Dog" by author and illustrator Susan Lynn Ford is entertaining but it can also help initiate important discussions about getting a pet before taking that step.

Critique: With its timely and timeless message that people should not have a pet without the love and commitment it requires to truly give a pet a good home, "If We Could Get a Dog" is upbeat and inspiring with another message for young readers -- Many pets find "forever" homes that are loving and safe, and theirs could be one of those homes. While especially and unreservedly recommended for family, elementary school, and community library Pets/Wildlife picture book collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "If We Could Get a Dog" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Susan Lynn Ford is an animal lover with many years of owning and caring for horses. She currently owns three rescue dogs, two rescue cats, and chickens. Susan has been dabbling in writing most of her life but hasn't shared it until now in this cute story of the little brown dog that found his forever home.

The Folktale/Fairytale Shelf

The Spoiled Boy With the Terribly Dry Throat
Idries Shah, author
Silvara Kossem, illustrator
Hoopoe Books
c/o The Institute for the Study of Human Knowledge
9781953292551, $11.90, PB, 42pp

Synopsis: When a little boy wakes up with a dry throat, those around him run about trying to work out what caused the condition. One by one, servants, doctors, and medical students try remedies that only complicate the situation and make the condition worse, ignoring what young readers will see as the obvious solution.

"The Spoiled Boy With the Terribly Dry Throat" is one of a series of picture books for the young written by the Afghan philosopher and educator Idries Shah, whose collections of narratives and teaching stories have captivated the hearts and minds of people from all walks of life. It belongs to a rich storytelling tradition from Afghanistan, Central Asia and the Middle East that is more than 1,000 years old. Teaching stories are designed specifically to foster thinking skills and perception. They suggest in their structure and in the movement of their characters ways of looking at difficulties that can help solve them. This story illustrates in a very humorous way just how foolish people can be when they fail to consider a situation before springing into action.

Critique: Effectively supporting author and storyteller Idries Shaw's original, entertaining, and thought-provoking picture book are the charming illustrations by artist Silvara Kossem. Fun and entertaining from cover to cover, "The Spoiled Boy With the Terribly Dry Throat" is a unique and unreservedly recommended addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for children ages 4-8.

The Three Little Sprigs
Terry Ann Marsh, author
Lintang Pandu Pratiwi, illustrator
Belle Isle Books
c/o Brandylane Publishers
5 South First Street, Richmond, VA 23219
9781951565688, $24.95, HC, 36pp

Synopsis: In the Woodland Kingdom, it is time for all the young ferns and flowers to strike out on their own and build their grown-up homes. Three sisters, Sassy, Starling, and Serena Fern, can't wait to build their new homes. But they must be careful -- if they don't build them strong enough, Lonely Wind and Stinging Rain could knock them down!

To help them in their quest, the sisters may ask Night Wind to send them each a Helper. Sassy and Starling Fern know who to ask for, but Serena is unsure. Will Serena be able to choose the right Helper in time? Or will Lonely Wind and Stinging Rain wash her new home away?

Critique" "The Three Little Springs" by the team of author/storyteller Terry Ann March and artist/illustrator Lintang Pandu Pratiwi is an imaginative and fun retelling of the classic fairytale of The Three Little Pigs. Very highly recommended for family, elementary school, and community library picture book collections, children will enjoy entering a world full of surprises and lively characters, and take with them a gentle reminder about the importance of making good choices.

Editorial Note #1: Terry Ann Marsh has been a singer and entertainer for over three decades. She wrote The Music, Movement, & 'Magination Show!, a preschool and Kindergarten level program full of original stories, songs, and skits, which she performed at schools, libraries, fairs, and festivals. Encouraged by the success and positive feedback from her children's show, Terry began converting the songs and stories from her live performances into book form. Now, instead of acting or singing her characters into existence, she brings them to life in the pages of her books. Whether it be through her music or her books, She has a dedicated website at

Editorial Note #2: Lintang Pandu Pratiwi has worked for many years as a professional illustrator and created many picture books for various publishers and clients. Through her studio, Taranggana, Lintang has been published throughout America, the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, Australia, Indonesia, Singapore, and Japan.

Haunting and Hilarious Fairy Tales
Rolf Brandt, author/illustrator
Jack Zipes, editor
Little Mole & Honey Bear
9781733223270, $25.00, HC, 226pp

Synopsis: "Haunting and Hilarious Fairy Tales" is a compendium of German and Norse folk and fairy tales based on Rolf Brandt's two anthologies, "Fairy Tales by the Brothers Grimm" (1943) and "Why the Sea Is Salt and Other Fairy Tales" (1946), both published by Peter Lunn in London.

Brandt changed many of the tales and created over 40 unusual illustrations that shed new light on the original tales. Brandt was a surrealist, and he used a pencil method to elaborate on the meanings of the tales. Since his original illustrations were published during World War II, they reflect upon the conflicts in this period.

Brandt is essentially an "imaginer". His work is subjective. It comes out of his head. But it is not a head stuck blindly in the clouds. Brandt has lived -- and he goes on living in everything he puts on paper. His work is endlessly an expression of impression. But it is no field of daffodils recollected in tranquility. It is a vital outpouring of vivid and sometimes obviously painful experience -- in keeping with original medieval fairytales Germanic and Norse tales that taught children about the dangers that lurked in the world if they were to misbehave.

Critique: Nicely illustrated throughout with both color and black/white images, "Haunting and Hilarious Fairy Tales" is a coffee-table style (8.74 x 0.79 x 11.1 inches, 2.45 pounds) volume that is comprised of thirty-two deftly crafted fairytales from the Germanic and Norse storytelling cultures. Informatively enhanced for the reader with the inclusion of A Note on the Text and Translation; a six page Afterword, and a six page Epilogue, "Haunting and Hilarious Fairy Tales" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, family, elementary school, middle school, community, and academic library Folklore/Fairytale collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists.

Editorial Note: Jack Zipes is Professor Emeritus of German and comparative literature at the University of Minnesota. In addition to his scholarly work, he is an active storyteller in public schools, founded Neighborhood Bridges at the Children's Theatre Company in Minneapolis, and has written fairy tales for children and adults. He has a page on Wikipedia that lists his numerous publications at

The Sock Pixies
Jim Crawley, author/illustrator
Hubble & Hattie
9781787117792, $10.99, PB, 32pp

Synopsis: Young children will enjoy joining the sock pixies on their adventure as they learn where their socks went!

They will meet the sock pixies Pogo, Plum, Boldor, Seph and Raisin as they embark on a perilous journey through the gloom of the bedroom on a mission to knit those socks into nets to catch dreams!

Pogo is the smallest of the boy Pixies. He is crafty and sneaky, and hops around the house. Pogo is kind, caring and an intrepid explorer.

Plum is the tallest of the Sock Pixies and the oldest. He has a very sensitive nose and is often seen sporting a peg on his nose as he rummages for the odd socks. Plum, like his name suggests eats many of them and has developed a large rosy nose because of this. He is timid and shy and often leaves exploring to Pogo.

Boldor is the largest of all the Sock Pixies. His size is due to him eating the most bad dreams and drinking the most beer. He is often found cooking and brewing weird and wonderful concoctions.

Seph is the fiercest of all the sock pixies. She is the chief mouse wrangler and has trained many of the mice since they were only babies. Seph is a wonderful craftsman and she makes the finest nets and clothing any sock pixie has ever seen.

Raisin is the youngest of the sock pixies but she certainly isn't afraid of anything! Brave and fearless, petite and fiery, this is one sock pixie that is determined to find those socks and help the children of the world no matter the cost.

The Sock Pixies work together to help the children of the world by gobbling up bad dreams. They are helpful and kind and no matter the danger, they will be there to catch those dreams every night!

Critique: An impressively original and fun picture book from cover to cover, "Sock Pixies" by storyteller and artist Jim Crawley is a welcome and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for children ages 3-6.

Editorial Note: Jim Crawley is a professional illustrator and sculptor from Somerset, UK. He attended DeMontfort University to study drama and theatre studies, taking time to build and paint sets. It was here that he revisited his love for drawing, painting and sculpting. Jim now illustrates and sculpts full time from his studio at home. He is also the owner of Fable Craft Studio with his partner Natalie. He has a dedicated author's page on the Astound website at -- as well as an author's page on the Hubble & Hattie website at

The ABC Shelf

ABC Roar
Chieu Anh Urban
Little Simon
c/o Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 4th floor, New York, NY 10020
9781665903028, $12.99, Board Book, 30pp

Synopsis: Stylistic in design, "ABC Roar: Touch, Explore, Play" is a colorful and interactive alphabet book by author/illustrator Chieu Anh Urban that invites little readers to roar through ABC animals from armadillo to zebra shark!

Each spread with cut-out layers and glossy paths features a different creature living in their environment for a hands-on exploration of letters and animals. Touch and trace letters from A to Z, whether it's a bear fishing in the stream, dolphins splashing in the ocean, or a leopard roaring from the trees above.

Critique: Of large (7 x 1 x 8 inches) and sturdy construction, "ABC Roar: Touch, Explore, Play" is a fun, colorful, and unreservedly recommended addition to family, daycare center, preschool, and community library board book collections for children ages 1-4.

Editorial Note: Chiu Anh Urban is an author/illustrator, an award-winning graphic designer, and a format designer who specializes in developing innovative formats and interactive books for the very young. Chiu's novelty books include 123 Zoom, Color Wonder: Hooray for Spring!, Color Wonder: Winter is Here!, and Quiet as a Mouse: And Other Animal Idioms. She is also the creator of Away We Go! and the author of Raindrops: A Shower of Colors. She has a website at and a blog at

B is for Beekeeping: An Alphabet Book
Justin Weiss, author
Winda Mulyasari, illustrator
Independently Published
9798840165539, $12.99, PB, 27pp

Synopsis: "B is for Beekeeping" by author/storyteller Justin Weiss and artist/illustrator Winda Mulyasari is a children's picture book that will hold a very special appeal for all young beekeeping enthusiasts by encouraging the next generation of beekeepers while teaching them the ABCs of beekeeping with playful illustrations and easy-to-understand vocabulary.

Did you know one-third of the food we eat gets pollinated by honeybees? Honeybees are critical to our ecosystem. "B is for Beekeeping" will help children ages learn the important role that honeybees play in our world.

Critique: Fun and informative, ideal for helping very young children ages 3-5 to learn the alphabet, "B is for Beekeeping" is unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center preschool, elementary school, and community library collections. While also readily available in a digital book format ($2.99), it should be noted that a portion of all sales will be donated to charities supporting the conservation and protection of honeybees.

The Counting Shelf

Monsters Play... Counting!
Flavia Z. Drago
Candlewick Press
99 Dover Street, Somerville, MA 02144
9781536220520, $8.99, Board Book, 24pp

Synopsis: Count from one to ten with these funny, flamboyant monsters with Flavia Drago's new board book "Monsters Play Counting!" As very young children peruse one tongue, two ears, three eyes, and more, they may be inspired to swing, build, flutter, drum, and learn the names for different body parts, too. With monstrously bright illustrations and a rhyming text, this sturdy and child friendly board book makes the perfect gift for a precocious baby and a must-have addition to a toddler's first library.

Critique: Fun and charming way to learn the numbers 1-10, "Monsters Play Counting" by artist/illustrator Flavia Drago is an especially recommended addition to family, daycare center, preschool, kindergarten, and community library book board collections for children ages 1-3.

Editorial Note: Flavia Zorilla Drago was born and raised in Mexico City. As a child, she wanted to be a mermaid. When that didn't happen, she began her career as a graphic designer and a children's book illustrator. She loves color, textures, and shapes and enjoys creating them with different materials and a bit of digital sorcery. Her first picture book, Gustavo, the Shy Ghost,has been highly acclaimed. She has a dedicated website at

The Board Book Shelf

Happy Yak, author
Marijke Buurlage, illustrator
Happy Yak
c/o Quarto
9780711257214, $9.99, Board Book, 20pp

Synopsis: The board book "Seaside: My World in 100 Words" introduces a range of different scenes and objects. With bold colors and a silky-feel cover that add visual and tactile interest, this fun book inspires a deeper knowledge of the world, introduces language skills and supports emotional intelligence.

From things to take to the beach (hat, beach ball, sun cream, towel, spade) to foods we might eat (sandwiches, lolly, apple, banana, ice cream) to creatures we might see (turtle, octopus, whale, seagull, dolphin, fish, seahorse), "Seaside: My World in 100 Words" covers all the words which young children might encounter at the beach.

As well as objects and creatures, the book contains feeling words, like 'happy' and 'excited', as well as actions like 'waving' and 'splashing' or qualities like 'wet' or 'helpful'. Different types of world are given a different colorcode to help differentiate them and to help kids identify the different kinds of word!

Critique: A joy to read along with children ages 1-3, "Seaside: My World in 100 Words" is unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, and elementary school board book collections. Also highly recommended in the Happy Yak 'My World in 100 Words' board book series are "My Garden" (9780711257252, $9.99, Ages 1-3), "My Home" (9780711257177, $9.99, Ages 3-5), and "Halloween" (9780711257139, $9.99, Ages 1-3).

Editorial Note: Happy Yak is a new imprint specifically intended for 0-7 year olds, and perfect for small children with big personalities. Offering pre-school, picture books, and illustrated non-fiction, the purpose of Happy Yak is to publish playful books that make children and parents smile. All of their books are bright and accessible, with eye-catching design, contemporary illustration, and engaging, entertaining text.

