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Children's Bookwatch

Volume 32, Number 3 March 2022 Home | CBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Social Issues Shelf Health/Medicine Shelf
Environmental Shelf Science Shelf World History Shelf
Pets/Wildlife Shelf Folktale/Fairytale Shelf Graphic Novel Shelf
Activity Shelf Board Book Shelf Picturebook Shelf
Bilingual Shelf Historical Fiction Shelf Middle Grade Fiction Shelf
YA Fiction Shelf Mystery/Suspense Shelf Fantasy/SciFi Shelf
Christian Shelf Judaic Shelf Biography Shelf
Computer Shelf Psychology Shelf Self-Help Shelf
Parenting Shelf LGBT Shelf Books in Series
Story Monsters Ink Shelf    

Reviewer's Choice

Love in the Library
Maggie Tokuda-Hall, author
Yas Imamura, illustrator
Candlewick Press
99 Dover Street, Somerville, MA 02144
9781536204308, $18.99, HC, 40pp

Synopsis: America had its own version of concentration camps during World War II. "Love in the Library" by author Maggie Tokuda-Hall and illustrator Yas Imamura is the picture book story of how, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, a young girl named Tama was sent to live in a War Relocation Center in the desert. All Japanese Americans from the West Coast (elderly people, children, babies) now had to live in prison camps like Minidoka.

To be who she is has become a crime, it seems, and Tama doesn't know when or if she will ever leave. Trying not to think of the life she once had, she works in the camp's tiny library, taking solace in pages bursting with color and light, love and fairness. And she isn't the only one. George waits each morning by the door, his arms piled with books checked out the day before.

As their friendship grows, Tama wonders: Can anyone possibly read so much? Is she the reason George comes to the library every day? Beautifully illustrated and complete with an afterword, back matter, and a photo of the real Tama and George (the author's grandparents) Maggie Tokuda-Hall's elegant love story for readers of all ages sheds light on a shameful chapter of American history.

Critique: Thoroughly 'kid friendly' in tone, commentary and artwork, "Love in the Library" is an ideal way to approach an otherwise difficult subject for children ages 6-9. Simply stated, "Love in the Library" should be a part of every elementary school and community library's American history & Prejudice/Racism picture book collection for young readers. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Love in the Library" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $1.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Dreamscape Media, 9781666515732, $14.99, CD).

Britannica's 5-Minute Really True Stories for Family Time
Britannica Group
c/o What on Earth Books
9781913750381, $12.99, 192pp

Synopsis: What did the world's first playgrounds look like? What do families all over the world eat for breakfast? How did dinosaurs look after their babies? "Britannica's 5-Minute Really True Stories for Family Time" is a compendium of thirty 5-minute really true stories where the young reader will meet all types of family (both human and animal!) and learn about the many ways they spend time together. From family bicycle rides to animal migrations, and from tidy up time to cozying up with pets, they will discover the amazing science and history of family activities. With up-to-the-minute, expert information and stunning illustrations, "Britannica's 5-Minute Really True Stories for Family Time" will bring out the joy of the everyday things we do at family time.

Critique: Profusely and charmingly illustrated in full color throughout, "Britannica's 5-Minute Really True Stories for Family Time" showcases true life stories about baby dinosaurs, helpful dogs, playground science, family reunions, a world of birthdays, and so much more! Fun and informative, "Britannica's 5-Minute Really True Stories for Family Time" is especially and unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library collections for children ages 4-8.

Editorial Note: Based in Chicago, Illinois, the Britannica Group is a global education leader with over 250 years of dedication to seeking out facts and providing insight into the mysteries of the universe. Over three thousand expert contributors have helped make Britannica what it is today, including former U.S. presidents, professional athletes, Nobel laureates, and Pulitzer Prize winners. Britannica's mission to inspire curiosity and the joy of learning helps build the world's future thinkers and innovators.

Pen Pal Gals: Friends Forever
Julie Thiessen
Mascot Books
620 Herndon Parkway, #320, Herndon, VA 20170
9781645435242, $9.99,

Picture book readers interested in different forms of friendship will find Pen Pal Gals: Friends Forever a fine study in building long-distance friendships via the written word.

Reese meets new friend Addie during a summer vacation and the two form close bonds as they swim, boat, and share adventures. As summer draws to a close, they face a conundrum: how do they keep their friendship going without proximity?

