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

Children's Bookwatch

Volume 31, Number 12 December 2021 Home | CBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Health/Medicine Shelf Christmas Shelf
American History Shelf Travel Shelf Board Book Shelf
Picturebook Shelf Bilingual Shelf Historical Fiction Shelf
Middle Grade Fiction Shelf YA Fiction Shelf Fantasy/SciFi Shelf
Activity Shelf Graphic Novel Shelf Music CD Shelf
Judaic Shelf Cookbook Shelf Folktale/Fairtytale Shelf
Poetry Shelf Books in Series Story Monsters Ink Shelf

Reviewer's Choice

Dottie's Return: Grandma's Love
Maria 'Effie' Fedrick
Dorrance Publishing Company
585 Alpha Drive, Suite 103, Pittsburgh, PA 15238
9781480987609, $17.99, PB, 44pp

"Dottie's Return: Grandma's Love" by author and artist Maria 'Effie' Fedrick is an entertaining, compassionate, and candidly informative story that will educate children about the dangers of drug use. Parents, teachers, and caregivers will recognize the value of what she is trying to say to children about the dangers of drugs. Very highly recommended for personal, professional, elementary school, middle school, and community library Drug Abuse & Addiction collections, "Dottie's Return: Grandma's Love" will aptly serve a guide to help in discussing the problems of drugs with a child 8-14.

My Grandma's Photos
Ozge Bahar Sunat, author
Senta Urgan, illustrator
Amy Marie Spangler, translator
Amazon Crossing Press
c/o Two Lions Publicity
9781542031158, $17.99, HC, 32pp

Ali's grandma can't hear or see very well these days, and she doesn't remember very much anymore. But Ali likes hanging out with her. So when Ali's mom takes out a wooden trunk full of Grandma's old photos, he sits with his grandmother, trying to figure out who is in all the old pictures. At first, his grandma doesn't seem to remember. But with a little help from Ali, she is soon sailing through the photos -- and taking Ali along with her through the wondrous journey of her life. With daring, joy, and love, Ali's grandma shows him the importance of making and sharing beautiful memories that will live on in the ones we love.

Originally published in Turkey and ably translated into English for a young American readership by Amy Marie Spanger, "My Grandma's Photos" by the team of author/storyteller Ozge Bahar Sunat and artist/illustrator Senta Urgan is a truly endearing picture book for children ages 5-8 with its message of inter-generational family love. While especially and unreservedly recommended for family, elementary school, and community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "My Grandma's Photos" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99).

The Health/Medicine Shelf

Please Explain Vaccines to Me: Because I HATE SHOTS!
Laurie Zelinger
Loving Healing Press
5145 Pontiac Trail, Ann Arbor, MI 48105
9781615996131, $29.95, HC, 44pp

Shots, injections, needles, and vaccines-whatever their purpose, they all hurt. More than half of children in the 6-17 year-old range report a strong fear of needles. Nearly 25% of adults do as well. This book is for those families who cringe at the thought of getting one.

For some children, getting a shot is a major ordeal. Ramped-up anxiety can lead to tantrums, meltdowns, outbursts and even fainting. That 30-second experience can be a nightmare for parents for and nursing staff alike. "Please Explain Vaccines to Me: Because I HATE SHOTS!" by Laurie Zelinger is vital resource will help to improve that dreaded scenario.

"Please Explain Vaccines to Me: Because I HATE SHOTS!" opens with an engaging story for children where rhyme, colorful illustrations and characters of diversity capture a child's interest as they identify with a girl who has similar fears. The children's section is followed by a comprehensive guide for parents and caregivers, based on empirical research as well as Dr. Zelinger's decades of experience as a child psychologist, where she offers information and explicit solutions to help deal with the anxiety surrounding this common medical procedure.

Children will: Identify with the main character and her fear of shots; Enjoy the colorful illustrations and happy story ending; Learn coping mechanisms to deal with frightening situations; Feel supported by their parents who will know how to help; Reduce their anxiety and become more cooperative during medical visits. While Parents and Caregivers will: Understand the reasoning behind the fear of injections; Learn strategies to help their child before and during a medical visit; Be better able to comfort their child.

Made even more urgently necessary for parents and kids now that the Covid-19 vaccines are available for children ages 5-11, "Please Explain Vaccines to Me: Because I HATE SHOTS!" simply must be acquired by and made a part of every family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library Health/Medicine collections for children ages 5-12. It would be especially useful for physicians working with vaccine reluctant people who have been victims of the on-going and pernicious Anti-Vax misinformation campaigns that are resulting in a continuing Covid epidemic currently raging through the unvaccinated population of the United States and abroad.

Editorial Note: Dr. Laurie Zelinger is a Board Certified Psychologist with a specialty in School Psychology, and a Registered Play Therapist with over 45 years' experience. She is a licensed New York State psychologist who, after retiring from a Long Island public school system, is now devoting her time exclusively to writing, consulting, and her busy private practice for children. As a highly respected child psychologist, she has contributed to nearly 200 venues regarding child development. She maintains an informative website at

The Christmas Shelf

How Kids Celebrate Christmas Around the World
Pavla Hanackova, author
Maria Neradova, illustrator
Albatros Books
9788000061313 $15.95 hc

Intended for young readers ages 6-9, How Kids Celebrate Christmas Around the World lives up to its title with an array of fascinating facts about how young people experience Christmas in many different nations: Spain, Germany, Mexico, the USA, Japan, Australia and New Zealand, Greece, Ethiopia, Italy, Israel, Russia, Venezuela, Finland, and France. Charming, playful color illustrations add a vibrant touch to the educational and eye-opening glimpse into cultures around the world. Highly recommended!

Joy to the World! Christmas Around the Globe
Kate DePalma, author
Sophie Fatus, illustrator
Barefoot Books
9781646862979 $17.99 hc

Joy to the World! Christmas Around the Globe is a rhyming children's picturebook with vibrant color illustrations, showcasing families celebrating the holiday season in different parts of the world. A supplementary, educational section at the end offers fascinating facts about Christmas traditions in Colombia, India, the Philippines, Canada, Mexico, Egypt, Ethiopia, Australia, Italy, Serbia, Argentina, Iceland, and Lebanon. Joy to the World! is educational as well as cheerful, and enthusiastically recommended for both family and public library picturebook collections.

The Animals' Santa
Jan Brett
G.P. Putnam's Sons
c/o Penguin Young Readers Group
9780399257841 $18.99 hc / $10.99 Kindle

The Animals' Santa is a heartwarming, Christmas-themed picturebook about anthropomorphic animals who wonder - who is their Santa? Who seems to mysteriously leave presents every Christmas season? A curious snowshoe hare figures out a way to spot the animals' Santa - will the plan succeed? Lighthearted and fun, The Animals' Santa is brought to life with wonderfully expressive artwork and highly recommended for Christmas season family storytime.

One Christmas Mystery
M. Christina Butler, author
Tina Macnaughton, illustrator
Tiger Tales
9781680102598 $17.99 hc

One Christmas Mystery is a Christmas-themed children's picturebook, and part of the "Touch and Feel" series; it enhances pages of the story with pieces of soft red velvet (representing a recurring winter hat) that little ones can rub. The story follows anthropomorphic animal friends. Little Hedgehog and his friends are looking for holly berries and pine cones to spruce up a Christmas party; Mole is perturbed because his scarf is missing. Together, they follow tracks deep into the woods, where a surprising encounter awaits! One Christmas Mystery is a joyful tale to read aloud and share, highly recommended.

Dachshund Through The Snow
Michelle Medlock Adams, author
Ana Sebastian, illustrator
End Game Press
9781637970065 $18.99 hc / $15.99 Kindle

Dachshund Through The Snow is a charming, Christmas-themed children's picturebook about a sprightly dachshund dog. Crosby is small, even for a dachshund, but he's one of the best burrowers of the North Pole and eagerly looks forward to competing in the Animal Olympics. In his excitement, he burrows so far that he crosses path with Santa Claus - who needs Cosby's help! Dachshund Through The Snow has a positive message, "Short or tall doesn't matter at all. It's your ginormous heart that sets you apart" and is highly recommended.

Bob Ross' Happy Little Night Before Christmas
Robb Pearlman, author
Bob Ross, illustrator
Smart Pop
c/o BenBella
9781637740187 $17.00 hc / $9.99 Kindle

Bob Ross' Happy Little Night Before Christmas is a children's picturebook featuring wondrous, winterscape artwork by the talented and perennially cheerful artist Bob Ross. The rhyming text reflects upon the joy of creating art and celebrates the winter season as much as Christmas itself. "So for this season, and for each season hence, / I wish you happy painting, my friends. And a heartfelt God bless." Bob Ross' Happy Little Night Before Christmas is breathtaking family treasure to page through, highly recommended.