Let's Play, Little Rabbit
Jorg Muhle
Gecko Press
9781776574711, $9.99, Board Book, 20pp

Synopsis: Little Rabbit wants to play. He hides behind a blanket, then peeks out: Peek-a-boo! He splashes in the bath, swings back and forth, and plays with his own little rabbit too -- one, two, three, whee, rabbit flies! Young children will love taking part in these familiar sequences and laugh at the mischievous finish, because Little Rabbit has grown up enough to play a joke on his readers.

Critique: Ideal for bedtime or naptime reading, author/illustrator Jrg Mhle's warm and accessible illustrations comprising "Let's Play, Little Rabbit" encourage children ages 4-5 to take on all the roles in the story as they copy Little Rabbit. Fun, charming, and thoroughly 'kid friendly', "Let's Play, Little Rabbit" is especially recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, kindergarten, and community library board book collections.

Editorial Note: The creator of the Little Rabbit series of board books, Jorg Muhle was born in 1973 in Frankfurt, Germany, where he works as a freelance illustrator for book publishers and media. He has an informative Wikipedia page at

VIP: Very Important Preschooler
Cindy Jin, author
Ella Bailey, illustrator
Little Simon
c/o Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 4th floor, New York, NY 10020
9781665917575, $7.99, Board Book, 16pp

Synopsis: "VIP: Very Important Preschooler" is fun and rhyming board book story that follow five special VIPs on each day of the school week as they highlight all the reasons why they're a very important preschooler! "VIP: Very Important Preschooler" highlights the importance of being kind to your friends, doing the right thing, and being a good leader.

Critique: The collaborative work of author/storyteller Cindy Jin and artist/illustrator Ella Bailey, "VIP: Very Important Preschooler" is the ideal board book for parents wanting their preschoolers excited and ready for the first day of school, While also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99), "VIP: Very Important Preschooler" is unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, kindergarten, and community library board book collections for children ages 1-5.

Editorial Note #1: Cindy Jin edits and writes books for children. There is a complete listing of her published books at

Editorial Note #2: Ella Bailey is an illustrator of picture books and other things. She graduated from Falmouth University in 2013 and is currently based in Devon in the UK. She likes to use limited yet lively color palettes, and some of her favourite things to draw include children, animals, and ghosts. She has a website at

Peter Rabbit: Trick or Treat
Beatrix Potter
Frederick Warne & Company
c/o Penguin Young Readers Group
9780241539736, $17.99, Board Book, 16pp

Synopsis: Peter Rabbit is so excited to wear his radish costume and show it to all of his friends when they go trick-or-treating. But first, Peter must help his sisters decide what their costume will be--there are so many choices! But Peter is worried that he's running out of time to get his own costume ready...Will Peter be able to join his sisters in all the Halloween fun? This heart-warming Halloween tale focuses on the importance of teamwork and helping the people around you.

Critique: Beautifully adapted to a board book format, this classic Peter Rabbit story by Beatrix Potter cannot be recommended highly enough. It is a fun and thoroughly 'child friendly' story that should be a part of every family, daycare center, preschool, kindergarten, and community board book collections for children ages 2-5.

Editorial Note: Beatrix Potter was born on July 28, 1866, at No 2, Bolton Gardens, Kensington, London. She loved nature and drawing as a child. In 1893, Beatrix sat down to write a picture letter to Noel Moore, the five-year-old son of her ex-governess, all about a naughty rabbit called Peter. Noel was ill in bed and so Beatrix wrote to him: "My dear Noel, I don't know what to write to you, so I shall tell you a story about four little rabbits...." And that's how The Tale of Peter Rabbit was created. It wasn't until 1902 that Frederick Warne published what would become one of the most beloved stories in children's books.

Snowmen at Halloween
Caralyn Buehner, author
Mark Buehner, illustrator
Dial Books for Young Readers
c/o Penguin Young Readers Group
9780593529102, $8.99, Board Book, 28pp

Synopsis: Have you ever built a snowman and discovered the next day that his grin has gotten a little crooked, or his tree-branch arms have moved? And you've wondered just what do snowmen do when we're not watching?

After an early snowfall, a few kids build some snowmen before going trick-or-treating. And when the kids go off to bed, the snowmen have their own Halloween festival! There's candy and apple-bobbing and costume contests and all sorts of autumn activities. When the kids wake up the next morning, the snowmen are gone -- but they've left a very special message behind.

Critique: The third in author/storyteller Caralyn Buehner and artist/illustrator Mark Buehner's 'Snowmen' series for children ages 1-3, "Snowmen At Halloween" is a charmingly delightful and entertaing board book and would prove a welcome addition to family, daycare center, preschool, and community library board book collections.

Editorial Note: Currently residing in Salt Lake City, Utah, and the parents of nine children, Mark and Caralyn Buehner are a husband-and-wife team who have created many picture books together, Caralyn as author and Mark as illustrator. "Snowmen at Night" and "Snowmen at Christmas" are both New York Times bestsellers, and "Fanny's Dream" is the winner of a Boston Globe - Horn Book Honor.

I'm Me
Cheri J. Meiners, author
Penny Weber, illustrator
Free Spirit Publishing
6325 Sandburg Road, Suite 100, Minneapolis, MN 55427-3674
9781631986635, $8.99, Board Book, 24pp

Synopsis: Gentle and encouraging, "I'm Me: A Book About Confidence and Self-Worth" is a board book that helps toddlers understand their value and know that they matter. With affirmations for children and warm illustrations, "I'm Me" encourages children to grow their confidence through the quality of their relationships and from their own efforts and achievements.

Of special note is a section for adults offering tips on talking about the book together with their children, as well as activities for fostering confidence and a sense of self-worth in a young child, such as role playing and creating "I'm Important" posters. "I'm Me" also offers access to a digital download with additional ideas about confidence is also provided.

Critique: The newest addition to Free Spirit Publishing's outstanding Learning About Me & You series of board books for children ages 2-4, "I'm Me: A Book About Confidence and Self-Worth" is an especially recommended addition to family, daycare center, preschool, and community library board book collections for toddlers and preschoolers.

Editorial Note #1: Cheri J. Meiners, M.Ed., has her master's degree in elementary education and gifted education. A former first-grade teacher, she has taught education classes at Utah State University and has supervised student teachers. She has a dedicated website at

Editorial Note #2: Penny Weber is a full-time artist and illustrator working both digitally and traditionally in acrylics and watercolors. Penny attended classes at the School of Visual Arts in New York. She has illustrated many books and has also done residential murals, greeting cards, portraits, caricatures, and pet portraits. Penny Weber Illustrations is her dedicated website at

One Sky
Aaron Becker
Candlewick Studio
c/o Candlewick Press
99 Dover Street, Somerville, MA 02144
9781536225365, $17.99, Board Book, 16pp

Synopsis: Within the sixteen pages of this elegant board book is the entire sky. A lyrical text moves young readers through the day, from dawn to dusk, while the ink- and die-cut lines resembling stained glass arc across the pages like birds in flight. An encounter with the translucent, jewel-colored panes in this special and large sized (8.53 x 0.53 x 8.5 inches) board book offers a luminous reminder that, no matter the hour or the hue, we all dwell together under one magnificent sky.

Critique: "One Sky" by author and illustrator Aaron Becker is inherently fascinating and unique, making it an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library board book collections for children age 4-8.

Editorial Note: Aaron Becker is the Caldecott Honor winning author-illustrator of the Journey trilogy and A Stone for Sascha, as well as You Are Light and My Favorite Color. There is a dedicated website for Aaron Becker at

Boop the Snoot
Ashlyn Ansette
Viking Children's Books
c/o Penguin Young Readers Group
9780593524817, $7.99, Board Book, 16pp

Synopsis: How many of these snoots could a baby boop? In the new board book for babies to three year olds, "Boop the Snoot", adorable art is paired with a simple and fun-to-read text showing tots all of the ways they can boop a snoot -- as in: poke cute animal noses! They can boop one snoot or two snoots, slow snoots and fast snoots. This interactive board book begs to be poked and prodded as toddlers learn to boop the snoot!

Critique: Fun and funny, "Boop the Snoot" is by Ashlyn Ansette, who is also the author-illustrator of the Shelby & Watts chapter book series. "Boop the Snoot" is a family friendly board book that will have kids and their guardians bowled over with giggles. While highly recommended for family, daycare center, and community library board book collections, it should also be noted that "Boop the Snoot" is also avalable in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99).

Editorial Note: Ashlyn Anstee works in the animation industry.She writes, draws, illustrates, animates, and is the creator of the books No, No, Gnome!, Are We There, Yeti?, Hedgehog!, as well as the Shelby & Watts graphic novel chapter book series, including Tide Pool Troubles and A Mountain of a Problem. It is interesting to note that "Boop the Snoot" is her first board book. She also has a dedicated website at

The Picturebook Shelf

A Dog's Guide to Being Human
Shanna Silva, author
Agnes Ernoult, illustrator
Yeehoo Press
9781953458445, $16.99, 32pp

Synopsis: Smudge has a new family member: a baby girl. And he has a LOT to teach her about fitting in with the humans. Like don't drink from the toilet (the humans don't like it). But DO share your snacks (especially with Smudge). And make as many friends as you can--yes, even the occasional cat. There's so much to go through, but as Smudge knows, it's every good dog's job to welcome home their family.

As Smudge thinks -- My humans have brought home a tiny baby. It is up to me to teach her how to fit in!

Critique: Charmingly illustrated with the original artwork of Agnes Ernoult, "A Dog's Guide to being Human" by children's author Shanna Silva a funny, entertaining, original, and endearing picture book for children ages 4-7 that shares a dog's hard-earned wisdom about living a happy life. Simply stated, "A Dog's Guide to being Human" is especially and unreservedly recommended for family, day care center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for children.

Editorial Note #1: An award-winning author and Broadway producer, Shanna Silva is the author of "Hannah's Hanukkah Hiccups, Passover Scavenger Hunt, and over 45 hi/lo books for emerging readers. She has a dedicated website at

Editorial Note #2: Agns Ernoult studied for a degree in Illustration at Ecole Pivaut in Nantes for four years. After moving to Bristol, she was inspired by the creativity of the Stokes Croft district, and memories of old Disney films and Peter Rabbit stories from her childhood. In fact, she loves anything where animals wear clothes and her wide-ranging imagination shows through in her work. She has a website at

The Return of Teddy
Marcia Choo, author
Xinyi Yao, illustrator
Yeehoo Press
9781953458421, $16.99, HC, 48pp

Synopsis: "The Return of Teddy" celebrates the sweetness of friendship with our most special stuffed animals.

When Teddy's best friend, Cinderella, goes missing in the middle of the night, he does what any good knight would do -- he sets out to save her. But no matter where he looks, he can't find her, and he wonders, has he failed his friend? Is he too ordinary to be a knight after all? Then a girl comes looking for her lost teddy, and Teddy realizes he can still be a knight after all -- for a new friend.

Critique: Inspired by a true story of a beloved lost toy, "The Return of Teddy" is an original picture book by author/storyteller Marcia Choo and artist/illustrator Xinyi Yoo, in a stuffed bear named Teddy goes on an epic adventure to save his friend Cinderella. With a great appeal for young (and not-so-young!) readers who have ever had a teddy bear of their own, "The Return of Teddy" is a wonderfully original and thoroughly entertaining picture book that is a very highly recommended addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for children ages 4-7.

Editorial Note #1: Marcia Choo holds a degree in Literature and Language; a Post-Graduate Teaching Certificate and a certificate in Art Writing and an MA in Art History. She's now working in National Gallery Singapore as an education officer. Meanwhile, she teaches children and adults how they can use art and writing for communication and play.

Editorial Note #2: Xinyi Yao tried various fields related to oil paintings, from wall paintings to children's art education and commercial illustrations. Now she focuses on creating her own story, and has published "Starman Twinkle Twinkle". She likes creating a warm and romantic fairy tale world with lovely nature and animals.

Where in the World Are You?
Marie G. Rohde, author
What on Earth Books
9781913750763, $17.99, HC, 48pp

Synopsis: A colorful, joyful, and playful exploration of our world, and our place within it., "Where in the World Are You?" by children's book author and illustrator Marie G. Rohde shows young children what their home would look like if you saw it from above and zoomed out further, and further, and further...?

Young readers will have fun joining a mischievous pet cat on a journey of discovery that encourages them to think about their place in the world. Inspired by the feeling of being trapped inside and imagining the world beyond during the worldwide lockdowns, "Where in the World Are You?" is an enjoyable picture book reminds kids that even when they are apart, they are still all connected. The underlying message throughout is that the world keeps turning, a cat keeps purring, and children will find their happy place in the world.

Critique: Charming and with an important underlying message, "Where in the World are You?" is an original and unique picture book that is truly exceptional and highly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for children ages 4-9.

Editorial Note: Marie G. Rohde started an illustrated blog about the fortunes and misfortunes of finding her way in a foreign city. It gathered a dedicated following in the Spanish-speaking world, and paved the way for Marie's illustration and print design career. Some years later, a life of varied studies and interests came together in her first book Planet SOS. This has been published in 14 languages and selected by the United Nations for its book club (Spanish-speaking section) for Sustainable Development. "Where in the World Are You?" is Marie's second book that was inspired by a story that her son invented during the first lockdown in Spain, when time outside the home was limited.