Illustrator Vanessa Alexandre joins with author Julie Thiessen to provide visual attraction and reinforcement to the idea of the pen pal.

This story will reach elementary-level readers beyond the very simple picture book stage, who will relish the detailed descriptions that move from an outdoors, nature-oriented holiday to a blossoming friendship built on shared camping experiences and interests.

Trading notes and drawings is part of their evolving connections. But, will it be enough to cement an ongoing friendship?

The concept of pen pals is nicely reinforced in a story that holds different layers of information as it moves from how a friendship develops over shared interests to how it is maintained by new interests and a determination to keep in touch however far the miles separating them.

Picture book readers receive colorful visual displays that capture these two girls and their lives.

Adults looking to teach kids about the attractions of various forms of communication and connection will find Pen Pal Gals: Friends Forever the perfect choice for lessons and discussions on how to maintain different kinds of friendship.

What Feelings Do When No One's Looking
Tina Oziewicz, author
Aleksandra Zajac, illustrator
Jennifer Croft, translator
Elsewhere Editions
c/o Archipelago Books
9781953861283, $18.95, HC, 74pp

Synopsis: Curiosity, a lithe and floppy-eared creature, perches above the open world and gazes out with a zippy blend of hope, wonder, and longing. From the tip of a chimney, young readers will bound into the quiet and mischievous world of feelings, meeting a troupe of tufted creatures as they go.

Sympathy helps snails cross a sidewalk to safety, fear pirouettes in an attempt to camouflage with wallflowers, and pleasure reclines across a doily-donned reading chair, sipping a cup of tea. Elsewhere, our insecurities (pesky, cavorting beings) build intricate cages and stride about with clattering sets of keys.

Storyteller Tina Oziewicz's words hum with truth, and artist Aleksandra Zajac's illustrations bloom and burst with charming details like a sail constructed out of a pair of billowing long johns or a red slipper falling from a contented paw. Taking in the perfect harmony "What Feelings Do When No One's Looking" is like taking a long gulp from a trusty thermos and filling up with warmth.

Critique: Ably translated from Polish into English by Jennifer Croft, "What Feelings Do When No One's Looking" is a unique picture book of surprises and soothes that will inspires young readers ages 3-7 to feel. Also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99), "What Feelings Do When No One's Looking" will prove to be an enduringly popular, fun, and unique addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library Emotions/Life Skills picture book collections.

The Social Issues Shelf

Billy the Bully
Sharon Linen-Fordham and Kierra Linen
Independently Published
9798728604631, $9.99 Paper/$3.99 Kindle

Billy the Bully: From the AddyBee123 Book Collection is highly recommended for elementary-level readers and library collections interested in stories about bullies and bullying. It captures the dilemma faced by Addy, a bullying victim who begins to question her own appearance and value as a result of her encounters with the abusive Billy.

A wise mother discovers that Addy is being attacked by Billy "The Bully" Palmer at school. He's a new student, but has been picking on Addy from the very first day...and he is rapidly eroding her self-confidence. Addy's mother, upon learning of this, decides to do something to help.

Addy is surrounded by supportive friends, but she still finds it hard to tell adults about what's happening to her. When she does, it sets into motion a series of events during which her peers rebel against Billy the Bully.

The story takes a turn from the predictable mid-book, leading Addy to learn deeper lessons about bullying, adversity, kindness, forgiveness, and positivity.

Most picture books for kids focus on handling bullying in a different manner, but Sharon Linen-Fordham and Kierra Linen take another big step beyond singular adversity to present the notion that bullies are victims, too.

This broader perspective encourages dialogue between read-aloud parents and kids about the causes and nature of bullying and responses to it, providing fodder for important discussions and understanding that moves beyond the victim/bully dynamic.

Elementary-level library collections looking for resources about bullying that delve into bigger-picture scenarios will welcome Billy the Bully, which lends to both individual reading and wider-ranging discussions between adults and kids, as well as among peers.

The Health/Medicine Shelf

Grayson's Story: An NICU Pandemic Blessing
Charnay Parks
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200, Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781665531702, $29.99, 34pp

Synopsis: "Grayson's Story: An NICU Pandemic Blessing" is the heart-warming journey of baby Grayson and his mother as they spend a fortnight in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) during the COVID-19 pandemic, only a few weeks after his birth.