'Twas the Night Before Christmas
Clement C. Moore, author
P.J. Lynch, illustrator
Candlewick Press
9781536222852 $17.99 hc / $3.31 Kindle

'Twas the Night Before Christmas is a beautiful picturebook that brings Clement C. Moore's classic Christmas poem about Santa Claus to life with lavishly stunning, full-color illustrations by talented artist P.J. Lynch. A wonderful new way to share a timeless celebration of Christmas with a new generation of young readers, 'Twas the Night Before Christmas is especially recommended for both family and public library picturebook collections.

Santa in the City
Tiffany D. Jackson, author
Reggie Brown, illustrator
Dial Books for Young Readers
c/o Penguin
9780593110256 $17.99 hc / $10.99 Kindle

Santa in the City is a charming children's picturebook, that brings to mind the classic editorial "Yes, Virginia, there really is a Santa Claus". Deja is a young black girl in the inner city, who wonders if Santa can truly be real. Her mother, her uncle, and others reassure her that Santa is real - he has a magic key like the superintendent, to help him get into apartments and deliver presents; his reindeer sleigh can park on the roof; and the many different Santas in various stores are all special helpers who listen to children's wishes and relay them to Santa himself. "'Santa doesn't eat all the cookies,' Mommy said. 'He eats some but has a magic sack he puts the rest in so he can share with the elves when he gets back to the North Pole.'" Santa in the City is a witty and charming picturebook, brought to life with beautiful color illustrations, and highly recommended for sharing Christmas cheer with the whole family.

The Legend of the Christmas Witch
Dan Murphy, author
Aubrey Plaza, author
Julia Iredale, illustrator
Viking Books for Young Readers
c/o Penguin Young Readers Group
9780593350805, $18.99, HC, 56pp

Synopsis: The Christmas Witch is Santa's sister! Her story begins many, many years ago when her brother was torn away from her as a child. Raised alone by a witch of the woods, Kristt rn's powers of magic grew, as did her temper. Determined to find her long lost twin, she set out on a perilous journey across oceans to find him. But what she found instead was a deep-seated fear of her powers and a confrontation that would leave the fate of Christmas hanging in the balance.

Critique: Written and illustrated to delight children ages 5-8, "The Legend of the Christmas Witch" is a unique contribution to the ever growing library of Christmas legend and lore. With all the richness of classic fairytale this is a picture book story of bravery, love and magic. Also readily available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99), "The Legend of the Christmas Witch" is very highly recommended for family, elementary school, and community library Christmas picture book collections.

Jan Brett's The Nutcracker
Jan Brett, author/illustrator
G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
c/o Penguin Young Readers Group
9780593109823, $18.99, HC, 32pp

When Marie and her brother Fritz receive a special Christmas nutcracker from their uncle, Marie immediately feels something magical. "He looks like a real boy," she mused. "A real boy with a secret, who came from far away." This feeling is only the beginning of the epic adventure she goes on with the Nutcracker - into the cabinet, through the battle with the mice, and finally to the magical land of the Sugar Plum Fairy.

Critique: Author, storyteller, artist and illustrator Jan Brett makes this Christmas time classic her own by setting it in snowy Russia and adding whimsical touches to the favorite elements of the traditional ballet. "Jan Brett's The Nutcracker" will be a treasured addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library Christmas picture book collections for children ages 4-8. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Jan Brett's The Nutcracker" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99).

The Toys' Christmas
Claire Clement, author
Genevieve Godbout, illustrator
Frances Lincoln Children's Books
c/o Quarto Publishing Group USA
100 Cummings Center, Suite 265D, Beverly, MA 01915
9780711266391, $17.99, HC, 32pp

It is Christmas Eve and Noah's toy elephant, Fanfan, has gone missing! Little does he know that Fanfan has crept out of the house to join other soft toys on their annual Christmas journey: to see Santa Claus! Just in case letters don't reach Santa, toys all around the world make this trip so they can tell Santa what their child wants most of all. (After all, who knows a child better than their best-loved toy?) Will Fanfan return in time for Christmas morning? And will Noah get the present that he so longs for?

Children ages 3-7 will delight in this unique Christmas picture book story by author Claire Clement and illustrator Genevieve Godbout. While highly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library Christmas themed collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Toys Christmas" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

A Christmas Too Big
Colleen Madden
Two Lions
9781542028004, $17.99, HC, 40pp

Kerry's family goes completely berserk with Christmas every year. Starting the day after Thanksgiving, her home becomes a whirlwind of lights, music, and elves, elves, elves! Sometimes it gets a little overwhelming. This year, Kerry is desperate for some peace and quiet. Heading outdoors, she realizes a lot of her neighbors are having a Christmas too big. But not Mrs. Flores. She's having a much quieter Christmas, complete with decorations and music from the country where she used to live. It sparks an idea: maybe there's a way for Kerry to create her own Christmas traditions. But will anyone in her crazy Christmas house understand?

Children ages 4-8 will enjoy joining Kerry as she finds her voice in this delightful and bilingual (English/Spanish) Christmas holiday picture book story. Also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $3.99), "A Christmas Too Big" by author and illustrator Colleen Madden is highly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library collections.

The American History Shelf

Crazy Horse and Custer: Born Enemies
S. D. Nelson
Harry N. Abrams
9781419731938, $19.99, HC, 144pp

In 1876, Lakota chief Crazy Horse helped lead his people's resistance against the white man's invasion of the northern Great Plains. One of the leaders of the US military forces was Army Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer. The men had long been enemies. At the height of the war, when tribalism had reached its peak, they crossed paths for the last time.

"Crazy Horse and Custer: Born Enemies" by S. D. Nelson is an action-packed double biography, that draws fascinating parallels between Crazy Horse and Custer, whose lives were intertwined. These warriors were alike in many ways, yet they often collided in deadly rivalry. Witness reports and reflections by their peers and enemies accompany side-by-side storytelling that offers very different perspectives on the same historical events. The two men's opposing destinies culminated in the infamous Battle of the Greasy Grass, as the Lakota called it, or the Battle of the Little Bighorn, as it was called by the Euro-Americans.

In "Crazy Horse and Custer", author S. D. Nelson's gripping narrative and signature illustration style based on Plains Indians ledger art, along with a mix of period photographs and paintings, shines light on two men whose conflict forever changed Lakota and US history.

Critique: Enhanced for young readers with the inclusion of an author's note, timeline, endnotes, and a bibliography, "Crazy Horse and Custer: Born Enemies" is an impressively well written and informative combination of history and biography -- making it an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to family, elementary school, middle school, and community library collections for children ages 10-14. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Crazy Horse and Custer: Born Enemies" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Dreamscape Media, 9781666516449, $22.99, CD).

The Travel Shelf

World Tour
Lonely Planet Kids
Lonely Planet Publications
150 Linden Street, Oakland CA 94607
9781838694579, $18.99, HC, 144pp

Perfect for armchair travelers ages 6-8, "World Tour" from Lonely Planet Kids offers round-the-world adventures as they explore 60 amazing places from across the globe! Packed with fascinating facts and fully illustrated from cover to cover, "World Tour" introduces kids to some of the best places to visit on our planet. Continent by continent, they'll find out the top things to see and do: playing in Central Park, getting lost in the Amazon Jungle, climbing the Eiffel Tower, exploring the Great Wall of China, touring Sydney Harbour and much more. Fun, accessible text and lively artwork by Pippa Curnick, David Shepard and Mike Love bring each place vividly to life making "World Tour" a splendid and unreservedly recommended addition to family, elementary school, and community library Children's History, Geography & Travel collections.

Let's Tour The World: A Globe Adventure
Theresa Lynn
Fulton Books
9781649529169, $13.95, PB, 34pp

A family is making plans for a summer trip. A young boy grabs his globe and gives it a spin. He realizes this is not just an ordinary globe. As it spins and glows, he is whisked away to many fun and exciting places. He is on a journey to find ideas for summer vacation. Young children will enjoy imagining themselves spinning the globe and finding themselves in many wonderful places around the world in "Let's Tour The World: A Globe Adventure" by author and artist Theresa Lynn.

Young children will enjoy imagining themselves spinning the globe and finding themselves in many wonderful places around the world in "Let's Tour The World: A Globe Adventure". While highly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Let's Tour The World: A Globe Adventure" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

The Board Book Shelf

Merry Christmas!
c/o Penguin
9780241514863 $7.99

Part of the "Baby Touch" series of board books with special surfaces impressed within the board- pages for little ones to feel, Merry Christmas! celebrates the Christmas season with simple text and touchable pictures of a snowman, a Christmas stocking, a candy cane, and much more. Some surfaces are fuzzy; others are soft or bumpy; all are surface-washable. It should be emphasized that the tactile components are quite durable, since they're embedded within the board-pages, making Merry Christmas! an excellent title for public library children's collections. Highly recommended.