Holly Bloom's Garden
Sarah Ashman and Nancy Parent, authors
Lori Mitchell, illustrator
Flash Light Press
527 Empire Boulevard, Brooklyn, NY 11225
9780972922500, $18.95, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: The luminous garden scenes and playful language in "Holly Bloom's Garden" is a picture book tale of late-blooming self-discovery as it tells the story of Holly Bloom, a girl who wants nothing more than to be a great gardener, but simply doesn't seem to have the knack.

Despite suggestions and support from her green-thumbed mom and siblings, Holly just can't get her garden to bloom. She waters and fertilizes and uses all the right gardening tools, but her daffodils don't grow and her daisies keep drooping.

Armed with a positive attitude and unwavering perseverance, Holly finally realizes that she does not need to grow flowers with soil and seeds to be a success. Inspired by her artistic father, she taps into her natural creative abilities and surprises everyone by growing her own unique garden -- from paper, paste, pipe cleaners, and paint!

Critique: Creative, original, fun, "Holly Bloom's Garden" by the team of authors Sarah Ashman and Nancy Parent and artist/illustrator Lori Mitchell is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to family, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for children ages 5-8. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Holly Bloom's Garden" is also available in a paperback edition (9780979974601, $7.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $5.95).

Editorial Note #1: Sarah Ashman is an editor and talent representative specializing in comics and humor. She was the vice president and director of comic arts for United Feature Syndicate/Newspaper Enterprise Association, where she successfully acquired and developed Scott Adams's Dilbert.

Editorial Note #2: Nancy Parent is the author of more than 75 children's books, including Oh Bother! It's the Easter Bunny, a Publishers Weekly children's bestseller. She was the script supervisor and production coordinator on Disney's The Little Mermaid and The Prince and the Pauper and the senior editor of Disney's Mouse Works imprint.

Editorial Note #3: Lori Mitchell is an award-winning author and illustrator whose first children's book, Different Just Like Me, was featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show.

Stephanie Stansbie, author
Frances Ives, illustrator
Tiger Tales
9781680102819, $17.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: A young bear cub wants to be just like Mommy, and she assures her cub that someday that will be the case. But until then, there are meadows to explore together, berries to share, and fish to chase during a swim.

Stunning and gallery worthy illustrations depict the special moments shared between Mommy and cub as Mommy explains to her baby that one day, the world will belong to her cub, but for now, they have memories to make together.

The collaborative project of author/storyteller Stephanie Stansbie and artist/illustrator Frances Ives, "Someday" is an impressive children's picture book that celebrates the joyful times spent with a little one and presents a gentle reminder to appreciate all that life has to offer.

Critique: Fun, thoughtful, heartwarming, "Someday" will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for children ages 3-7.

Editorial Note #1: Stephanie Stansbie has been a children's books editor for more than 20 years, and an author for the last 10. She adores editing and writing in equal measure and has always worked on illustrated books, where the art is as important as the word. The books she has written have been translated into more than 15 different languages.

Editorial Note #2: Frances Ives works primarily in water-based media and takes her inspiration from the structures and people that surround her, drawing from both observation and memory. Her most abiding source of inspiration is still the constant yet ever-changing sky, and all of its colors. She has a dedicated website at

Everybody Needs Someone
Greg Lato, author
Sarah-Leigh Wills, illustrator
Independently Published
9798218015459, $9.99, PB, 34pp

Synopsis: The story text of "Everybody Needs Someone" is by award winning singer/songwriter Greg Lato and is charmingly illustrated by Sarah Leigh-Wills. This is an inclusive ode to friendship, family, togetherness and belonging. It also highlights the importance of having someone to celebrate the good times, comfort in more challenging times, and someone kids can trust to teach them valuable life skills and lessons.

Critique: Fun from cover to cover (and with a hint of nostalgia for parents), "Everybody Needs Someone" is particularly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for young children ages 4-7.

Editorial Note: Greg Lato has a dedicated website at, while Sarah-Leigh Wills has a dedicated website at

If I Could Ride a Train
Heidi Koland
Morgan James Kids
c/o Morgan James Publishing
11815 Fountain Way, Suite 300, Newport News, VA 23606-4448
9781631958250, $18.95, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: "If I Could Ride A Train" by author and illustrator Heidi Koland shows the journey of a train through the eyes of a child as it travels through the great outdoors. The goal is not only the journey of the train but also showing the impressive power of nature and how the two coincide and can live in harmony together.

Critique: Beautifully illustrated with museum quality images in deftly presented support of a simple but elegant storyline, Heidi Koland's "If I Could Ride a Train" is especially and unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for children ages 3-8. Of special attraction to children with an interest in trains and travel, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "If I Could Ride a Train" is also available in a paperback edition (9781631957376, $18.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99).

Editorial Note: Artist and author Heidi Koland has also been a landscape nature photographer for over 20 years and loves to use her photography to tell stories. She has a dedicated website at

The Three Hunters
Raymond Gianfrancesco, author
Thamires Paredes, illustrator
Inhabit Media
9781772274288, $11.95, PB, 36pp

Synopsis: Akagaq, the youngest brother of three, is confident but forgetful. When he gets caught in a blizzard he makes a tent, but it is no match for the powerful winds. Trapped in the cold, Akagaq is helped by his brother Tiriaq. Tiriaq digs into a snowdrift for shelter, but the wind is still too strong and blows out their lamp. Akkiutaq, the eldest brother, arrives to save them, and brings them to the iglu he has carefully built. The wind threatens to destroy the iglu as well, but the shelter proves strong, and the brothers are safe. The brothers learn an important lesson about paying attention to their Elders, and taking care in what they do.

Critique: A fun picture book for children ages 6-8, and enhanced with the inclusion of a one page listing of an Inuktut word glossary, "The Three Hunters" is a very special and highly recommended addition to family, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for young readers.

Editorial Note #1: Raymond Gianfrancesco lived and worked in Rankin Inlet for seven years as an elementary school teacher. He now lives and teaches high school English in Ottawa, with his wife Morna and children Neala and Bernie. "The Three Hunters has many contributors -- Grade 4 students that include: Avra, Andrew, Michael, Puya, Tayshaun, Kyrene, Robert, Hailey, Iqaluk, Sulu, Dylan, Atuat, Joseph, Nolan, and Lisa, as well as their teacher Raymond Gianfrancesco.

Editorial Note #2: Thamires Paredes lives and works as a freelance illustrator in Brazil and has a great passion in telling stories through her art. Her main focus is on editorial illustration, books, and advertising. She has a special love and affection for the universe of illustrations aimed at the children and youth.

Introducing Sai the Peacock: The Unique Beak
Estani Frizzell, author
Sophia Frizzell, illustrator
Greenleaf Book Group Press
9781626349469, $19.95, HC, 40pp

Synopsis: Sai is a kind young peacock who lives with his royal family. He has brilliant blue tail feathers that any regal peacock would be proud of -- and Sai LOVES to sing! But his family laughs at that idea, AND at him! They say his beak is too big while making fun of his singing voice.

Saddened by their ridicule, Sai finally vows never to sing in front of anyone again! He hides himself away and doubts his dreams. Will he take their criticism to heart? Will he give up?

Critique: With its important life skill message, Estani Frizzell's spirited, unique, and fun picture book story "Introducing Sai the Peacock: The Unique Beak" shows children 5-8 how just one special friend's support can make a difference in carrying us where our talents are meant to take us. While highly recommended for family, elementary school, and community library Life Skills picture book collections for young readers.

Editorial Note #1: Estani Frizzell is multi-faceted singer/songwriter known for an array of musical styles who has wanted to write children's books since the birth of her daughter. With Sai Peacock (and rhythm and rhyme) she has now found the perfect way to deliver catchy hooks and melodies in a variety of sonic and lyrical tastes for children! She has a dedicated website at

Editorial Note #2: Artist/illustrator Sophia Frizzell creates a singular style through her work by blending elements of surrealism and the macabre. By the age of 16, she had achieved local recognition around Los Angeles with her graphite sketches and acrylic and oil paintings. Embarking on a new venture, she's now diving into the world of children's books. She has a dedicated website at

Lucky, the One-Eyed Cat
Ava Swartz, author
Carolina Carmo, illustrator
Independently Published
9781736298428, $22.95, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: After he lost his eye in a cat fight, Lucky lived a in a cage at a cat hospital. Sally loved his "wink" and finally Lucky found a home where only inside he was allowed to roam.

Longing to play with the outdoor cats he watched from his cozy window bed, Lucky escaped when Sally was distracted. On his outdoor adventure, Lucky encountered cats hanging out at shops and those living among historical ruins of Istanbul, Turkey.

He even escaped a fat bully cat in a mad chase before landing in a cage once again. Looking different turned out to be a curse at first, but in the end, it was a blessing that he stood out from the other cats in a crowd. This one-eyed cat realized how lucky he really was!

Critique: An original and distinctively illustrated picture book for children ages 4-8, "Lucky, the One-Eyed Cat" is a fun, engaging, and thought-provoking read that will delight kids and anyone else who has ever had a feline companion of their own. While especially and unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library Pets/Wildlife picture book collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Lucky, the One-Eyed Cat" is also available in a paperback edition (9781736298411, $14.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $2.99).

Editorial Note: Istanbul, Turkey is a cat-loving city. There are at least one thousand cats roaming among parks, shops, and famous landmarks. Cats were once worshiped in Istanbul because they are clean and make great mousers. The cats of Istanbul are fed by everyone and belong to everyone.

A Parliament of Owls
Devin Scillian, author
Sam Caldwell, illustrator
Sleeping Bear Press
315 East Eisenhower Parkway, Suite 200, Ann Arbor, MI 48108
9781534111448, $17.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: From a mischief of mice and a shiver of sharks to a caravan of camels and a rhumba of rattlesnakes, animals from around the globe gather a group and sashay, swim, slither, or sail through this party of animal plurals. The only question is "What to call this animal arcade? This critter convention? This zigzag zoo? This purring and preening parade?"

Critique: "A Parliament of Owls" by author/storyteller Devin Scillian and artist/illustrator Sam Caldwell is a fun romp through the perfection of animal plurals. An ideal and unreservedly recommended addition to family, elementary school, and community library Wildlife picture book collections, it should also be noted that "A Parliament of Owls" is also available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $17.09).

Editorial Note #1: Devin Scillian is also the author of Memoirs of a Goldfish, Memoirs of a Hamster, Memoirs of an Elf, and Memoirs of a Parrot, as well as numerous other books for Sleeping Bear Press including A is for America: An American Alphabet. He has a dedicated website at

Editorial Note #2: Sam Caldwell grew up in the northwest of England and studied painting at the Edinburgh College of Art. He is a children's illustrator based in Glasgow. He is featured on the Children's Illustrators website at

My Cat Brother, Sterling
Mayra Hernandez, author
Kate Teves, illustrator
Independently Published
9798986290508, $12.99 Paper/$9.99 ebook, 39pp

Picture book readers who enjoy animal stories will relish the rollicking tale (accompanied by illustrations from Kate Teves) in My Cat Brother, Sterling.

Rocky the dog introduces his "cat brother" Sterling and advises that Sterling thinks he is (and acts like) a dog.

From barking at a postal person to watching his older doggy brother go potty on trees and choosing that method over the usual cat litter box, Sterling's goal in life is to emulate his older brother.

The other (more normal) household cats want to play with him on the cat tree, but Sterling has eyes only for his big brother Rocky.

A hilarious story evolves which teaches kids about differences between cats and dogs while providing plenty of laughs about a stubborn little cat who strives to emulate his older brother in non-kitty ways.

Adults who choose My Cat Brother, Sterling for its whimsical notes, story of the love shared between a family dog and cat, and its opportunities to explore pet differences with the very young will appreciate the focus and delightful adventures in this picture book story, which is highly recommended for library collections and parents alike.

Owl's Gifts
Dr. Karla-La
Marigold Methods
9798805466725, $12.95, PB, 42pp

Owl's Gifts features lovely color illustrations by Judith Hankes as it unfolds a picture book story of magical adventure surrounding very special learning issue that affects squirrel Spruce's self-perception and abilities.

Spruce has many extraordinary talents, but the one talent everyone else has (that he does not) is the ability to read. Somehow, he just can't learn.

He spends his days "wishing he were anywhere other than at school," but no matter how hard he tries, Spruce just can't seem to master the reading that comes seemingly easily to his fellow squirrel students.

Dr. Karla-La paints an exceptionally evocative story of a smart squirrel that lacks a basic skill: "Spruce was determined and confident. He promised himself he would slow down and try harder to translate the squiggles on the pages. He opened his book excitedly. And although the moon was bright, and although Spruce was focused, the letters did their usual flips and flops and mumbled and jumbled on the page."

Kids who also struggle with learning disabilities receive plenty of familiar scenarios as Spruce tries to change, but finds his daydreaming and deeper insights into his environment keep overtaking his efforts to learn.

"The nut doesn't fall far from the tree." As Spruce discovers that he's not alone, he also absorbs some keys to resolution that lead to empowerment and increased self-confidence.

Kids who struggle to read but demonstrate brilliance in other areas will understand and empathize with Spruce's dilemmas, and will find much to learn from in Owl's Gifts.

The magic comes not just from fantasy, but from a renewed opportunity to reassess one's skills and strengths, which are among the supportive insights imparted in Owl's Gifts.