Santa Mouse
Michael Brown, author
Elfrieda De Witt, illustrator
Little Simon
c/o Simon & Schuster
9781534437975 $8.99 board book / $7.99 Kindle

Santa Mouse is a Christmas-themed board book about a lonely little mouse, whose act of kindness inspires Santa Claus to task grant him a new calling. The humble little mouse gladly dresses like Santa, and helps Santa deliver presents and holiday cheer. The simple, read-aloud text and the charming story make Santa Mouse a delightful book to read aloud and share with little ones. It should be noted that Santa Mouse is also available in a Kindle edition ($7.99).

Made with Love: Donuts!
Lea Redmond, author
Flora Walcott, illustrator
Chronicle Books
680 Second Street, San Francisco, CA 94107
9781797210827, $9.99, Board Book
B09BH39BW8, $5.99 Kindle

These donuts featured in "Made with Love: Donuts!" by the team of author Lea Redmond and illustrator Flora Walcott depict delicious pastries that are hot, fresh, warm, golden brown and pillow-y soft. Young children will delight in guessing the delicious topping on each one and then being able to turn over each donut to find out! This charming board book is even shaped like a donut! With every turn of these satisfyingly thick pages, a new, delicious topping is revealed, leaving readers with a picturesque plate to start their day. "Made with Love: Donuts!" is unique and whole heartedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, kindergarten, and community library board book collections!

100 Sheep: A Counting Parable
Amy-Jill Levine, Sandy Eisenberg Sasso, & Margaux Meganck
Flyaway Books
9781947888333, $10.00 board book / $8.00 Kindle

This board-book version of the Parable of the Lost Sheep is adapted from the picture book Who Counts? 100 Sheep, 10 Coins, and 2 Sons, first in the popular series of parables retold by Amy-Jill Levine and Sandy Eisenberg Sasso. With accessible language and sturdy pages just right for little hands, 100 Sheep: A Counting Parable builds early counting skills while showing that God's love finds us wherever we go. The simple narrative shows a modern-day rancher who keeps tabs on each and every one of his sheep, and when one goes missing, he searches for it and brings it home to safety. It doesn't matter that he has ninety-nine other sheep; he loves each and every one! 100 Sheep: A Counting Parable also lists numbers from 1 to 100 in a final two-page spread, making it an excellent tool for teaching little ones how to count. Highly recommended.

The Picturebook Shelf

Dreaming of Arizona
Grant Collier, author
Stephanie Lowman, illustrator
Collier Publishing LLC
9781935694595, $14.95, HC, 40pp

An educational and entertaining children's picture book that teaches kids about the Grand Canyon, Navajos, and animals, "Dreaming of Arizona" by team of author Grant Collier and storyteller/artist Stephanie Lowman tells the story of Harlow the Hawk, who does not want to go to sleep. But when she does doze off, she dreams that she can travel back in time. Harlow goes on exciting journeys and sees Native Americans, mastodons, giant sloths, and an Arizonasaurus. Each of Harlow's adventures is based on real events that occurred in Arizona -- making "Dreaming of Arizona" a unique and unreservedly recommended for family, elementary school, middle school, and community library picture book collections for young readers. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Dreaming of Arizona" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.99).

Jamie Hogan
Tilbury House Publishers
12 Starr St, Thomaston, ME 04861
9780884488972, $18.95

Skywatcher tells of a boy who lives in a 'worn brick building' in a big city. As Taman reads adventures of his comic book hero and longs to travel the universe following in his hero's footsteps, he searches for the stars, which pale against big city lights. It's unusual to find a picture book story that tells of an older boy's pursuits, but Jamie Hogan provides a warm read about urban life, rural opportunities, and astronomical observation that invites young readers to follow along as they learn about the constellations. This story of discovery is simple, nicely done, and will appeal to a wider age range than the usual picture book presentation.

The Ugliest Monster in the World
Luis Amavisca and Erica Salcedo
9788417673765, $15.99

The Ugliest Monster in the World features hilarious, appealing little monsters who compete to be the ugliest monster in the world. What makes them ugly? Each sports a physical countenance that emphasizes something ugly. But, the question remains: who decides who is ugly or uglier? The surprise twist that challenges all these monsters will also appeal to the very young, who will find its fun drawings not scary at all, but brightly revealing.

Dancing with Daddy
Anitra Rowe Schulte, author
Ziyue Chen, illustrator
Two Lions
9781542007191, $17.99, HC, 40pp

Elsie can't wait to go to her first father-daughter dance. She picked out the perfect dress and has been practicing swirling and swaying in her wheelchair. Elsie's heart pirouettes as she prepares for her special night. With gestures, smiles, and words, she shares her excitement with her family. But when a winter storm comes, she wonders if she'll get the chance to spin and dance her way to a dream come true.

A thoroughly charming and original picture book with a very special message for young readers ages 3-7, "Dancing with Daddy" by author/storyteller Anitra Rowe Schulte and artist/illustrator Ziyue Chen is especially and unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Dancing with Daddy" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99).

Belluna's Big Adventure in the Sky
Once Upon a Dance
Once Upon a Dance, Publisher
9781955555074, $3.99 Kindle

Belluna's Big Adventure in the Sky is a special pick for ages 4-7 and the adults reading to or encouraging them. This vivid story of a very different family, and a daughter who unexpectedly flies into the world, is accompanied by movement exercises demonstrated by Ballerina Konora, who illustrates the story's action.

Belluna is a basketball player, sister, and the youngest daughter in the Noollab clan, a happy family that loves one another. Their differences still lend a feel of togetherness that's reinforced by shared activities. The father works at a wind farm, the mother is a photographer, son Baylun enjoys ice skating, and Belluna loves basketball, observing that her difference from the other kids gives her various strengths.

One activity the family enjoys doing together is apple picking. One day, a storm blows in, and Belluna's search for a basketball left behind carries her into a realm filled with new experiences.

Belluna's adventure is illustrated by dance poses that encourage young readers to jump, play, and stretch both their bodies and their imaginations. The activities and exercises not only encourage kids to move, but teaches them body language and how they may express emotions, experiences, and adventure through movement.

Belluna's Big Adventure in the Sky operates on many different levels: as a fun fantasy; as a story of family togetherness and evolving strengths from differences; and as a movement-oriented lesson that teaches all ages how to interpret the written word in a different way. Adults who choose this story to encourage kids to move and act will find that it lends particularly well to new forms of expression.

Simon & Schuster

Adam Jay Epstein's Have You Seen Gordon? (9781534477360, $17.99) receives especially fun drawings by Ruth Chan as it tells of a hide-and-seek game in which the main character, Gordon, plots a different outcome. Gordon doesn't want to hide. He's proud of who he is. And despite the admonition to hide, he stands out. Fans of Where's Waldo? who enjoy fun animals and hide-and-seek conundrums will relish the different approach of Have You Seen Gordon?

Nabela Noor's Beautifully Me (9781534485877, $17.99) portrays plus-size characters drawn by Nabi H. Ali as it promotes beauty, diversity, and empowerment. These lovely drawings support the story of Zubi, a Bangladeshi-American girl who observes Western beauty standards and decides to make her own unique form socially acceptable. This joyful cultural and social inspection will delight ages 4-8, who will find in Zubi a spunky, admirable heroine.

Both are wonderful stories of celebrating differences and accepting self that parents and teachers will want to include on their reading lists.

Sleeping Bear Press

Suzanne Slade's The Universe and You (9781534111080, $16.99) reaches picture book readers ages 4-8 with the lively story of a young girl who journeys through space each night. Readers and read-aloud parents receive a fun astronomical journey through the solar systems and space which links the young sleeper to the universe. Stephanie Fizer Coleman's engaging, colorful drawings bring this story to life, and read-aloud parents will appreciate the supportive, colorful connections between outer and inner space.

Barbara Joosse's Just Be Claus: A Christmas Story (9781534111011, $16.99) receives warm drawings by Kim Barnes as it tells of little Claus, who is different from anyone he knows, in many ways. From his fondness for the color red to his lessons in his grandmother's workshop, Claus seems destined for something great. He's different from all the other kids, and his grandmother tells him to just be himself. But, what does that mean? It takes a snowstorm to drive home the lesson about his destiny in this story, which receives delightful, colorful embellishment by illustrator Kim Barnes.

Both are excellent picks for read-aloud parents looking for supportive stories for the very young.

Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing
4035 Park East Court SE, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49546

Two new picture books are fine presentations recommended for collections looking for lasting, special books.

Jennifer Yerkes' A Perfect Day (9780802855770, $17.99) presents pages of animal sounds as it reviews a pond's creatures who join in with a variety of calls to celebrate the day. From a fox's barks to buzzing bees, the arrival of thundering weather just supplements a symphony of discovery that is perfectly rendered with simple drawings and sound effects read-aloud parents will welcome.

Susan Hood's We Are One: How the World Adds Up (9781536201147, $17.99) pairs math concepts such as fractions and relationships with broader discussions of cooperation and peace, creating an unusual approach that will best be utilized by read-aloud adults interested in introducing their kids to ideas about "becoming more than the sum of parts." From the structure and intentions of the haiku to how letters result in words and words create sentences, the connections between math and literacy are nicely done, inviting, and supplemented by gorgeous drawings by Linda Yan which brings the discussion to life.

Both are fine books highly recommended for adults looking for especially thought-provoking, lively, compelling reads for the young.

The Bilingual Shelf

Josefina's Habichuelas/ Las Habichuelas De Josefina
Jasminne Mendez, author
Flor De Vita, illustrator
Arte Publico Press
4902 Gulf Freeway, Bldg 19, Rm 100, Houston, TX 77204-2004
9781558859234, $18.95, HC, 32pp

Like all children, Josefina loves to eat sweets. She loves warm chocolate chip cookies right out of the oven, cupcakes and candy! One night, while eating a piece of flan, Mami asks her to consider giving up sweets for Lent, the 40 days leading up to Easter. "That's impossible!" Josefina says. When Mami promises to teach her how to make her favorite dessert, habichuelas con dulce, she agrees to give it a try. Josefina can't wait to end her fast and eat the delicious sweet cream beans, her family's traditional Easter dessert.

While she and her mom, tias and abuela prepare the dish, they dance to merengue music and tell stories about life back in the Dominican Republic. The kitchen fills with the aromatic smells of cinnamon and sugar, but it's the feelings of love and happiness Josefina will never forget. On Easter, when the family eats her special dessert, the girl's grandmother says it's the best she has ever tasted!

This heart-warming, bilingual (English/Spanish) picture book for children shares a universal story about food, music and family stories, while focusing on a cultural tradition specific to the Dominican Republic.

Enhanced for children with the inclusion of the recipe for this special dessert, "Josefina's Habichuelas/ Las Habichuelas De Josefina" will prove to be an immediate and enduringly welcome and highly prized addition to family, elementary school, and community library bilingual picture book collections for children ages 5-8.

The Historical Fiction Shelf

The Town That Drowned, updated edition
Riel Nason
Goose Lane Editions
9781773102313, $22.95

The Town That Drowned first appeared in 2011, and earned awards and acclaim at that time. It returns in an updated anniversary edition to provide new audiences with a powerful contemporary examination of a girl who falls through the ice, has a vision of the future of her town, is rescued, and then finds that vision coming to life in an alarming way.

Haventon is threatened by a massive dam project that will fulfill Ruby Carson's nightmare and change everything. As the astute fourteen-year-old views the social and political ire, confusion, and suspicion that come along with a massive project to rehome her entire town, readers receive a powerful vision of community change and psychological challenge that is hard to put down.

All ages will find The Town That Drowned a powerfully compelling portrait of a community at siege both within and by outsiders, with Ruby representing the perfect focal point of response to vast changes.

The Middle Grade Fiction Shelf

Violets Are Blue
Barbara Dee
c/o Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 4th floor, New York, NY 10020
9781534469181, $17.99, HC, 304pp

Twelve-year-old Wren loves makeup -- special effect makeup, to be exact. When she is experimenting with new looks, Wren can create a different version of herself. A girl who isn't in a sort-of-best friendship with someone who seems like she hates her. A girl whose parents aren't divorced and doesn't have to learn to like her new stepmom.

So, when Wren and her mom move to a new town for a fresh start, she is cautiously optimistic. And things seem to fall into place when Wren meets potential friends and gets selected as the makeup artist for her school's upcoming production of Wicked.

Only, Wren's mom isn't doing so well. She's taking a lot of naps, starts snapping at Wren for no reason, and always seems to be sick. And what's worse, Wren keeps getting hints that things aren't going well at her new job at the hospital, where her mom is a nurse. And after an opening night disaster leads to a heartbreaking discovery, Wren realizes that her mother has a serious problem -- a problem that can't be wiped away or covered up.

After all the progress she's made, can Wren start over again with her devastating new normal? And will she ever be able to heal the broken trust with her mom?

"Violets Are Blue" by Barbara Dee is a deftly written novel for children ages 9-13 about a young girl having to deal with her mother's addiction to drugs. Handled with great sensitivity, candor, and fictionalized into a story that will appeal while informing, "Violets Are Blue" is unreservedly recommended for elementary school, middle school, and community library collections for young readers.

Editorial Note: Barbara Dee is the author of twelve middle grade novels published by Simon & Schuster, including Violets Are Blue, My Life in the Fish Tank, Maybe He Just Likes You, Everything I Know About You, Halfway Normal, and Star-Crossed. Her books have earned several accolades, including The Washington Post's Best Children's Books, the ALA Notable Children's Books, the ALA Rise: A Feminist Book Project List, the NCSS-CBC Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People, and the ALA Rainbow List Top Ten.

The YA Fiction Shelf

The Hideaway
Pam Smy
Pavilion Children's
9781843654797, $19.95, HC, 256pp

Synopsis: Told in two alternating narratives, "The Hideaway" by Pam Smy tells the story of Billy McKenna, who runs away from home and takes refuge in an overgrown graveyard. The first narrative is told from his perspective, whereas the second thread tells of the situation at home and the police search for Billy. Covering themes of domestic violence, families, childhood, and being separated and reunited, this is an important and beautifully illustrated book for middle grade readers right up to adults. "The Hideaway" is illustrated throughout with tonal and textured black and white drawings. The atmospheric illustrations seep into the edge of the pages before they give way to a series of double-page spreads as the story reaches its climax.

Critique: A deftly crafted and quite exceptional YA novel, "The Hideaway" showcases author Pam Smy's genuine flair for narrative driven storytelling and the creation of memorable characters and a story line that is as dramatic as it is memorable. While very highly recommended, especially for middle school, high school, and community library YA Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Hideaway" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

The Defenders of Dembroch: The Sinners Solemnities
Patrick Harris
Independently Published
9781087948171, $29.99

Book 1 of the Defenders of Dembroch series, The Age of Dames and Knights, provided young adult readers with an epic fantasy surrounding Nick and his friends, who become involved with politics and struggles in The Timeless Kingdom of Dembroch as adults, having been named knights and dames of the Reserves in their youth. Book 2 focuses on the Queen of Dembroch's efforts to catch her husband's killer and stop the threatening Sinners' Solemnities rituals, which occur every thirty years, when a bloodbath is unleashed and evil tries to reclaim the world. Robbie and Lucy have discovered that their grandfather's writings and experiences are true when they are magically transported from America to Scotland. Older sister Lucy is only seven and Robbie a toddler, but they are already facing a threat that Nick is compelled to address, as they are his precocious grandchildren, and their journey is partially due to his stories.

Can Nick, in his old age, enter the fray once again to prevent disaster from recurring? Patrick Harris shifts points of view to capture these stories, from the Queen's bodyguard to Nick, his grandchildren, and the citizens of Dembroch, who are the defenders of their home against the Sinners' Solemnities. From the hidden and elusive King's Killer and his command over the Stricken Men to Meghan's imprisonment by the Arborists and her struggles with unexpected and unfamiliar powerlessness, young adult fantasy readers will find this story filled with twists and turns, memorable characters, and mercurial special interests that keep them on their toes.

Harris is adept at painting a full-bodied portrait of a kingdom struggling with different factions of social and political change. He adopts just the right blend of social inspection and individual challenge to keep readers engaged not just in one central character, but the evolving lives and predicaments of a host of believable, memorable people whose realities and perceptions are different. While, ideally, The Defenders of Dembroch: The Sinners Solemnities will be enjoyed by prior fans of The Age of Dames and Knights, it is also accessible to young newcomers who will find it easy to enter this world through the simple recaps of characters and events of the past that Harris provides at the beginning of the saga. Standing well on its own, but also complimenting and expanding its predecessor, The Defenders of Dembroch:

The Sinners Solemnities is a recommended pick for young adult into adult fantasy collections; especially those strong in epic adventures powered by young peoples' perceptions and strengths.