Josiah's Adventure: A Tale of New Friends
Carter Dewey, author
Jensen Collins, illustrator
Dorrance Publishing Company
585 Alpha Drive, Suite 103, Pittsburgh, PA 15238
9781685373092, $24.00, HC, 34pp

Synopsis: Josiah is a little brown owl that gets separated from his family and needs to make it on his own -- or so he thinks. "Josiah's Adventure: A Tale of New Friends" by the team of author/storyteller Carter Dewey and artist/illustrator Jensen Collins is a thoroughly charming picture book story about making new friends, accepting help from others, and embracing the things that make us different.

Critique: A fun read with an important underlying life skills message, "Josiah's Adventure: A Tale of New Friends" will prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for children ages 4-8.

Beneath the Trees: A Fine Summer
Magnetic Press
9781951719548, $16.99

Beneath the Trees: A Fine Summer explores noises and animal reactions to them. A sleepy owl finds himself constantly disturbed by the ball-playing daytime activities around him, only to find himself on the other side of the complaint fence when night falls and he becomes more active himself. The cartoon-like panels are delightfully whimsical as the story builds a fun tale of an owl who just wants to get some peace and quiet, but finds these desires elusive. A delightful story evolves which read-aloud parents can use to discuss differences with kids.

Something Beautiful
Lita Judge
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY, 10020-1513
9781534485136, $18.99

Kids ages 4-8 receive the picture book story of an unlikely friendship between Mouse, Elephant, and Giraffe. In fact, these three have so much in common that it seems they really don't need any more friends in their lives. As Lita Judge points out, however - there is something attractive in adding more to the friendship mix, as the three learn when their circles of connection expand. Adults can use this story as a read-aloud example of different opportunities among friends who may not be alike, but are still fun and surprising.

Guilherme Karsten
Tapioca Stories
9781734783926, $19.95

Aaahhh! gives young picture book readers a lesson in time, change, and transformation as it contrasts events, discoveries, and fun, ironic situations with what happens when everything changes, from perceptions to creatures. As the whimsical stories evolve to survey transitional "aaahhh" moments of change in human lives, too, young readers are given the rare opportunity to understand the nature of big and small events that change the world. Adults who choose Aaahhh! as a read-aloud will find its lessons thought-provoking and different.

Candlewick Press
99 Dover Street, Somerville, MA 02144

Candlewick's latest picture book publications provide young readers and adult read-aloud audiences with a diverse set of attractive, highly recommended picks. Carlie Sorosiak's Everywhere With You (9781536214970, $18.99) tells of two houses next to one another which each house an isolated life: a dog, and a girl. Each spends time on solo endeavors until one day the girl sits next to the fence to read aloud. The two loners find solace and connection in the fantasy story that evolves to introduce wisdom into the mix. Devon Holzwarth's illustrations enhance this gentle story of evolving realizations, making for an engaging and thought-provoking tale.

Karla Courtney's Poppy's House (9781536211528, $17.99) tells of another kind of house, where Poppy lives in a land of painted houses, fishing boats, and wild cloudberries. Newfoundland comes to life under Courtney's descriptions while illustrator Madeline Kloepper's engaging drawings add action and imagery to reinforce a tale of a young girl's participation in Poppy's life.

Katelyn Aronson's Poo-Dunit? A Forest Floor Mystery (9781536216370, $17.99) features especially colorful, attractive illustrations by Stephanie Laberis as it reviews the engaging dilemma of a mouse who steps outside her house only to discover a giant pile of poo. What animal could have done this? Poo facts come to life in a blend of science and comedy as suspect animals are interrogated and have to prove that their poo is not the culprit. Read-aloud parents will appreciate both the whimsical fun and the problem-solving mystery of identifying a scat culprit.

Helen Frost and Rick Lieder's Wait - And See (9781536216318, $17.99) is a story of nature observation and discovery that encourages kids to take a closer look at the world around them. Lyrical descriptions and lovely, close-up photos of preying mantises entice the very young with a blend of simple language and colorful exploration.

David Elliott's At the Pond (9781536205985, $18.99) is a nature appreciation book that centers on the animals and ecosystem of a pond. It serves as a companion to other Elliott books about various environments by celebrating the pond, pairing his poems with Amy Schimler-Safford's colorful drawings of pond scenes.

I'm A Neutrino by Dr. Eve M. Vavagiakis (9781536222074, $18.99) receives eye-catching illustrations by Ilze Lemesis as it explores the importance and science of a neutrino. Lovely cosmic backdrops and whimsical neutrino art accompany a lively inspection suitable for readers attracted to physics and science, but who are usually too young for such discussions. The lively format makes for an accessible introduction to the topic that is both fact-filled and enlightening.

Moira Butterfield's Look What I Found at the Beach (9781536223972, $15.99) is illustrated by Jess Verona and also blends scientific facts with colorful, lively explorations which invite kids to explore the ocean world. From the makeup and sizes of sea shells to rocks and pebbles, fish and animals, and other features unique to the beach environment, kids receive a scientific tour of the wonders to be found on the shore.

Kids and read-aloud parents will find much to like in these colorful, compelling books. All should be considered for elementary-level libraries interested in high-quality, lasting lends.

Random House

Stephanie Graegin's The Long Ride Home (9780593426029, $17.99) is a picture book story of best friends and distance that celebrates happy memories and connections. The story is written as Koala's letter to her distant best friend. It explores the special nature of connections, retaining friendships that are separated by distance, and appreciating the shared memories of experience that power it.

Christina Geist's Buddy's New Buddy (9780593307090, $18.99) is also a story of friendship, and comes with colorful illustrations by Tim Bowers as it explores Buddy's dilemma when his best friend moves across town. Buddy needs to make a new buddy. But, he's not had to do this in a long time. How can he get a new best friend? The story of change and growth accompanies others in Gist's 'Buddy' series to provide young picture book readers with a formula for friendship success.

Both are excellent selections for adults seeking to explore the nature and incarnation of friendships with youngsters.

Sleeping Bear Press
1750 Northway Drive. Suite 101. North Mankato, MN 56003

Two new picture books provide winning illustrations and stories that make them standouts for libraries looking for top-notch picture books.

Shana Keller's The Peach Pit Parade: A World War I Story (9781534111387, $17.99) reaches kids ages 6-10 with a fine addition to Sleeping Bear Press's 'Tales of Young Americans' series. The history lesson comes with the added value of illustrating how kids can participate in community efforts for improvement. The story follows young Polly, who decides to contribute to the World War I effort when her father goes overseas to fight, reviewing victory gardens and a girl's effective contributions to the war effort at home. Margeaux Lucas creates especially vivid, colorful illustrations to bring Shana Keller's story to life.

Kenda Henthorn's Baa, Baa, Tap Sheep (97812534111561, $17.99) will reach an even younger crowd (up to age 4) with a story that lends to read-aloud pleasure. This bedtime twist on a sheep-counting effort is perfect for parents and kids seeking something different. Three tired kids face a host of dancing sheep at bedtime, who refuse to settle down for the count. Parents can use this story for introductory counting lessons as the lively tale teaches how to wind down and convert excess energy into sleep.

Both are fun, lively, attractive picture books that promise lasting lending value.

The Elementary Fiction Shelf

Ballet Bruce
Ryan T. Higgins
9781368059602, $14.99

Ballet Bruce is a Level 1 reader adding to the World of Reading series. It incorporates whimsy and entertainment into the story of how a grumpy bear is tapped to help a group of geese do ballet. Bruce finds himself drawn by "sad goose eyes," but a host of goose needs keep him away from his beloved home and involved in a ballet effort he never wanted to become a part of in the first place. Kids will relish this delightful tale of a grumpy bear friend whose efforts to help only lead him to become more and more involved in the world of dance. Ballet Bruce comes with lessons on friendship and flexibility that early readers will find whimsical and thought-provoking, all in one.

The Middle Grade Fiction Shelf

Rocket: The Miniature Morgan Horse
Ellen F. Feld
Willow Bend Publishing
9781733767453, $9.95, PB, 113pp

Synopsis: Sara and her Shetland pony, Diva, are inseparable. They have loads of fun together and go on one adventure after another. Then one day, Diva gives birth to a foal named Rocket who brings Sara even more fun! As her new foal grows, it's Sara's job to help teach him the rules of the farm. But when it's time for Rocket to be weaned, an unexpected escape sends things spiraling out of control! Can Sara, her dad, and Diva find Rocket in time? Or will he be lost forever?

Critique: With a very special appeal to young horse lovers and enthusiasts, "Rocket" by author and storyteller Ellen F. Feld is a delightfully entertaining and original story. While especially and unreservedly recommended for family, elementary school, and community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Rocket" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $3.99).

Editorial Note: Ellen Feld began writing about horses more than 20 years ago. At first she wrote for small, regional magazines, but within a few short years, her work began to appear regularly in large, national publications. In 2001 she wrote a short story about a Morgan. That tale became the first chapter of Blackjack: Dreaming of a Morgan Horse. The book went on to win a coveted Children's Choices award (as did the second book in the series, Frosty), an honor bestowed jointly by the International Reading Association and the Children's Book Council. To date, Ellen Feld has authored fifteen horse books, including seven in the Morgan Horse series and three in the best-selling Donkey-Donk series. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband, two children, twelve horses, and assorted other pets. She has a dedicated webpage on the Bookroo website at

If You Read This
Kereen Getten
Delacorte Press
c/o Random House Children's Books
9780593174005, $16.99, HC, 176pp

Synopsis: When Brie was younger, her mama used to surprise her with treasure hunts around their island town. After she died three years ago, these became Brie's favorite memories.

Now, on her twelfth birthday, her mama has another surprise: a series of letters leading Brie on one last treasure hunt. The first letter guides Brie to a special place. The next urges her to unlock a secret. And the last letter will change life as she knows it.

"If You Read This" is a poignant coming-of-age story of new memories, surprises, and moments of healing, as author Kereen Getten beautifully captures the edge of adolescence, when everything is thrilling, amazing, and terrifying in a way it will never be again.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, thoughtful and thought-provoking, and especially well presented with its handling of the sensitive issue of family love and loss, "If You Read This" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to elementary school, middle school, and community library contemporary fiction collections for young readers ages 8-12. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "If You Read This" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Kereen Getten is the author of "When Life Gives You Mangos". She has previously written short stories for multiple publications including Notts Review and Adhoc Fiction. She was nominated for Best Short Fiction 2018 and highly commended for the FAB prize. She has a dedicated website at and can be followed on Twitter @KereenGetten and Instagram @KezyWrites

The Missing Cats
Sally Alexander
Independently Published
9798986070018, $24.99 hc; $9.99 pbk; $3.99 Kindle

The Missing Cats provides Book 2 in The Adventures of Caitlin & Rio series, but prior familiarity with the first book is not a requirement. Sally Alexander provides a fine summary that recaps characters, setting, and past events, opening this latest saga with an intriguing premise: "Rio, Caitlin Maggert's Ragdoll cat, concentrated on trying to speak like a human. This was unusual. Everyone knows that cats can't speak. But Rio was a very special cat. Three weeks before the end of school and the start of the summer vacation something had happened that had changed Rio."

The recap ends with the fact that the criminal mastermind MacDougal, who stole the colors from the world, escaped to create more havoc, and The Missing Cats details this escapade.

There is no rest for the weary. Still recovering from his last struggle, Rio is drawn back into the fold of mystery and adversity when blue-eyed neighborhood cats begin to go missing. It's a cat-tastrophy that only he can solve, and the answers to the mystery drive a riveting tale that ages 8-12 will find fun and absorbing.

The story involves more than cats. Human relationships are tested, as well: "Caitlin didn't want Molly in her attic bedroom. She was still hurt and angry that Molly had betrayed her and Rio, just because the meanest girl in the world had been nice to her."

From missing cats and the clues left by catnip mice to human and cat interactions, readers receive an engaging romp through Rio's life and the children that surround him.

As in Alexander's first story, the characters come to life to exhibit traits of problem-solving, tackling interpersonal dilemmas, and driving action-laced intrigue that keeps kids guessing about not just outcomes, but relationships.

The result is a cat-centric mystery that returns mastermind MacDougal to the center of a new dilemma that requires felines and humans to work together to avert disaster.

Elementary-level libraries looking for attractive leisure reads will find The Missing Cats delightfully whimsical and appealing.

The Young Adult Fiction Shelf

Osprey Man
Christopher Tuthill
DX Varos Publishing
9781955065528, $18.95 Paper/$4.99 ebook

Jacob is on his way to becoming an adult, but is not yet fully operating in the world of adults when tragedy strikes (his best friend Jon's death) to challenge his perceptions of self and the world. His excitement about the last day of school before summer disappears in a flash with this news, forcing Jacob to come to terms with the unimaginable loss of his friend from an accident.

There's more to the story than a test of friendship's end, however, which is evident from the start as Osprey Man reveals its surprises, unwrapping them through the course of the story like birthday gifts. As Jacob's world changes daily from that point onward, middle grade readers receive a powerful story of a boy struggling to come to terms with life, death, friendships, and his role in all of them.

Author Christopher Tuthill takes the time necessary to bring every facet of Jacob's experience to life, from the delivery of the initial news to the ceremonies surrounding letting go. Tuthill also injects the story with evocative images which give pause for thought, adding strength to the overall progression of the tale. His attention to building a strong, believable character whose life goes on after loss despite it all makes for a revealing account of grief and living which carries pre-teens into an examination of the ongoing power of loss.

The result is a story replete in growth which carries Jacob and his audience into realms of recovery and contemplation that embrace new possibilities without setting aside old connections.

Young adults who choose Osprey Man for its coming-of-age story about growth and grief will find much to relish in Jacob's story. Libraries looking for strong stories of death and life beyond loss will find Osprey Man an especially poignant, thought-provoking read. It is highly recommended for its in-depth revelations of the emotional twists and turns experienced during the passage of time after a loss.

Jaime Winn
Bleau Press
9781951796112, $15.11 Paper/$2.99 Kindle

Pull is a young adult novel about lupus and growth and tells of seventeen-year-old Mischa Kenning-Elliott, who is college-bound and on track for success until a plot envelopes and changes her world. Classmate Casey Everfled is also on the road to success, but in a different way. Asking Mischa to the prom seems perfectly appropriate until a shared experience places them both in the crosshairs of a killer's attention.

The story opens from Mischa's perspective and tells of an escape that threatens both of their worlds. It's narrated in a manner that invites young adults with mystery and descriptions that create a "you are there" feel from the start: "I can hear the buzzing of the cicadas, can feel the moisture in the air squeezing my lungs and sticking my dress to me. 'The woods,' I tell him, and this is when it hits me that I won't be able to come back to these woods again, to the downed tree where I used to sit on warm afternoons to study with the sun shaking down through the leaves. That's gone for me now. Everything I know will be gone soon."

As Pull contrasts Mischa's dreams and realities and Casey's evolving, revised vision of their connection to each other and the threats suddenly facing their different trajectories, it also develops a powerful pull on reader attention. This highlights the engagement between the characters through contrasting first-person perspectives clearly identified by chapter headings.

As surprises emerge about love, death, and stranger things in between, Pull crafts an evocative tale that contains many revelations and thought-provoking moments apart from the tension and discoveries it builds. As the truth comes out, readers receive an engrossing story that is hard to put down and difficult to predict, filled with two strong characters and satisfying tension surrounding the odd course their lives take.

From the pull of numbers and strange visions to their choices in creating the kind of future they want, Pull exerts a draw that young adults will find compelling. At once a suspense tale and a story of love, it's an evolution of and contrast in experiences and reactions that gives readers a ride for their money through opportunities, choices, and understanding what is really important in life.

Young adult library collections strong in multifaceted reads about control and love will find Pull a powerful addition.

The Mask
Clayton Marshall Adams
CJ Sparrow Publication
9780578569932, $18.95 Hardcover/$2.99 ebook

It's unusual to see short, allegorical, literary works written for the 10 to 16-year-old age group, but The Mask is a presentation whose attraction demonstrates that young readers needn't be intellectuals in order to appreciate the social and psychological messages in fiction.

Mil's appearance is off-setting, to say the least. He is disfigured and is too often the subject of cruelty not only from his peers, but from adults.

Mil is "...referred to as the village idiot, the monster, and the freak. Mil had been born deformed and ugly, raised by his parents until he was old enough to care for himself, and then abandoned in the forest."

This would seem to preclude any possibility that he will have friends or lead a normal life, but when he unearths a mysterious mask in the forest, his life changes. The mask is alive, it feels evil, and it delivers an impossible quandary: "Toss me," it said, "and you toss away your chance for beauty."

The mask offers transformation - but at what price? As Mil explores new options and determines their costs, readers receive a thought-provoking inspection about beauty, beasts, and the impact of walking away from one's old life and self.

Clayton Marshall Adams creates a thoroughly thought-provoking tale that packs lots of punch into a short piece.

From issues of attraction and appearances to the moral and ethical dilemmas of seeking beauty against all odds, Adams crafts a thought-provoking scenario disguised as fantasy. The Mask will thus ideally be chosen not just by leisure readers, but those interested in contemporary allegorical literature.

Teachers of creative writing, especially, will find much to point out in this provocative short piece, which gains even more impact from Rohan Daniel Eason's powerful illustrations throughout.

A detailed biography of the young author at book's end surveys the roots of his inspiration and the many themes embedded in this gripping tale of wonder and revelation.

Libraries looking for writings by young people which demonstrate prowess and power beyond the usual writing abilities of a sixteen-year-old will find The Mask the perfect portrait of issues ranging from body image and bullying to choices demonstrating inner courage and strength.

Mifflin Drift
Larry T. Eley, author
M. T. Eley, author
Reedy Press
PO Box 5131, St. Louis, MO 63139
9781681063737, $19.00, PB, 304pp

Synopsis: Fifteen-year-old Larry never wanted to leave the calm of his grandparent's farm, but now he's in Northglen, Ohio living in a snug home with his mom and boozy stepfather, E. A. Darnell.

His new high school is run with an iron fist by groups called the Rat Pack and the Gents. The neighborhood is packed with weirdos. On top of that, E. A. has a habit of losing jobs, including the one that brought them here.

When he comes home drunk one night and tells Larry to get out, he's half tempted to do it. But Larry is soon adopted by a gang of local toughs that roam the woods beyond the stream that locals call Sewer Creek, throwing cherry bombs at skinny dippers and sneaking into the drive-in theater.

Further complicating Larry's love life is Kathy, a member of the Rat Pack who'd love to date a baseball player if her Hollywood mother would sign on. Then there's Lynn, the gutsy charmer he can't forget, but who refuses to even tell Larry where she lives.

Mifflin Drift is about eight friends in pre-Vietnam America and how they grew up -- despite their best efforts not to.

Critique: Especially and unreservedly recommended for personal reading lists, as well as middle school, highschool, and community library YA Fiction collections, "Mifflin Drift" by authors Larry and M. T. Eley is a an impressively well crafted coming-of-age novel that will have a very special and particular appeal to readers ages 14-18.

Editorial Note: M. T. Eley is a graduate of Kenyon College and has written in the Columbus Dispatch, Gilbert!, The Bold Italic, The Alcohol Professor and other publications, as well as serving on the board of the San Francisco-based Bay Area Travel Writers.

Ski Weekend
Rektok Ross
9781684631094, $16.95, PB, 288pp

Synopsis: Sam is dreading senior ski weekend and having to watch after her brother and his best friend, Gavin, to make sure they don't do anything stupid. Again.

Gavin may be gorgeous, but he and Sam have never gotten along. Now they're crammed into an SUV with three other classmates and Gavin's dog, heading on a road trip that can't go by fast enough.

Then their SUV crashes into a snowbank, and Sam and her friends find themselves stranded in the mountains with cell phone coverage long gone and temperatures dropping. When the group gets sick of waiting for rescue, they venture outside to find help -- only to have a wilderness accident leave Sam's brother with a smashed leg and, soon, a raging fever.

While the hours turn to days, Sam's brother gets sicker and sicker, and their food and supplies dwindle until there isn't enough for everyone. As the winter elements begin to claim members of the group one by one, Sam vows to keep her brother alive. No matter what!

Critique: Some authors seem to have an inborn talent for the kind of narrative driven storytelling that makes for a compulsive page turning read from cover to cover. With the publication of "Ski Weekend", novelist Rektok Ross amply demonstrates to be among that number. Memorable characters, unexpended plot twists, and the theme of survival will prove to be of special appeal to teen and young adult readers. While also available for personal reading lists in a digital book format ($8.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Blackstone Audio, 9798200859726, $31.95, CD), "Ski Weekend" is especially and unreservedly recommended for middle school, highschool, and community library YA Fiction collections for readers ages 14-17.

Editorial Note: Rektok Ross is the pen name of Liani Kotcher, a young adult fiction author and book blogger. She can be followed online at @RektokRoss, and has a dedicated website at -- where she blogs about books and writing.

The Mystery/Suspense Shelf

The Wild Turkeys
Sally Alexander
Independently Published
9781958459003, Hardback: $24.99/Paperback $9.99/Kindle: $3.99

The Wild Turkeys, the third book in the Rio and Caitlin series for ages 8-12, again employs a winning combination of look-back summary to inform newcomers, using engaging action to keep prior fans involved in the latest mystery escapade involving the Ragdoll cat Rio and his young entourage.

It's unusual to have the chief investigator be a cat, much less one harboring extraordinary powers of deduction akin to Sherlock Holmes. But Rio is a worthy protagonist who excels in working with his young humans to get at the root of mysterious events.

This time, they involve the sudden appearance of wild turkeys in the neighborhood. Is the flock really watching the house? What are they up to? What if Rio isn't alone in having powers produced by the evil MacDougal's prior efforts?

Though nefarious purposes are at first suspected, Rio, Caitlin, and her best friends Trudie and Molly soon come to find that the wild turkeys have another mission. And it's one the team had better become involved with, lest MacDougal wreak havoc and chaos once again.

As in her previous Rio and Caitlin adventures, Sally Alexander harbors a fine ability to cultivate mystery, peppering it with fantasy and interpersonal interactions that teach kids about psychology and teamwork.

Humorous overtones add elements of fun to the evolving surprises: "Seven wild turkeys stood in the kitchen. Caitlin was glad that the roasting turkey they planned to eat for thanksgiving was in the oven. It seemed rude to be planning to eat a possible relation of their new guests."

Intercultural explorations also occur as Thanksgiving is celebrated by newcomers from Botswana, and environmental issues enter the fray with the observation that the "wild turkey habitat is dwindling."

These elements dovetail to create a story that draws with action, adventure, and mystery, but incorporates auxiliary subjects ranging from problem-solving and teamwork to social and environmental challenges.

Libraries and adults who point the way to The Wild Turkeys will appreciate its special ability to employ action, strong characterization, fantasy, mystery, and humor as it explores issues that arise from newcomers to the neighborhood who offer educational insights on more than one level.

Its appeal to young leisure readers will make all these elements attractive and fun to absorb.

The Fantasy/SciFi Shelf

The Sisters of Luna Island
Stacy Hackney, author
Krista Vossen, jacket design
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
9781534488694, $17.99 HC, $8.99 PB, $10.99 Kindle, 326 pp

Synopsis: "The Sisters of Luna Island" is an exciting teen mystery about three sisters who are inheritors of a line of aromages, good witches who blend fragrances into practical charms using aromagic.

Twelve year old Marigold experiences rejection and "shunning" by island neighbors after a terrible accident injures her father and damages Luna Island. Marigold and her sisters, Birdie and Lou, have vowed to forsake their family legacy and mother's way of life. However, Marigold must go into action using every skill and weapon in her arsenal to discover origins of a curse on her family and find a way to break the spell.

She works with the help of her best friend Sam, learning to believe in her unique sensitivities and gifts to help defend her beloved sisters and family.

Critique: Recommended for family, elementary school, middle school, and community library collections, "The Sisters of Luna Island" is exciting, gripping, and stimulating to young readers ages 8-12, encouraging them to seek deep into themselves for solutions to difficult problems and dangers. Messages of constancy, devotion, truth, and compassion are woven into the quickly moving plot. The use of scents is masterful in narrative and description, aiding in the painting of deeply entwined familial relationships. "The Sisters of Luna Island" may be a first title of a series, but it also stands alone very well.

The Rise of Runes and Shields
J.M. Stephen
DX Varos Publishing
9781955065504, $19.95 Paper/$4.99 ebook

The Rise of Runes and Shields presents young adult fantasy readers with the first book in the Seidr Sagas series and follows twins Freyja and Bjorn, who live in a world that eschews the forbidden Viking magic Seidr. Drawn into circumstances beyond their control by a murder and by an ongoing battle between the Fire and Frost Giants, each must learn a skill that introduces its own problems and possibilities, in order to survive and protect their family.

Freyja's sword and shield are gifts from an aunt who bequeathed her an unusual legacy along with the physical tools of strength. The inherited attitudes and mission that each twin receives ultimately directs them to new forms of response and action in their lives as J.M. Stephen depicts a rising struggle that immerses them in a changing world.

As their father faces grave dangers from many sides, the twins find that physical and psychic confrontations rely not just on the lessons they've been taught, but how they employ them in the world, forming decisions which hold wide-ranging consequences for their future.

Stephen creates a story propelled by battles and political and social savvy alike as each twin comes into his and her own powers, yet remains firmly connected to family. From those in minor positions of power who demonstrate more leadership than the actual leaders, to power plays that involve shape shifters and heroes in challenges heightened by the twins' presence and absence, Stephen captures the rise of powers and magic in this world.

The result is a story fueled by passion and energy that will attract and delight young adult fantasy readers with its special brand of coming-of-age and magical transformations. Libraries looking for strong beginnings to series presentations will find The Rise of Runes and Shields a powerful introduction to a broken world that requires fixing on many new levels.

Michael J. Bowler
Independently Published
9798986224107, $18.99 Hardcover/$12.99 Paperback/$2.99 ebook

Book 3 of the Healers Chronicle continues the journey of Alex, set adrift after facing his twin Andy, who tried to kill him. Spoiler continues his foray into danger as Alex faces the fallout from his brother's involvement with a cult and tries to navigate a much-changed world because of it. Only two weeks have passed since he was reunited with his missing twin, only to face the fallout from Andy's stealing his healing power. As if this wasn't enough, he faces imprisonment, an assault on humanity that only he can thwart, and the rise of dangerous forces that shake his depression and challenges the emptiness he feels in his soul. Can a young man who faces betrayal, imprisonment, and the loss of his own abilities and direction become the saving force for the world?

Because Michael J. Bowler's story rests so heavily on past events, it's recommended that those who choose Spoiler be prior fans of the series. This audience will harbor the background suitable for easily following Alex's conundrums and special challenges in this latest saga.