Why Can't Sophomore Summer Be Like Pizza?
Andy Roamer
Ninestar Press
9781648903465, $14.95 PB, $4.99 Kindle, 247pp

Why Can't Sophomore Summer Be Like Pizza? adds the fourth book to the Pizza Chronicles series for teen readers, continuing the story of RV as he embarks on a summer job, learns to drive, and continues to evolve. Unlike in previous books, Mr. Aniso, RV's freshmen-year teacher, is away for the summer. This leaves RV to navigate his world without the injections of wisdom that Mr. Aniso always provided.

Though RV has had numerous adventures in the past, newcomers who pick up this latest book receive a solid grounding in RV's world, and won't feel lost as they read of the now-sixteen-year-old's latest experiences. Andy Roamer does an exceptional job of exploring the emotions of a boy on the cusp of adulthood: "Do I feel like an adult? Sometimes. And sometimes I still feel like that scared, confused kid with so much to learn about life."

It's a new summer, a new beginning, and RV has learned to adapt his relationship with Bobby to different circumstances. Roamer is adept at presenting these and other conundrums as a LBGTQ boy moves into the world, cognizant not only of his growth, but the changing milieu around him. As RV explores various aspects of his own growth, his mandate to make his father happy and proud, and his evolving life, teens receive a memorable story that inspects all these relationships during a pivotal summer that places the protagonist on his own as he troubleshoots his emotions and wonders why his life feels especially difficult, compared to some.

When an incident at a pond brings up questions of courage and choosing what is right, young adults receive a fine inspection of growth and love that introduce RV and readers to new opportunities and challenges. The strength of Why Can't Sophomore Summer Be Like Pizza? lies in a powerful first-person voice that both narrates experiences and questions their impact and the protagonist's choices. It's a thought-provoking, emotion-filled read that adopts a personal inspection often elusive in male teen characters, and will delight young adults looking for an evocative story that is revealing, candid, and growth-oriented.

While Why Can't Sophomore Summer Be Like Pizza? can stand without its predecessors, teens will want to pursue the entire series in chronological order to gain a sense of why this summer of RV's sixteenth year is so pivotal.

The Fantasy/SciFi Shelf

The Troubled Girls of Dragomir Academy
Anne Ursu
Walden Pond Press
c/o HarperCollins Children's Books
9780062275127, $17.99, HC, 432pp

Synopsis: If no one notices Marya Lupu, is likely because of her brother, Luka. And that's because of what everyone knows: that Luka is destined to become a sorcerer.

The Lupus might be from a small village far from the capital city of Illyria, but that doesn't matter. Every young boy born in the kingdom holds the potential for the rare ability to wield magic, to protect the country from the terrifying force known only as the Dread.

For all the hopes the family has for Luka, no one has any for Marya, who can never seem to do anything right. But even so, no one is prepared for the day that the sorcerers finally arrive to test Luka for magical ability, and Marya makes a terrible mistake. Nor the day after, when the Lupus receive a letter from a place called Dragomir Academy -- a mysterious school for wayward young girls. Girls like Marya.

Soon she is a hundred miles from home, in a strange and unfamiliar place, surrounded by girls she's never met. Dragomir Academy promises Marya and her classmates a chance to make something of themselves in service to one of the country's powerful sorcerers. But as they learn how to fit into a world with no place for them, they begin to discover things about the magic the men of their country wield, as well as the Dread itself -- things that threaten the precarious balance upon which Illyria is built.

Critique: An impressively well written and memorably entertaining read from cover to cover, "The Troubled Girls of Dragomir Academy" showcases author Anne Ursu's genuine flair for originality and narrative driven storytelling style complete with deftly crafted characters and unexpected plot twists and turns. The narrative storytelling style that will rivet a young reader's attention from first page to last. While very highly recommended, especially for elementary school, middle school, and community library collections for young readers ages 8-12, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of fantasy fans that "The Troubled Girls of Dragomir Academy" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Blackstone Audio, 9798200744459, $39.99, CD).

Black Hole Radio - Bilaluna
Ann Birdgenaw
DartFrog Plus
4697 Main Street, Manchester Center, VT 05255
9781953910509, $10.00 Paper/$3.99 Kindle

Black Hole Radio - Bilaluna will reach readers ages 8-12 with a sci-fi action story that is the second book in the series. It requires no prior familiarity with Hawk and Matt's previous spacefaring venture to appreciate their latest adventure and the newest addition to their space club, Celeste.

Matt, Hawk, and Celeste are summoned (via Black Hole radio) to planet Pooponic's moon, Bilaluna, which is inhabited by giant cyborg insects from Earth. They were forced to leave Pooponic to find a new home on this deadly threat is poised to destroy their paradise. And only they can stop it. From a planet of bugs where a queen bee reigns, to giant cyborgs, the action and environment are presented via first-person observations that bring the atmosphere to life.

This is especially notable because Black Hole Radio - Bilaluna is not only an adventure sci-fi story, but "cli-fi" that considers threats and changes to the world's ecology. Having these images of a lush environment come alive for readers is one of the draws of cli-fi reading.

Ann Birdgenaw does more than create a rollicking good read. She incorporates ecological threats and concerns into a bigger picture that shows how these young adventurers become involved in saving the environment - and why. Young readers will be attracted by the action and extraordinary environment, but underlying the adventure is a sense of passion about seeing things differently and helping others do the same.

These facets, combined with engaging black and white illustrations by E.M. Roberts that pepper the story and capture its action, make for a sci-fi read with underlying important messages. These include different causes, foreign invaders, and environmental concerns that go beyond entertainment value alone (of which there is plenty) to help young readers consider how their choices lead to different outcomes.

Middle grade sci-fi readers and collections that wish to include readings about environmental degradation and outside threats will find Black Hole Radio - Bilaluna not just a satisfying story, but an excellent sequel to the first book, whether it's chosen as a stand-alone acquisition or a series addition.

Emma and the Lady Aardvarks
Trisha Sugarek
Writer at Play
9798599333814, $10.59

Emma and the Lady Aardvarks is a time travel adventure about climate change and a mystical forest that features sister Aardvarks, who arrive in the mystical forest quite by accident when their time travel adventure goes awry. Emma and the Lady Aardvarks adds another book to Trisha Sugarek's Fabled Forest series for advanced elementary to early middle grade readers.

Sugarek's Emma and the Lady Aardvarks is both whimsical and thought-provoking and will delight and attract fiction and nonfiction young readers alike, as a new mandate to save the planet emerges. The aardvarks meet friendly elves, fairies, farm girl Emma, and a host of creatures who inhabit a rare habitat, indeed. Annie is the shy one. Her braver sister Agnes has always protected her young sister, but even she quakes at the strange creatures and dialogues that emerge at the beginning of their new adventure.

Trisha Sugarek's dialogue and setting is anything but predictable, from a Spanish-speaking spider to a host of characters who greet the skittish sisters Aardvarks: "Patsy, where are your manners?" Donald strolled over to Patsy. "Everyone is welcome in the fabled forest, as long as they come in peace." "Dios mio, how do we know they come in peace, peque¤o? Se ven como bandidos!" Donald laughed, "No they are not bandits, Patsy. Don't be silly."

Colorful drawings bring the forest and its creatures to life as Sugarek spins a colorful yarn, from a magical portal that discharges a posse of puppies to the injection of facts about extinction, global warming, and threats to wildlife. While Sugarek's Fabled Forest milieu has been explored previously in five prior adventures, it should be noted that newcomers need have no prior familiarity with its creatures or history in order to appreciate this warm fantasy of a magical place and a mandate to try to stop climate change's impact.

Young readers just past the picture book stage will find the peppering of colorful drawings a fine embellishment to a tale that weaves elements of fantasy and reality into a thought-provoking adventure.

The Activity Shelf

The Crayons' Christmas
Drew Daywalt, author
Oliver Jeffers, illustrator
Penguin Workshop
c/o Penguin Young Readers Group
9780525515746 $19.99

The Crayons' Christmas is more than a holiday-themed storybook; it's a source of festive and creative activities. Six envelopes full of cards, games, punch-out ornaments, a pop-up tree, and more make The Crayons' Christmas a wonderful family gift book. Also highly recommended are other titles by author Drew Daywalt: The Crayons' Book of Numbers, The Day the Crayons Came Home, and The Day the Crayons Quit.

The Graphic Novel Shelf

The Marked: Fall of the Ageless
Gideon Silver
LifeRich Publishing
9781489733887, $17.99, PB, 270pp

Synopsis: A black-and-white graphic novel by author and illustrator Gideon Silver, "The Marked: Fall of the Ageless" is an exploration of masculinity, and the choices young men can make in this world. An allegorical, magical setting follows several boys on the cusp of manhood, as the government around them crumbles. Fighting through magic, warring beliefs and factions, and their own desires, Ahchi, Ithros, Petros, and Selis try to find their way in the land of Siforavail

Critique: Original, entertaining, thoughtful and thought-provoking, "The Marked: Fall of the Ageless" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal reading lists, as well as highschool and community library YA Fiction & Graphic Novel collections.

Editorial Note: A long time reader, and self-described nerd, Gideon Silver has long been writing stories in fantastical settings. As time went on, he began drawing, and after his long term relationship with comic books, inspiration was born.

The Music CD Shelf

Maybe by Next Year
Kid Pan Alley
Kid Pan Alley Music/Zoidsongs
$14.98 CD / $9.49 MP3

Maybe by Next Year is a music album that honors the experiences of children growing up in a once-in-a-century pandemic. The songs are written by young people, about their experiences - from coping with increased isolation, to the loss of beloved family members, to the importance of maintaining hope. Maybe by Next Year is a life-changing listening experience, highly recommended for all ages and public library collections. The tracks are "The Day The Stars Reached The Earth", "Maybe By Next Year", "Dead On Arrival", "Staring Out My Window", "Tear My Mask", "Small Things Make A Difference", "Bridge To Peace", "No Limit On Hope", "I've Got A Whole Lot To Say", "I Think I Blinked", and "Together Again".

Sharon, Lois & Bram: Best of the Best Live
Sharon, Lois & Bram
Red Brick Songs
$13.99 CD / $12.99 digital

Sharon, Lois & Bram: Best of the Best Live is a jubilant album featuring more than 25 never- before presented live recordings from Sharon, Lois & Bram's concerts in North America from 1989 to 1995. The family-friendly band performs high-energy, jubilant songs that are fun to sing or dance to. Delightfully upbeat and uproarious, Sharon, Lois & Bram: Best of the Best Live is a joy to share especially for car trips and rainy day fun time, highly recommended. 63 min.

The Judaic Shelf

RBG's Brave & Brilliant Women
Nadine Epstein, author
Bee Johnson, illustrator
Ruth Bader Ginsburg, introduction
Delacorte Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
9780593377185, $16.99, HC, 224pp

The fascinating lives comprising "RBG's Brave & Brilliant Women: 33 Jewish Women to Inspire" by Nadine Epstein showcases exemplary female role models -- all of whom were chosen by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, or RBG, as she was lovingly known to her many admirers.

Working with her friend, journalist Nadine Epstein, RBG selected these trailblazers, all of whom are women and Jewish, who chose not to settle for the rules and beliefs of their time. They did not accept what the world told them they should be. Like RBG, they dreamed big, worked hard, and forged their own paths to become who they deserved to be.

Future generations will benefit from each and every one of the courageous actions and triumphs of the women profiled here. Real Wonder Women, the passion project of Justice Ginsburg in the last year of her life, will inspire readers to think about who they want to become and to make it happen, just like RBG.

Very highly recommended for family, elementary school, middle school, and community library collections for young readers ages 10-16, "RBG's Brave & Brilliant Women: 33 Jewish Women to Inspire" is extraordinary and inspiring -- and of interest to all RBG fans of any age. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "RBG's Brave & Brilliant Women: 33 Jewish Women to Inspire" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

The Cookbook Shelf

Bake, Make & Learn To Cook
David Atherton, author
Rachel Stubbs, illustrator
Candlewick Press
99 Dover Street, Somerville, MA 02144
9781536219364, $17.99, HC, 88 pages,

"Bake, Make & Learn To Cook: Fun and Healthy Recipes for Young Cooks" is a delightful collection of cheerfully illustrated healthy recipes appealing to young (and older) cooks and appetites was written by the 2019 winner of the Great British Baking Show, David Atherton. Delicious, easy, and attractive recipes are grouped into four sections: Starting the Day, Lunches and Simple Suppers, Delicious Treats, and Cakes and Bakes.

Illustrations for each recipe include pictures of featured ingredients plus sequenced simple instruction steps. Measurements are given in standard measurements.

Some delightful recipes include Happy Curry (a blend of chicken, rice, tomato sauce, peas, and spices), nutty French Toast (fried peanut butter and banana French toast), Hummus Lion (excellent hummus recipe with carrot sticks arranged to look like a lion face), and Honey "Hannah" Cake (a cake made with bananas and honey). There is even a recipe for Peanut Butter Bones for dog lovers!

Entertainment and presentation are as important as taste and nutrition in this attractive juvenile cookbook. Sensitive illustrations done in ink and graphite portray happy children and adults of different racial backgrounds, preparing and serving delicious foods. Ingredients featured are easily obtained, even for the Sushi Shapes, which feature rice, rice vinegar, nori seaweed, cucumber, sesame seeds, and soy sauce. For a cooking adventure for the entire family, try out a recipe for Satay Sticks, made with coconut milk, tofu, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, and maple syrup, plus lime juice.

"Bake, Make & Learn To Cook" is just as attractive and appealing to adults as to children with its invitation to plunge into exploration of healthy cuisine with a twist of unique flavor.

The Folktale/Fairtytale Shelf

The Fairy Song
Janis Mackay, author
Ruchi Mhasane, illustrator
Floris Books/ Kelpies
9781782507475, $11.95 paperback

Winner of the Traditional Scottish Tales award, "The Fairy Song" is an ever enchanting children's fairy tale with ancient roots that seem to stretch both backward and forward into time. Rose is a hardworking child of poor wood-gathering parents who can't allow her to play and plant roses because they are working so hard to make enough for food to eat. One day on the way home from Saturday market which happened to be Midsummer Night's Eve, Rose tiredly trudged along in her worn boots. To ease her aching feet in her thin worn boots, Rose would sing a lovely flower song written by Robert Burns. Suddenly she was amazed to hear another delicate song rippling on the breeze, like fairy bells tinkling. She followed it into the wood, finding its source in a grassy hill with a tiny door. She had never heard such enchanting music. "Buttercup and Pimpernel......Buttercup and Pimpernel...." Then she saw tiny girl and boy flower fairies flying out the tiny door, all singing.

Growing weary of the same words, Rose added a bit to the song, in her own lovely voice: "..and wild roses too!" At first the fairies all looked quite angry with her for joining the song with her own voice, but Rose was approached by a smiling young buttercup fairy who smiled at her, and thanked her for her addition to their song, inviting her to stay and dance with them at their midsummer party. Rose decided to stay a wee while, perhaps for two dances, and never had she felt so free and gay, kicking off her worn boots and dancing and singing with the fairies.

Later, Rose felt is was time for her to leave and the fairies begged her to stay with them "forever." She thought of her parents and knew she must return to them. To the fairies, she made a solemn promise: "I will plant wild roses in the forest that would bloom every midsummer. Then the fairies regretfully bade her goodbye and let her go. Returning to her parents, Rose found that much time had passed, and it was autumn. Her parents had thought she might have gotten lost or died. But ever after that, Rose was happy, and grateful for the fairies' unexpected gift to her of two magical fairy slippers, decorated with roses, that grew with her as she grew. Her parents allowed her to play with friends after collecting wood each day, and she also was allowed to plant wild roses in the forest to bloom in midsummer.

As Rose grew up, she never forgot the song of the fairies, and although she searched, she never found the fairy hill again. However, on Midsummer Day, she could hear the fairy song in fragments, "Buttercup and Pimpernel.... and wild roses too..."

"The Fairy Song" is a a tale with old sources in Scottish tales, including 'The Tramp and the Boots,' and 'The Humph at the Fit o the Glen and the Humph at the Heid o the Glen.' Lines from Robert Burns' poem 'I Dream'd I Lay' are sung by Rose in the story. "The Fairy Song" is enhanced immeasurably by delicate, dancing flower fairy illustrations, with characters including the fairies of multi-colored skin and beautiful blendings of the races. "The Fairy Song" is a magical and enchanting tale, rich with meaning and gifts for all.

The Poetry Shelf

Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright! An Animal Poem for Each Day of the Year
Fiona Waters, editor
Britta Teckentrup, illustrator
Nosy Crow
c/o Candlewick Press
99 Dover St., Somerville, MA 02144
9781536217186, $40.00, HC, 309 pages

"Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright!" is a stunning collection of brilliantly illustrated animal poems, one for each day of the year. The selection of descriptive lyrics, sensitive verse, and beautiful painted illustrations of all animals in their wonted habitat combines with an awareness of the rolling days, weeks, months, and seasons of the year to make an unforgettable impact on young readers.

An older child can read to a younger child, selecting any page to start, or choosing day by day the poems and creature portraits selected for each day of the calendar year. Illustrations cover a two page spread, while several poems spread across the panorama about one or several animals, birds, fish, or insects. A fully engrossing, revolving portrait of nature emerges, delicately highlighted by selected poems, in haiku, verse, or free format.