Charged with helping his brother "shift the good" out of humanity, Alex faces his own moral and ethical conundrums as he faces the treacherous Mrs. G. and a standoff that threatens his friends, as well. Bowler crafts a fast pace and strong characterization that builds on the prior books, expanding the story's moral and ethical dilemmas.

Young adults who enjoyed Alex and Andy's previous struggles will find the fast pace, the presence of a mysterious gate to another dimension, and the choices Alex faces not only in himself but in his relationship with his twin and the world to be thoroughly engrossing.

Alex and Andy's special ability to 'shift' forces between friends and enemies alike creates an especially intriguing series of situations in which their choices and consequences intersect in unexpected ways. The result is a coming of age fantasy that closely examines the evolution of sibling relationships as well as their connection to the greater world at large.

It's a vivid story highly recommended for YA fantasy collections seeing interest in the prior two books in a mesmerizing series.

The Graphic Novel Shelf

DinoDogz: Eggzellent Adventure
Mystery Mike McHale
Mystery Mike's FunHouse Publishing
9780578388601, $14.99

DinoDogz: Eggzellent Adventure provides a picture book mystery that follows five DinoDogz as they travel to a secret island to rescue five StegoPup eggs stolen by the evil Dr. D. Stroy. He may have created the DinoDogz for nefarious purposes (to take over the world), but Dr. D. Stroy's creations have turned on him (and become good) as they reject their original purpose and try to gain control of special eggs (laid by a dog) that hold dino DNA and the possibility of furthering the evil doctor's take-over of the world. The dynamic team faces many obstacles, from exploding coconuts thrown by evil gorillas Hal and Sal (who are in cahoots with the bad doctor) to a transformation caused by a Dino DNA-infused bone that turns dog Bull into a BrontoBulldogosaurus. Illustrator Mike Goldstein adds a host of eye-catching, colorful drawings to bring Mystery Mike McHale's adventure to life as the DinoDogz face down not just an adversary, but his intentions to use them to change the world. The result is a lively adventure that looks and reads like an action-packed graphic novel, but holds the added value of humor and dinosaur attractors to engage even the most reluctant reader. Libraries that choose DinoDogz: Eggzellent Adventure for its mystery and rollicking adventure will find it just the ticket for a journey into an unexpected, fun world that romps through quasi-science and extraordinary possibilities alike.

The Music CD Shelf

Just a Minute
Jesse Jukebox
Privately Published
$15.00 CD / $10.00 download / $9.49 MP3

Intended for young listeners ages 0-7, Just a Minute is the fourth children's album by Jesse Jukebox (a.k.a. Jesse Friedberg). Packed with 28 original, high-energy tunes, each of which is just 60 seconds long, Just a Minute features silly songs, quirky humor, laugh-out-loud parodies and much more. A cheerful delight perfect through and through, Just a Minute is a choice pick for both personal and public library children's collections. 28 min.

Into the Little Blue House
Wendy and DB
Planet Wendy Publishing
$20.00 CD or download

Award-winning children's music duo Wendy and DB present Into the Little Blue House, an all-ages album of blues music. Created in cooperation with Chicago area blues musicians, the songs carry the spirit of blues and soul rhythms, and express their sentiment in lyrics suitable for young and old alike. A thoughtful cultural introduction to a rich and storied genre, Into the Little Blue House is highly recommended for both personal and public library children's music collections. The tracks are Little Blue House (feat. Billy Branch), Going to the City, Women of the Blues (feat. Ivy Ford), In the Neighborhood, Tie My Own Shoes Blues, Feel Holler (A Field Holler), Time to Shine (feat. Ivy Ford), Peanut Butter Blues Jam, If I Had a Hammer, Work To Be Done (A Work Song), To Bee Or Not To Be, Please Go To Sleep, Gonna Dance Out the Blues (feat. Billy Branch). 41 min.

The Greats
Louis & Dan and the Invisible Band
Privately Published
$TBA CD / $9.49 MP3

The Greats is an all-ages album celebrating the creations of great music artists. Louis & Dan and the Invisible Band have created twelve whimsical, original songs that pay tribute to legendary musicians, from the Beach Boys to Nina Simone. Inspired, delightful, and just plain fun to share with the whole family, The Greats is highly recommended for both personal and public library children's music collections. The tracks are The Greats, Apple, I Love to Sing (feat. Tesfa Wondemagegnehu), My Dog Slug, Griff the Gremlin, I'm a Giraffe, Please Be Normal (feat. Eleanor Groll), My Loves, Put It On The Barbecue (feat. Tesfa Wondemagegnehu), Being Invisible (feat. Elliott Park), A Lullaby, and The Greats (Reprise).

Dinosaurs & Monsters
Rock 'n' Rainbow Music Publishing
$TBA digital download only

Available exclusively as a digital download on Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon, YouTube Music and other services, Dinosaurs & Monsters is the fourth children's music album of the award-winning "Dinostory" series by the band Howdytoons. Blending heavy metal music and lyrics about extraordinary prehistoric beasts (both real and imagined!), Dinosaurs & Monsters is an exciting work sure to enthrall young paleo-fans everywhere. The tracks are Allosaurus, Dimetrodon, Brachiosaurus, Brontosaurus is Back!, Diplodocus, Stegosaurus Song, I'm a Pterodactyl, The Kraken, and Kronosaurus. 30 min.

Adults These Days
Greg Lato
Privately Published
$8.99 CD or download

Intended for young listeners ages 0-10, Adults These Days is a children's music album by award-winning music artist and songwriter Greg Lato. Inspired by 70's and 80's pop artists, Adults These Days is retro-influenced with a modern twist. There are eight songs; the ninth and final track is a spoken-word storytelling track, in which Greg Lato takes on the roles of different characters. Adults These Days is freewheeling fun, and a delight for both personal and public library children's collections. The tracks are New Lunchbox, Relive This Song Again, Everybody Needs Someone, My Birthday Party, Thankful, Adults These Days, What Kind Of Animal Would You Be? (feat. Becky Bass), Sweetest Dream Of All, and The Bike In The Tree (spoken). 30 min. Also highly recommended is Greg Lato's picturebook "Everybody Needs Someone" (9798218015459, $9.99), based on his song and illustrated by Sarah-Leigh Wills.

The Multimedia Shelf

A Child's Introduction to Jazz
Jabari Asim, author
Jerrard K. Polk, illustrator
Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers
c/o Running Press Kids
9780762479412, $19.99, HC, 96pp

Synopsis: "A Child's Introduction to Jazz: The Musicians, Culture, and Roots of the World's Coolest Music" introduces young readers to the music and rhythms of all the different styles of jazz, ranging from swing and Dixieland to the blues and bebop.

Author Jabari Asim will take young readers on the journey through the history of jazz as well as the most important musicians and singers -- all while hearing some really cool sounds. They will learn all about the roots of jazz in Africa and New Orleans and how the music traveled to different parts of the United States and around the world. Along the way they will meet legendary trumpeter Louis Armstrong, who shaped a new form of jazz called improvisation; pianist and bandleader Duke Ellington, who helped create the big band sound of the swing era; and the singer Billie Holiday, whose songs such as "God Bless the Child," "Don't Explain," and "Lady Sings the Blues" have become jazz standards.

Young readers can listen along to the sounds of jazz by downloading music and hearing instruments such as trumpets, clarinets, trombones, and even singers scatting as they improvise melodies. With a pull-out poster showing the different instruments of jazz, "A Child's Introduction to Jazz" hits the perfect beat and will have you bebopping and scatting in no time!

Critique: Fun, informative, and thoroughly 'kid friendly' in organization and presentation, "A Child's Introduction to Jazz: The Musicians, Culture, and Roots of the World's Coolest Music" by the team of academician and jazz expert Jabari Asim and artist/illustrator Jarrard K. Polk is a unique and unreservedly recommended addition to family, elementary school, middle school, and community library American Jazz History collections for children ages 8-12.

Editorial Note #1: Jabari Asim is a professor at Emerson College, where he is director of the MFA program in Creative Writing. A recipient of the prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship, he is the author of several works for children. They include A Child's Introduction to African American History, Preaching to the Chickens, Whose Toes Are Those, and Me and Muhammad Ali. He has a dedicated website at

Editorial Note #2: Jerrard K. Polk has been drawing all his life. He won his first art contest at the age of 5 and was educated in public schools by many skilled art teachers. His love of books and poetry was encouraged by his mother, a librarian. Today, he enjoys sharing his fondness for art and entrepreneurship with children. He is greatly inspired by jazz and the dapper fashions of its innovators. In 2021, he illustrated The Story of John Lewis and Black Inventors. He has a dedicated website at

Free to Be Me
Aaron & Julie Harris, authors
Maud Legrand, illustrator
The Secret Mountain
9782925108917, $16.95, PB, 48pp

Synopsis: Awaken children's vocabularies with "Free to Be Me", a sunny collection of folk-pop songs by the Sunflowers (Aaron & Julie Harris). These upbeat melodies and accessible lyrics were written to help budding language learners discover how to share their feelings, hopes, and dreams. Young readers will have a blast singing their hearts out to songs about emotions, courage, family, and more! The unique picture book features the illustrated lyrics of each song by artist Maud Legrand, which are followed by activity ideas for teaching English and is accompanied by a 12-song CD (plus a unique digital download code).

Critique: Fun and educational, "Free to Be Me" will prove to be a welcome and enduringly popular addition to family, preschool, elementary school, and community library collections for children ages 5-7.

Editorial Note #1: The Sunflowers, a musical duo formed by singer-songwriters Aaron and Julie Harris, have been present for several years in schools throughout the Salon-de-Provence region in the South of France. Their work has focused on using music and sport to introduce young children to the English language. Aaron is a former professional basketball player and graduate teacher from Kansas State University and Julie, who grew up in France, is currently employed as a social worker in the French educational system. The Sunflowers have a web page on the Apple Music website at

Editorial Note #2: Maud Legrand, a graduate of the school of decorative arts in Strasbourg, has spent the past 20 years illustrating books for children that have been translated into several languages. Et ma petite main dans la tienne (My Little Hand in Yours), Cet enfant que j'aime infiniment (This Child That I Love to No End), and Le facteur Cheval et son palais ideal (The Posteman Named Cheval and His Ideal Palace) are some of her more recent publications. She presently lives in Nantes, France. She can be followed on Instagram at

The Activity Shelf

Dusty and Friends Activity Book
Tammy Fortune
Tammy's Toolbox, LLC
9781734694970, $6.99 Paper

Dusty and Friends Coloring and Activity Book About Friendship cultivates an interactive environment, encouraging young readers to "grab a friend" and work together on the projects in this book. It advises young readers that there are no 'mistakes' in these endeavors, and prompts them to use the projects as a starting point for learning more about each other as they share and explore the activities. The focus is on identifying friendship's qualities and learning what makes friends laugh and have fun together.

Various animals can be colored together, and each panel holds opportunities for learning because Dusty the dog cultivates different kinds of friends, from rabbits and cats to hamsters and goldfish. Kids (and adults who guide them) can use this activity book to get in touch with positive feelings about themselves and each other, because there are more than coloring projects involved.

Each panel offers the opportunity for important insights about building the interpersonal connections that strengthen friendships, and each celebrates differences and shared experiences alike.

The result is an engrossing book that encourages positivity and discussions about accepting and celebrating self and differences in others. Adults will find it the perfect starting place for reinforcing the give-and-take of friendship.

Crayola: Follow That Line!
JaNay Brown-Wood, author
Rob Justus, illustrator
Running Press Kids
c/o Running Press
9780762475025, $15.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: With "Crayola: Follow That Line!: Magic at Your Fingertips" children will have fun using their fingers to follow a line and help it burst into color. They will fully enjoy making magic with blooming flowers, tall mountain tops, splashing waves, and more by tracing lines with all four fingers and the thumb. Celebrating the power of creating artwork with Crayola products "Crayola: Follow That Line!: Magic at Your Fingertips" is a delightful and brightly interactive book.

Critique: Thoroughly 'kid friendly' in organization and presentation, "Crayola: Follow That Line!: Magic at Your Fingertips" is a unique interactive adventure for children ages 4-8. While also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99), "Crayola: Follow That Line!: Magic at Your Fingertips" is particularly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library collections for children ages 4-8.

Editorial Note #1: JaNay Brown-Wood's first children's book Imani's Moon won the NAESP Children's Book of the Year Award and her second book Grandma's Tiny House: A Counting Story! won the CELI Read Aloud Book Award. She also has several poems published in Highlights for Kids, Highlights High Five, and the poetry anthology Thanku: Poems of Gratitude (Lerner/Millbrook, 2019). She has a dedicated website at

Editorial Note #2: Rob Justus is a former market researcher turned picture book author/illustrator and graphic novelist. He has a dedicated website at

Editorial Note #3: Crayola LLC, based in Easton, Pa. and a business of Hallmark Cards, Inc., is the worldwide leader in children's creative expression products. Known for the iconic Crayola Crayon first introduced in 1903, the Crayola brand has grown into a portfolio of innovative art tools, crafting activities, and creativity toys that offer children innovative new ways to use color to create everything imaginable.

The Biography Shelf

Mister Rogers' Gift of Music
Donna Cangelosi, author
Amanda Calatzis, illustrator
Page Street Kids
c/o Page Street Publishing
9781645674702, $18.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: For a young Fred Rogers, music was a gift. It eased the pain of childhood illness and bullying and helped Fred express how he felt when words alone were difficult.

As an adult, he gifted his melodies to the world, showing children by example that they can express themselves, cope with negative feelings, and connect to each other through music.