The featured poets come from a wide variety of cultural backgrounds. Here is one from February 7th, titled "I Watched an Eagle Soar," by Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve: " I watched an eagle soar/ high in the sky/ until a cloud covered him up,/ Grandmother,/ I still saw the eagle/ behind my eyes." It is superimposed upon a painting of a lovely forested lakeshore mountain landscape, featuring a soaring eagle, bluebird in branches, and a blue tit. So continue the unfolding panorama of the seasons through the months and days of the year, across vivid canvases with fellow living creatures and poems to match their dazzling days and nights.

The poems are by a vast assortment of authors including familiar names and unknown indigenous authors, all translated to English lyrics in this edition. Each month begins with a listing of that month's chosen poets/poems by date, so if a child has a favorite animal, he can seek out poems about that creature. William Blake's "The Tiger" is featured for January 31st, paired against a dark, leafy background shading into his stripes.

Truly a treat and tempting trove of poetic and artistic treasures about creatures, alive and thriving in different settings and seasons, "Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright!" (150+ colored illustrations, 365+ poems) is an effortless education of the mind and senses which will reward a wide audience of all ages.

Kodiak & The Un-Hunted Place
Ryan Petty, author
Vera Kulikov, illustrator
Provision House
9780935446104, $12.99, PB, 268pp

The joint project of author, storyteller, poet Ryan Petty and artist/illustrator Vera Kulikov, "Kodiak & The Un-Hunted Place" is a story-driven epic poem about a cross-eyed dog named Kodiak who overcomes his visual impairment and defends his backyard from a coyote.

At stake is more than a big dog's sense of territory. The lives of whole families of rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks hang in the balance -- for Kodiak's little world is a benevolent kingdom, a place where small animals live enchanted lives all but free from fear.

Kodiak is an Alaskan Malamute, a "working dog" bred over thousands of years specifically for work he and most of his kind, in fact, no longer do, such as pulling the heaviest of sleds across the Arctic cold of snow and ice. He lives instead the good life of a small-town family pet. As the story opens, his backyard aka "The Un-Hunted Place," is discovered by the coyote, who is hungry and skilled in the art of hunting, eating, and devouring rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks, and others "always less than half his size."

The conflict between Kodiak and the coyote leads inevitably to a battle of snapping jaws and deep-throated fury that is climaxed by an unexpected ending to the story that first amazes then lingers in the heart.

Critique: Also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99) and in a large print paperback edition (9780935446111, $21.99), "Kodiak & The Un-Hunted Place" is an impressively original, inherently entertaining, deftly crafted, charmingly illustrated, thoughtful and thought-provoking novel-in-verse that is especially and unreservedly recommended for family, elementary school, middle school, and community library General Fiction & Poetry collections for children ages 9- 12.

Books in Series

Old Kicker Legs: Color Wars
Robert Rubenstein
Barnes and Noble Press
9781668538470, $11.98

The third title in the Old Kicker Legs series, Old Kicker Legs: Color Wars holds appeal for ages 12 and older with its thought-provoking story of a family in crisis. Cousin Charlie is like a brother to Toni. Old Kicker Legs is their grandfather. And, everyone around them seems somewhat unsettled as the story unfolds.

Robert Rubenstein paints many dark pictures of disparate family relationships and interactions, but these forces come across as realistic. They depict to readers of all ages how these relationships translate to different responses by the next generation, from Charlie's feeling that "he was a bad person" to the power Old Kicker Legs wields to change things for good or bad.

As the Color Wars open, seasons and life change. Old Kicker Legs seems to be getting meaner. As an evil curse and karma collide and sibling rivals "race the wind," the games begin and a curse's force is tested. When will Old Kicker Legs be happy again? When everything changes. Old Kicker Legs: Color Wars is intellectually demanding, and not the simple picture book presentation its shorter length and colorful pictures portend.

A family's hurt, estrangement, and alienation are themes that come to life during the course of family changes and movements. Best employed as a read-aloud with adult guidance for younger audiences, Old Kicker Legs: Color Wars holds many messages about family connections, dysfunction, and interactions which will best be pursued by adults and young readers working together to absorb its underlying messages.

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.

The Night the Reindeer Came to Play
Maria E. Votto, author
Karen M. Tanch and Isabelle Tanch, illustrators
Self Published
9781735755403, $9.99

Darleen Wohlfeil

This early learning number book is a great way to start the amazing journey of expansion and learning! Every eager mind will enjoy the rhyming pace, the adorable illustrations, and lighthearted Christmas characters. At first read, they will engage in the count, anticipating the next to come. Surely to hold the attention, create sequencing skills, as well gather a joy in learning. A great stocking stuffer for every early learner. (Ages 2-8)

You Might Find Yourself
Tai Snaith
Thames & Hudson
9781760760335, $17.95

Christine Irvin

You never know where life might take you or where you might find yourself. Using intriguing mixed-media illustrations, Tai Snaith takes young readers on a journey through life showing them how to exhibit compassion, empathy, and how to use their imaginations. This charming book should earn a prized place on every bookshelf. (Ages 3-5)

If I Had an Octopus
Gabby Dawnay, author
Alex Barrow, illustrator
Thames & Hudson
9780500652251, $14.95

Christine Irvin

Have you ever thought about what the best aquatic pet would be? It's an octopus, of course! When a little girl fantasizes about having a crazy smart octopus pet, she pictures jumping rope with its tentacles, practicing different ball games simultaneously, and playing hide-and-seek with her camouflaging friend. Colorful, expressive illustrations, rhyming text, and humor are the perfect recipe for this sure-to-please, read-aloud book. (Ages 3-5)

Favor: A World Turned Upside Down
Anne Weaver, author
Frances Espanol, illustrator
WestBow Press
9781664218000, $22.95

Christine Irvin

Based on a true story, the author gives readers an inside look at what it's like to be born in Africa and be adopted by strangers in Alaska. This is a chapter book broken down into short, easy- to-read chapters with lots of kid-friendly illustrations. It's a good book for early readers to tackle themselves or for families to read together. (Ages 3-6)

The Chameleon's True Colors
Yuliya Pankratova
9781641704489, $16.99

Christine Irvin

Did you ever wonder why the chameleon can change colors? Author/illustrator Yuliya Pankratova brings the story to life with an interesting storyline, repetitive text, and vibrant illustrations that will delight every member of the family. (Ages 4-7)

Dr. Fauci: How a Boy from Brooklyn Became America's Doctor
Kate Messner, author
Alexandra Bye, illustrator
Simon & Schuster
9781665902434, $17.99

Christine Irvin

Future doctors will be inspired by this easy-to-read picture book about Dr. Anthony Fauci, a man who has been front and center during the COVID pandemic. The story is told in kid-friendly language, with lots of colorful illustrations that will keep a child's interest. The author includes several extra pages at the end of the book with information about vaccines, Dr. Fauci's Five Tips for Future scientists, a Timeline of Dr. Fauci's life, and a page titled Recommended Books that kids can read to learn more about infectious diseases. (Ages 4-8)

The Story of the Plain Brown Wren
Suzanne Anderson
LifeRich Publishing
9781489730503, $3.99

Christine Irvin

Because she is so plain and brown, the brown wren is bullied by her peers. Instead of getting upset with others, she shows them that each creature has its own special God-given talents and characteristics. This story correlates with the curriculum taught by The Nest Christian Academy, a school that teaches Bible-based lessons and ideals. As such, it would make a good accompaniment to a lesson on this topic. (Ages 4-8)

A Home Under the Stars
Andy Chou Musser
Little Bigfoot
9781632173270, $18.99

Christine Irvin

When Toby moves from his house in the country to an apartment in the city, he misses seeing the stars in the sky. He has trouble sleeping when he can't see the stars from his bed. One night he takes a magical journey through the skies in search of the North Star and discovers a secret that will guide him home. Any child who has had to move from one home to another will identify with Toby and his problem. (Ages 4-8)

The Hanukkah Magic of Nate Gadol
Arthur A. Levine, author
Kevin Hawkes, illustrator
Candlewick Press
9780763697419, $19.99

Darleen Wohlfeil

A wonderful story of blended customs and beliefs. As young families find themselves in new and strange places, they must learn to merge and adapt. The holidays bring joyful realism to our beliefs, and for these families it brings a time of sharing and growth. (Ages 5-8)

Anna Across the Arctic
Liz O'Connell and Arin Underwood, authors
Arin Underwood, illustrator
9780967712666, $24.00

Darleen Wohlfeil

The soft watercolor illustrations paint the perfect backdrop as we follow a little blue arctic fox on her life journey. Scientists gather interesting and helpful information as they tag and track an animal's daily activity. Anna, a young female fox, sets out alone on her incredible adventure. In constant motion, she treks across the frozen ocean to a new life. This story provides fascinating information that brings Anna's voyage to life for the reader. It's entertaining and educational. (Ages 5-8)

Ellibot and Aunt Maple
Sharon CassanoLochman, author
Lucy Belle, illustrator
Ontario Shore Publishing
9781734288148, $11.99

Christine Irvin

When Aunt Maple comes to visit, Elliot panics and builds a robot that resembles him so he won't have to spend time with Aunt Maple himself. But what will he do when he watches how Aunt Maple interacts with the robot? Lively prose, great illustrations, and a fun storyline work seamlessly together to create a book children will love. (Ages 5-11)

The Adventures of Molly & Ollie: Moving Day
Sally Beale
Mascot Books
9781645432494, $15.95

Darleen Wohlfeil

Little Molly finds herself caught in the slump of moving day. Resisting change, she clings to the familiar. Until the magic of adventure turns those feelings of loss into hopeful expectations. Change allows for expansion. We become fuller, brighter, and more interesting as we grow, gather, and experience new things. Sally learns this valuable life lesson early as she finds new insight, along with a new friend! (Ages 6-8)

The Color Collector
Nicholas Solis, author
Renia Metallinou, illustrator
Sleeping Bear Press
9781534111059, $16.99

Diana Perry

The Color Collector is a poignant story about newness, friendship, and common ground. When a boy notices the new girl picking up all manner of debris and litter on their walks home from school he wants to know why. So she shows him the huge mural she's created in her room that reminds her of the home she left behind. He learns all about where she's come from and they both find how wonderful it is to make a new friend. Beginning readers will love this story. I really loved the way every illustration was in gray except for the colorful objects Violet picks up. (Ages 6-9)

Billy Bob Flybottom
Susan Kite, author
David Barrow, illustrator
Doodle and Peck Publishing
9781734607208, $14.99

Diana Perry

Come on 'round and hear the tall tale of Billy Bob Flybottom from Hoop 'n Yoller Holler. Billy Bob is as tough as a cedar tree and as strong as a team of mules. He can out-chop, out-plow and out-hoe anyone in the Appalachian Mountains. When the tales of his incredible exploits travel to nearby Corn Pone Holler, bully Jimmy John Rockriler gets jealous. He wants to fight! Being an Appalachian girl myself, I really related to this adorable story about life in the Hoop 'n Yoller Holler in the Appalachian Mountains. Early readers will laugh out loud when reading this cute story. (Ages 6-9)

Book Buddies: Ivy Lost and Found
Cynthia Lord, author
Stephanie Graegin, illustrator
9781536213546, $12.99

Diana Perry

A lonely doll helps a child adjust to a blended family in the first of a charming series about library toys and the children who borrow them, written by Newbery Honoree Cynthia Lord. I hope libraries across America start a program like this where children will make new friends with discarded stuffed animals and dolls, and the toys will bring new joy to the children. What a great idea! (Ages 6-9)

Sona Sharma, Very Best Big Sister?
Chitra Soundar, author
Jen Khatu, illustrator
9781536214826, $14.99

Diana Perry

Can Sona be the best big sister ever when she's not sure she even wants a baby sister or brother? Brimming with warmth and charm, this story set in India will resonate with new older siblings everywhere. Early readers will relate to the jealousy children often feel when they're not going to be the baby of the family much longer. They'll also have fun learning new words with the glossary in the back of Hindi words. (Ages 6-9)

Thomas Taylor, author
Tom Booth, illustrator
Walker Books
9781536208603, $17.99

Diana Perry

In the third mysterious tale of Eerie-on-Sea, it's almost Ghastly Night, and the Shadowghast - an ancient spirit in a lantern - lurks in wait for the power to enslave the town. Young readers will not be able to put this book down. Mr. Taylor is a master storyteller. I hope to read every book he writes. (Ages 8-12)

Little Giants: 10 Hispanic Women Who Made History
Raynelda A. Calderon, author
Donna Wiscombe, illustrator
Cayena Press, Inc.
9781733139243, $14.99

Kimberly Yavorski

While we are accustomed to hearing about female trailblazers today in the U.S., most stories we know are fairly recent, occurring within the past 50 years or so. Here Calderon shows us that women have been changing the world for centuries. Vibrant, full-color illustrations enhance the text and hint about each woman's special talents and interests, from dancer to soldier. The stories are told in a succinct, easily digestible manner (in both English and Spanish) that is sure to both spark a desire to learn more and encourage young girls to follow their own dreams. (Ages 8-12)

Marion Dane Bauer
9781536214116, $16.99

Diana Perry

Set in the northern Minnesota wilderness, a timeless novel about a boy and his imaginary dog explores the legacy of guilt and blame - and what really constitutes a family. Young readers will feel the heart tugs of this story, especially those with a missing parent in their lives. (Ages 8-12)

Battle Dragons: City of Thieves
Alex London
9781338716542, $17.99

Diana Perry

In a modern mega-city built around dragons, one boy gets caught up in the world of underground dragon battles and a high-stakes gang war that could tear his family apart. This story has many twists and turns, most I didn't see coming. Young readers, boys and girls alike, will find this a great action-adventure as normally timid Abel has to learn to be brave and bold and take charge of his destiny. An exciting and fast-paced story where the action never stops. (Ages 8-12)

The Thief of Worlds
Bruce Coville
Random House
9780385392518, $16.99

Diana Perry

What happens when the wind stops? The air grows hot and still and hard to breathe. Hospitals fill with patients. The world begins to panic. What happens when the wind stops? For Hurricane, this global disaster strikes at his core; but he must recover the magical horn that will fix everything. Can magic be real? I loved this book. It's a perfect bedtime or rainy-day book for readers of all ages. (Ages 8-12)

Jeremy Longtail and the Hunt for Mongolia
Elaine Moon Balsam, author
Ashlyn Mackenzie, illustrator
9781480892064, $13.99

Diana Perry

Jeremy Longtail's life is about to change. He is a gerbil who lives with a little girl named Carrie, who loses interest in him and leaves him alone too often. In his free time, he watches the "glowing box" that teaches him things about reading and about a faraway place called Mongolia, where his ancestors came from. Although he has no idea where Mongolia is, he is determined to find that place where gerbils still live in the wild and to make his home there. Kids will find this book just perfect for them. It's from the POV of rodents and teaches the lesson of how children need to treat their pets. (Ages 9-12)

Notorious Nora
Kelly Jones
9781664148147, $14.99

Darleen Wohlfeil

This story is sure to please every mystery lover. Whether Sherlock or Scooby-Doo, Nora is sure to rank well among them for all young readers. Nora is relatable, the setting familiar, and the reading flows smoothly and is well paced. The reader is easily engaged in the plot as it unfolds. A great choice for gift giving in the upcoming holidays! (Ages 10+)

Notorious Nora: The Mystery of the Lost Treasure
Kelly Jones
9781664163348, $14.99

Darleen Wohlfeil

This easy-reading story flows with a balance of interest and intrigue. Its inviting tone and pace leads through the pages, engaging its readers in mounting steps. A great detective story for kids. (Ages 10+)

Little Paper Universes
Samantha Milhet
9780764361470, $19.99

Christine Irvin

This is a wonderful book for those who love crafts created with paper cut-outs. The scenes are arranged according to the level of difficulty, but even the simplest ones will require adult supervision (of the younger set) and probably even adult help for older artists. (Ages 10+)

Crashing in Love
Jennifer Richard Jacobson
9781536211535, $16.99

Diana Perry

When Peyton comes across the victim of a hit-and-run, she knows it's destiny. But what exactly does fate have in store for her and the boy in the coma? Young readers know that they're supposed to do the right thing always but this book teaches how to handle it when doing the right thing hurts. I really loved the surprise ending and how Peyton transformed into an actual detective who asked the right questions, peered into suspects' windows, and followed the clues. (Ages 10-14)

Scribbles, Sorrows, and Russet Leather Boots: The Life of Louisa May Alcott
Liz Rosenberg, author
Diana Sudyka, illustrator
9780763694357, $24.00

Diana Perry

Drawing on the surviving journals and letters of Louisa and her family and friends, Liz Rosenberg reunites Louisa May Alcott with her most ardent readers. In this warm and sometimes heartbreaking biography, Rosenberg delves deep into the oftentimes secretive life of a woman who was ahead of her time, imbued with social conscience, and always moving toward her future with a determination that would bring her fame, tragedy, and the realization of her biggest dreams. A must-have for any home or school library. (Ages 10-14)

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

Copyright ©2001

Site design by Williams Writing, Editing & Design