"Mister Rogers' Gift of Music" by the team of author/storyteller Donna Cangelosi and artist/illustrator Amanda Calatzis is sensitive, life-affirming biography not only portrays the life of this beloved TV personality, but focuses on Fred's most memorable songs and musical TV moments, and captures the enduring magic of his music in brilliantly colorful abstract illustration.

Young readers will not only learn about what music meant to Fred Rogers, but find the encouragement and inspiration to brighten their own lives with song.

Critique: Fred McFeely Rogers (March 20, 1928 - February 27, 2003), also known as Mister Rogers, was an American television host, author, producer, and Presbyterian minister. He was the creator and host of the preschool television series Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, which ran from 1968 to 2001. This picture book biography does full justice to presenting Fred Rogers as the kind, compassionate, caring person he was both on air and in life. "Mister Rogers' Gift of Music" is an unreservedly recommended addition to personal reading lists, and a 'must have' acquisition for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book biography collections for children ages 4-8.

Editorial Note #1: Donna Cangelosi is a child psychologist who, much like Mister Rogers, spends her days working with children to help them understand and process their feelings. She was born in New Jersey and lives there today. She has a dedicated website at

Editorial Note #2: Amanda Calatzis spent countless days watching Mister Rogers after school when she was growing up. Today, she brings that same warm, comforting feeling into her own art. She previously wrote and illustrated Khalida and the Most Beautiful Song (Page Street Kids). She has a dedicated website at

Prophet Muhammad: Where the Story Begins
Farhana Islam, author
Eman Salem, illustrator
Kube Publishing Ltd
9780860378778, $12.95, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: "Prophet Muhammad: Where the Story Begins" by author/storyteller Farhana Islam and artist/illustrator Eman Salem is a beautiful picture book biography introduces that introduces young readers to the Prophet Muhammad's (peace be unto him) childhood and to those who helped raise the man that would, by the will of Allah, lead an entire ummah and be an example for all time.

"Prophet Muhammad: Where the Story Begins" shows the Islamic Prophet Muhammad's very early life, his childhood and to those who helped raise and shape the man that would lead an entire nation and be an example for all time. "Prophet Muhammad: Where the Story Begins" is a meaningful story written in a child's voice with a young reader in mind. What differentiates this book from others are the personalities it focuses on. In alternate books about the Prophet, much isn't written about his mother who passed soon after his birth nor about the women who raised him.

Young readers will be introduced a handful of the men and women that helped shape the early life of Prophet Muhammad including his mother, Amina bint Wahb; the women that loved and protected him like their very own, Halimah Sa'diyyah and Barakah (Umm Ayman); and his beloved grandfather Abd al-Muttalib, alongside his uncle Abu Talib.

Critique: Written and illustrated with complete deference to Islamic traditions and customs with respect to the Prophet Muhammad, "Prophet Muhammad: Where the Story Begins" is a unique and unreservedly recommended addition to the personal reading lists of children ages 5-8, as well as family, elementary school, community, and mosque library picture book biography collections in general, and Children's Islamic History reading lists in particular.

Editorial Note #1: Farhana Islam is a Primary School Teacher in the North East of England with a love for children's literature. Being the only minority face her pupils see inspired her to start writing. In particular, mainstream stories with diverse characters and enabling the reader to be both windows and mirrors. A window exposing young readers to a world they may not be necessarily familiar with but still within their reach. And a mirror for those to find themselves, their families, their culture and their communities reflected, valued and normalized in. Farhana was shortlisted for Faber Children's FAB Prize 2020 for unrepresented authors.

Editorial Note #2: Eman Salem is a Palestinian Muslim, mother of 4, born and raised in Calgary Alberta, Canada. She is an Illustrator who specializes in the use of watercolor illustrations.

The Language Studies Shelf

The Hanmoji Handbook
Jennifer B. Lee, author
An Xiao Mina, author
Jason Li, author/illustrator
MITeen Press
c/o The MIT Press
One Rogers Street, Cambridge MA 02142-1209
9781536219135, $24.99, HC, 160pp

Synopsis: Even though their dates of origin are millennia apart, the languages of Chinese and emoji share similarities that the average smartphone user might find surprising. These "hanmoji" parallels offer an exciting new way to learn Chinese -- and a fascinating window into the evolution of Chinese Han characters.

Packed with fun illustrations and engaging descriptions, "The Hanmoji Handbook: Your Guide to the Chinese Language Through Emoji" brings to life the ongoing dialogue between the visual elements of Chinese characters and the language of emoji. At once entertaining and educational, this unique volume holds sure appeal for young readers who use emojis, anyone else who is interested in learning Chinese, as well as those who enjoy quirky, visual gift books.

Critique: Exceptionally well organized and presented, "The Hanmoji Handbook: Your Guide to the Chinese Language Through Emoji" is particularly ideal for teens and young adults with an interest in emojis, cartooning, and foreign language (Chinese) studies. While highly recommended for highschool and community library collections for readers ages 14-17 (and older), it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Hanmoji Handbook: Your Guide to the Chinese Language Through Emoji" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.74).

Editorial Note #1: Jennifer 8. Lee is a vice-chair of the Unicode emoji subcommittee and cofounder of Emojination, a grassroots group that advocates for more inclusive and representative emoji. She is also a former New York Times reporter, author of The Fortune Cookie Chronicles, and producer of the documentaries The Search for General Tso and The Emoji Story. She has a dedicated website at

Editorial Note #2: An Xiao Mina is a creative strategist, writer, and artist whose work has been featured in the New York Times, the Economist, the Atlantic, and Fast Company. She's worked at the intersection of technology and culture for more than a decade at places like Meedan, Hyperallergic, and Harvard's Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society. She is also the author of Memes to Movements and has a website at

Editorial Note #3: Jason Li is an independent designer, artist, and educator. His practice revolves around promulgating bottom-up narratives, exploring networked technology, and helping people live safely on the internet. His works have appeared at the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, and on the BBC. He is an editor at Paradise Systems and a member of Zine Coop. He has a dedicated website at

Books in Series

The Child's World, Inc.
1980 Lookout Drive, Mankato, MN 56003
9781503863583, $263.40, HC, 12 volumes

A new series from The Child's World publishing company, "Let's Explore Ecosystems" consists of twelve different environments: Coral Reefs, Deserts, Forests, Freshwater Lakes, Grasslands, Mountains, Oceans, Ponds, Rain Forests, Seashores, Tundra, and Wetlands. Each individual 24 page book has a second grade reading level, a grades 1-4 interest level, and features full color captioned photographic illustrations, detailed maps, infographics, informative sidebars, a phonetic glossary, suggested websites, sources for further research, an index, and an author/illustrator biography. Although each titles in the thoroughly kid friendly "Let's Explore Ecosystems" series is available individually and as an ebook, both elementary school and community library's would be well advised to acquire the entire set for the use of their students and young patrons.

Kids Haven
c/o Greenhaven Publishing
97815354542396, $153.60/$122.88 HC, $25.60/$20.48 eBook

There are six new titles now added to the Kids Haven biography series "People Who Make A Difference". Key features for each book include quote boxes highlighting inspiring words from the featured person, a clear and focused timeline laid out in chronological order, and age-appropriate ideas on how young readers can make a difference in their own lives and communities. The featured leaders featured in these newly published biographies include Amanda Gorman: Making a Difference with Her Words; BTS: Making a Difference as a Band; Chris Evans: Making a Difference as an Actor; Jill Biden: Making a Difference as First Lady; Joe Biden: Making a Difference as President; Russell Wilson: Making a Difference as a Quarterback. Certain to be a popular addition to elementary school and community library biography collections for young readers, this simply outstanding series is especially and unreservedly recommended for students in grades 3-5.

Sockboy in Space
Karl Cottle
Precocity Press
9798985149432, $29.95 Hardcover/$14.95 Paper/$9.99 Kindle

Readers might expect that the third book in the children's series about Sockboy would require familiarity with its predecessors; but the powerful message imparted here needs no special introduction in order to reach newcomers and prior Karl Cottle (a.k.a. artist "Ultrakarl") fans alike.

Sockboy is tired of grappling with worries and insecurities in his life on Earth, so he designs a spacesuit and sets out to escape them by exploring outer space. There are simply too many rules and worries, on Earth. Ultrakarl's rollicking rhyme embraces insights that teach picture book readers about taking risks and feeling connected to their worlds as Sockboy forms a plan to foster his self-discovery: "I'll run away beyond the sky,/What I'll find I do not know./I must leave my comfort zone/If I really want to grow." Space science is also embedded in this story as Sockboy reviews the nature of each planet in the solar system and how they attract humanity for different reasons.

As Sockboy builds a sense of his place in this wider universe, read-aloud parents receive the rare opportunity to introduce subjects ranging from identity and perseverance to new discoveries, taking risks, and building connections with the universe. It's rare to find a picture book that connects the hard science of astronomy with the personal perspective of a child who is navigating his own new territories and challenges.

Sockboy in Space represents the perfect intersection of space science and analysis of life that places personal problems in a larger perspective. Ultrakarl's engaging paintings add another dimension of attraction to this story, which will best be used by adults who want to introduce discussions to the very young about their relationships and connections to life.

Picture book readers interested in a story that moves full circle to bring with it a renewed appreciation for home and its connections will welcome Sockboy's latest explorations of the inner and outer universe.

All About Me series
Hoopoe Books
c/o ISHK

Four new and updated editions to the outstanding 'All About Me' series from Hoope Books are exceptionally relevant and recommended for teens and young adult.

"Me and My Memory: Why We Forget Some Things and Remember Others: Second Edition" (9781953292407, $18.95 PB, $8.95 Kindle, 140pp, Ages 8-12) by author Robert Guardino and illustrator Jeff Jackson explores the mystery of our minds and memories: How do we remember, and how do we forget? In a clear and engaging way, it summarizes everything that scientists and researchers know about the topic, and also explores questions that have yet to be answered.

"Me and My Feelings: What Emotions Are and How We Can Manage Them: Second Edition" (9781953292292, $18.95 PB, $8.95 Kindle, 182pp, Ages 8-18) by author Robert Guarino and illustrator Jeff Jackson explores the mystery of our emotions. What are they? How and why do they work the way they do? How can we manage our feelings when we need to? In this volume young readers will discover everything that scientists and researchers know about human emotions.

"What's the Catch?: How to Avoid Getting Hooked and Manipulated: Second Edition" (9781953292322, $18.95 PB, $8.95 Kindle, 156pp, Ages 8-12) by author Dr. David Sobel and illustrator Jeff Jackson looks at how people (from our parents to our peers) and media (from TV commercials to the Internet) try to influence us. In many situations, we're influenced to think, feel or behave in ways that we might not otherwise pursue. Sometimes such influence is helpful, but at other times we end up being shortchanged. "What's the Catch?" explores situations and presents examples that will help readers become more aware of the forces nudging and pushing them.

"What We See and Don't See: Second Edition" (9781953292353, $18.95 PB, $8.95 Kindle, 202pp, Ages 8-12) by author Robert Guarino and Jeff Jackson explores what science and research show about how we perceive our world. Readers will learn how the brain makes sense of what's around us, and how it simplifies and organizes information - how we see what we see and, sometimes, don't see what's obviously in front of us

All four of these informative and thoroughly 'kid friendly' titles comprising the 'All About Me' series are especially and unreservedly recommended for middle school, highschool, and community library collections for young readers.

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.

I Believe in Me
Emma Dodd
Templar Books
9781536223903, $15.99

Deb Greenberg

Swim through the waters with an adorable crocodile as he learns about believing in oneself. Simple rhyming verse and endearing artwork combine to teach this all-important message to little ones. The baby croc realizes all the things he's capable of when there's someone cheering him on: "As I look upon your face, in your smile I see... there is nothing I can't do when I believe in me." A definite keeper and one to read again and again. (Ages baby-3)

Why, Daddy? Why?
Tamara Girardi, author
Nichola Cowdery, illustrator
9781641706612, $8.99

Christine Irvin

Every young child loves to ask why? Why? Why? The questions can drive parents crazy. But Papa Bear retains his patience and gives loving answers to his little cub's non-stop barrage of "Why?" This board book, with its delightful text and expressive illustrations, is sure to be a favorite for little ones. (Ages baby-4)

Seed (Little Life Cycles)
Maggie Li
9781536223873, $9.99

Christine Irvin

Young readers can learn about the life cycle of a seed - seed, sprout, etc. - by following the story of Pip, a tiny apple seed. This colorful, fun, and sturdy book is filled with lots of good information about the process. (Ages 2-5)

Drip (Little Life Cycles)
Maggie Li
9781536223880, $9.99

Christine Irvin

In another book from the Little Life Cycle book series, author/illustrator Maggie Li teaches young readers about the water cycle. Drip, a little drop of water, is the main character in this colorful, fun, and sturdy book. (Ages 2-5)

If I Had a Kangaroo
Gabby Dawnay and Alex Barrow
Thames & Hudson
9780500652688, $14.95

Christine Irvin

What would you do if you had a kangaroo? The possibilities are endless. Young readers will enjoy this newest edition in the If I Had A... series of books by author Gabby Dawnay, as this one is filled with delightful illustrations and entertaining and rhyming text. (Ages 3-5)

Poo-Dunit? A Forest Floor Mystery
Katelyn Aronson, author
Stephanie Laberis, illustrator
9781536216370, $17.99

Deb Greenberg

Can Mouse solve the mystery of a giant pile of poo that someone left in the forest? Can she fix this smelly situation? Too thick to be Skunk's, too long to be Porcupine's, too dark to be Coyote's... read on to see who made the poo that no one can out-poo. In addition to learning to identify eight different droppings and why poo is precious (and in between laughs), kids are taught a lesson about overcoming obstacles. Rhyming text and expressive artwork combine for a silly yet informative tale. (Ages 3-7)

Turkey Goes to School
Wendi Silvano, author
Lee Harper, illustrator
Two Lions
9781542023641, $17.99

Larissa Juliano

The first day of school is fast approaching and the farm animals are thrilled. The theme for the first week is all about the farm! Perfect! But no... critters are not allowed in the school. Turkey and his friends are devastated and try numerous escapades and disguises to enter the school and show off their farm fresh skills. Readers will love the antics that the animals get into, the classic and fun illustrations by Lee Harper that pop off the page, and the rollicking and fast-paced story line that will keep them laughing until the end. (Ages 4-6)

Bug on the Rug
Sophia Gholz, author
Susan Batori, illustrator
Sleeping Bear Press
9781534111479, $17.99

Christine Irvin

You probably know how snug a bug IN a rug can be, but what about a bug ON a rug? Enjoy this new take on an old tale with its delightful rhymes and its delightful illustrations. (Ages 4-8)

Joy Ride
Sherri Duskey Rinker, author
Ana Ramirez Gonzalez, illustrator
9781536207743, $18.99

Christine Irvin

Joy and Grandpa fix up an old bike. Grandpa does the mechanical work. Joy does the decorating. When it's finished, Joy goes for a "joy ride" but it's not what she expected. What will she do about it? This book has it all: joyful illustrations, a great storyline, lyrical prose, repetition, and a good life lesson. Enjoy! (Ages 4-8)

The Lodge That Beaver Built
Randi Sonenshine, author
Anne Hunter, illustrator
Candlewick Press
9781536218688, $18.99

Deb Greenberg

Introduce your kids to a family of beavers and the work they do to build the perfect lodge in a stream. The branches from the shore willow and silty mud from the streambed keep them safe from the elements and forest animals as they sleep and play inside the dam, until a flood forces them to move on and rebuild. Interesting beaver facts, a glossary, and suggested resources are provided in the back of the book for all your little nature fans. Soft and inviting illustrations add tiny details to complete this informative tale. (Ages 4-8)

You Can! Kids Empowering Kids
Alexandra Strick, author
Steve Antony, illustrator
Candlewick Press
9781536225433, $18.99

Deb Greenberg

You're enough, just as you are... that's only one of the empowering messages in this inclusive picture book based on real kids' feedback. Tag along with fourteen fictional youngsters as they grow from birth to eighteen, learning new skills, experiencing new worlds, and following their dreams. Bright and colorful illustrations depict these characters as they tell readers: You can be inventive, be silly, join the crowd or lead the way, challenge yourself, enjoy learning, stand up for what you believe in, make mistakes and learn from them, be kind, be yourself, and much more. Introduce your kids to You Can! and get them started believing in themselves. (Ages 4-8)

What Are Words, Really?
Alexi Lubomirski, author
Carlos Aponte, illustrator
Walker Books
9781536219807, $17.99

Deb Greenberg

A playful yet incredibly meaningful picture book geared toward all kids (and some adults too!) expressing the power that words can have on yourself and others. Words can make you sunny or blue, they can be funny or mean, joyful or empowering. Changing "I can't" to "I can" can give you confidence or complimenting someone can make their day... words can affect everything around you. Eye-catching illustrations and ear-catching text worth sharing with your kids to emphasize the need to pick and use words wisely. (Ages 4-8)

Books Aren't for Eating
Carlie Sorosiak, author
Manu Montoya, illustrator
Walker Books
9781536214963, $17.99

Deb Greenberg

For most customers, picking out the perfect book is a pleasant task for bookstore owner Leopold the goat. He could recommend everything from a book about birds for the lady in the feathered hat to an adventure tale for the little girl in rain boots. But can he figure out which book to pick out to stop a fellow goat from munching on every page he offers? Read on to see if Leopold can accomplish this challenge... because books are way too amazing to eat. Warm and inviting illustrations complement this sweet and silly story. (Ages 4-8)

Flying with Finn: A Virtue-Seeking, Character-Tweaking, Fly-Along Adventure
Joan Jenkinson, author
Gary Locke, illustrator
Cedar Gate Publishing
9781736564233, $19.95

Deb Greenberg

Flap, swoop, and glide along with Finn, as he introduces readers to 12 of his friends and the virtues each offers. From cheerful chickadees, diligent beavers, and punctual roosters to alert owls, generous pelicans, and resourceful cardinals, we learn about the ways they demonstrate their love for others. Includes busy yet eye-catching artwork that'll attract little readers, fun facts to soak up, and a space to write a personal way they can implement each virtue. Check out the back of the book for prompter pages. (Ages 4-8)

Granny and Bean
Karen Hesse, author
Charlotte Voake, illustrator
Candlewick Press
9781536214048, $18.99

Deb Greenberg

Join Granny and Bean on their adventure by the ocean, as they enjoy all it has to offer... crashing waves, swooping gulls, swirling winds. They continue on searching for treasures in the sand, greeting dogs, and leaping over logs. And not until they share a cozy tea do they complete their special day at the sea. Rhyming text and expressive illustrations tell this soothing story, one to snuggle up and read with your little one. (Ages 4-8)

The Queen in the Cave
Julia Sarda
9781536220544, $19.99

Christine Irvin

One night, Franca has a dream about a marvelous queen who lives in a dark cave, deep in the forest. She cannot sit still until she knows if her dream is true. So with her younger sisters, Carmela and Tomasina, Franca ventures into the forest at the end of their garden. Evocative text combines with imaginative illustrations to create a story of questioning and adventure. The story leaves plenty to the imagination with lots of room for interpretation. (Ages 5-9)

Gator, Gator, Second Grader: Classroom Pet or Not?
Conrad Storad, author
Alex Lopez, illustrator
Story Monsters Press
9781589852716, $9.95

Heather Wonders

This book is an extraordinary and amazing read for a second-grade class. I am a second-grade teacher and I plan to keep this book sacred for a read-aloud along with using the lesson plan ideas for each subject area in the back of the book. This book is so interactive and the illustrations are engaging for students to stay interested. I recommend this story to any teacher or parent of a second grader. It is an absolute must! (Ages 6-7)

Jackie and the Mona Lisa
Debbie Rovin Murphy, author
Jen Bricking, illustrator
Sleeping Bear Press
9781534111172, $17.99

Christine Irvin

First Lady Jackie Kennedy was known for a lot of things: her smile, her style, her grace, her love for her country, and her love for the arts. She is credited with turning the White House from a drab, boring place into a "living museum" when she redecorated it using historic furniture, fabrics and furnishings. She set the U.S. buzzing when she had the Mona Lisa displayed at the White House. This informative book, with its great illustrations and interesting subject matter, would make a great additional to any library. (Ages 6-9)

The Story of Eliza Hamilton
Natasha Wing
Rockridge Press
9781648762963, $6.99

Diana Perry

Eliza Hamilton was one of America's Founding Mothers. Before she made history, she was a thoughtful kid who loved spending time with family and riding her horse. Her life changed when she married Alexander Hamilton, who helped form the United States. After Alexander died, Eliza had his biography published so people would remember his contributions to American history. Early Readers will find this book fascinating as it tells how America was formed. I found the illustrations to be most realistic and a great visual aid for the story. More early readers would seek out history books if they were as fun to read as this one. (Ages 6-9)

I Survived: Courageous Creatures
Lauren Tarshis
9781338317947, $7.99

Diana Perry

The author of the New York Times bestselling I Survived series shares four thrilling true stories of animals who have faced disaster?and come through. You'll meet courageous animals and also inspiring humans who show how we can help protect the creatures who share our precious Earth. This book also delves into other animal heroes all over the world and under the sea. It lists wildlife missions that young readers can join and recommends other books that tell about more animal heroes. I certainly learned a lot and really enjoyed this book. It should be in every public and school library. (Ages 7-10)

Concrete: From the Ground Up
Larissa Theule, author
Steve Light, illustrator
Candlewick Press
9781536212501, $18.99

Deb Greenberg

Told in an entertaining mix of facts and running narrative speech bubbles to capture kids' attention and get them interested in engineering, science, and architecture, Concrete is jam-packed with informative text and visuals. From streets, skyscrapers, and sidewalks to bridges, damns, and art, concrete's mixture of stone, water, sand, and cement plays an enormous role in our world. Read this guide to concrete and learn about one of the marvels of the material universe. (Ages 7-10)

The Einsteins of Vista Point
Ben Guterson
Christy Ottaviano Books
9780316317436, $16.99

Diana Perry

When Zack's younger sister dies in a tragic accident, his family moves to a small town in the Northwest to try and heal from all the pain. Eleven-year-old Zack blames himself for his sister's death, and he struggles to find any comfort in his new surroundings. Zack, at first, feels lost in Vista Point. Until he meets Ann, a girl who lives in the area and shows Zack all the special places to be discovered. But there's something that seems a bit strange about Ann - and perhaps a secret she is keeping from him. Young readers will delight in all the twists and turns and unraveling mysteries that weave together to a beautiful ending. (Ages 8-12)

Catherine Egan
Knopf Books
9780593306406, $16.99

Diana Perry

When Ben Harp sees his teacher's watch crawling across the hallway, he thinks he must be dreaming. But no, he's just seen his first Sneak - an interdimensional mischief-maker that can borrow the form of any ordinary object. He figured this school year would be bad - his best friend moved away, the class bully is circling, and he's stuck doing a group project with two similarly friendless girls, Charlotte and Akemi. Still, he wasn't expecting aliens! Middle graders will enjoy following the clues to solve the bizarre mystery of the Sneaks. (Ages 8-12)

Mary Elizabeth Ames
Koehler Books
9781646630004, $19.95

Diana Perry

A new species has emerged. When homo transformans, a species of human able to transform into animals, first appears, those affected do not know what is happening to them or how to control it. As the world becomes divided into factions seeking to either exploit or protect this new species, an orphaned girl named Ruwena finds a mentor in the mysterious old woman known only as H'Ilgraith. Young readers will love the magic and fantasy as well as the non-stop dangers and action. (Ages 8-12)

August of the Zombies
K. G. Campbell
Knopf Books
9781101931639, $17.99

Diana Perry

It started out as a small zombie problem. Then four more zombies tagged along. Now there are too many to count! After facing an alligator attack and a paddle boat accident in search of the zombie stone, August comes out unscathed... but empty-handed. Of course, it isn't long before a few zombies becomes a horde, and August has so many questions: What is he supposed to do with all of these zombies? What is his Aunt Orchid hiding? Will his life ever be like Stella Starz (in her own life)? And most importantly, will he ever find the zombie stone and get everything back to normal? This story never stalls as it goes from one exciting peak to the next. A great book for reluctant readers. (Ages 8-12)

The Way of the River
Shan L. Spyker
Tulip Tree Creative Studios
9781736619704, $15.99

Diana Perry

After coaxing her worrisome older sister, Elinora, to join her, together they travel deep into the strange and mysterious wood. There, at the edge of a powerful river, they discover a shivering, abandoned wolfhound pup in need of help... and a forest teeming with sentient creatures. There is an underlying message about helping animals throughout this story and the book ends with a great listing of associations that kids, with parental permission, can contact to see how they can become an animal ambassador. (Ages 9-12)

Art of Protest: Creating, Discovering, and Activating Art for Your Revolution
De Nichols
Big Picture Press
9781536223255, $19.99

Larissa Juliano

The Art of Protest features art from numerous artists such as Diana Dagadita, Molly Mendoza, Olivia Twist, and more and is such a unique nonfiction book that is sure to be shared, used, and loved by tweens, teens and adults. De Nichols is an activist who compiled this breathtakingly beautiful, powerful, and vibrant handbook about the history of protest, social movements, and social justice leaders. I can imagine art teachers in all grades, as well as social justice leaders, professors, and community activists using this as a tremendous guide. (Ages 10-13)

The Genius Under the Table: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain
Eugene Yelchin
Candlewick Press
9781536215526, $16.99

Diana Perry

Drama, family secrets, and a KGB spy in his own kitchen! How will Yevgeny ever fulfill his parents' dream that he become a national hero when he doesn't even have his own room? He's not a star athlete or a legendary ballet dancer. In the tiny apartment he shares with his Baryshnikov-obsessed mother, poetry-loving father, continually outraged grandmother, and safely talented brother, all Yevgeny has is his little pencil, the underside of a massive table, and the doodles that could change everything. Middle grade readers will be inspired to make their dreams come true. (Ages 10-13)

Bars for Days
Mic Nickels
Independently Published
9798756328882, $17.56


In this generational time capsule, Mic Nickels vividly describes his experiences growing up alongside the hip hop revolution, and into the dawn of the Information Age. From his early struggles being raised by a single mother affected by the eighties drug epidemic, to his coming-of-age experiences pursuing a career as a rapper and musician, to his travels to exotic destinations like Egypt, Peru, Japan, and Cuba, Nickels provides brilliantly lucid glimpses in time, which dance along the entire scale of the emotional spectrum. Middle graders will find Mic's life was full of challenges from his experiences in college, his career in hip hop, and his personal tragedies. Inspirational, empowering, and very real. (Ages 13+)

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