Based on real events, this beautifully illustrated inspirational story is for parents and babies who have been or are going through unexpected life-threatening medical experiences at the early stage of baby's life. Capturing the unconditional love and bond of Grayson and his mother, it highlights key elements of the recovery process and shows the importance of remaining optimistic, having faith, and being in good spirits in spite of all the emotions and uncertainty.

Written with a flowing rhyme, "Grayson's Story: An NICU Pandemic Blessing" will be fun to read with little ones to let them know how much they are cherished. It will also encourage parents in their time of doubt, giving them some assurance that they are not alone.

Critique: Thoroughly 'kid friendly' in all aspects, "Grayson's Story: An NICU Pandemic Blessing" is a timely, unique, informative, praiseworthy, and unreservedly recommended addition to any and all family and community library collections in this era of the COVID global pandemic.

The Environmental Shelf

When the World Runs Dry: Earth's Water in Crisis
Nancy F. Castaldo
Algonquin Young Readers
c/o Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
PO Box 2225, Chapel Hill, NC 27515-2225
9781616209711, $16.95, HC, 208pp

Synopsis: What would you do if you turned on the faucet one day and nothing happened? What if you learned the water in your home was harmful to drink? Water is essential for life on this planet, but not every community has the safe, clean water it needs.

With the publication of "When the World Runs Dry: Earth's Water in Crisis ", science writer Nancy Castaldo takes young readers from Flint, Michigan, and Newark, New Jersey, to Iran and Cape Town, South Africa, to explore the various ways in which water around the world is in danger, why we must act now, and why you're never too young to make a difference.

Topics addressed in "When the World Runs Dry: Earth's Water in Crisis" include: Lead and water infrastructure problems, pollution, fracking contamination, harmful algal blooms, water supply issues, rising sea levels, and potential solutions.

Critique: With southwestern U.S. suffering from the worst drought in the last 1200 years, "When the World Runs Dry: Earth's Water in Crisis" is a timely and thoroughly 'kid friendly' addition to middle school, high school, and community library Contemporary Environmental Issues collections for children ages 8-18. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "When the World Runs Dry: Earth's Water in Crisis" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Blackstone Audio, 9781665110754, $20.95, CD).

Editorial Note: Nancy F. Castaldo has been writing about the planet for over 20 years. She's contributed to the Sierra Club Waste Paper, NRDC's Personal Action column, and others. She is the author of many STEM books including, Sniffer Dogs: How Dogs (and Their Noses) Save the World, Back from The Brink: Saving Animals From Extinction, and Beastly Brains: Exploring How Animals Think, Talk, and Feel. She has a website at, and can be followed on Twitter @NCastaldoAuthor, and on Instagram @naturespeak

The Science Shelf

Bristlecone: The Secret Life of the World's Oldest Tree
Alexandra Siy, author
Marlo Garnsworthy, illustrator
Web of Life Children's Books
9781970039030, $18.95, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: Living for more than five thousand years, ancient bristlecone pines are the oldest trees on Earth. Recorded in their rings are "secrets" -- including scientific evidence of a changing planet. A volcano erupts in 2036 BC. In 775, a storm explodes on the sun. Lightning strikes in 1122. And during the 20th century, the temperature increases dramatically.

What is the secret to the bristlecone's exceptionally long life? Alexandra Siy's lyrical text, paired with Marlo Garnsworthy's meticulously researched mixed media paintings, reveals the life cycle of the mysterious ancient bristlecone pine. "Still growing, safe and strong in its place in the sun, the bristlecone's secrets are waiting to be discovered by anyone who can read its rings."

Critique: Inherently fascinating, impressively informative, throughly 'kid friendly' in organization and presentation, "Bristlecone: The Secret Life of the World's Oldest Tree" by the team of author Alexandra Siy and illustrator Marlo Garnsworthy is an extraordinary, unique, and unreservedly recommended addition to family, elementary school, middle school, and community library Botanical Science picture book collections for young readers ages 8-10.

Editorial Note #1: Alexandra Siy is the author of more than twenty notable books for children, including Mosquito Bite, Voyager's Greatest Hits, and Cars on Mars, and the winner of many awards, including the American Institute of Physics Science Writing Award, the NSTA Best STEM Book award and an NCTE Orbis Pictus Honor. Alexandra shares her passion for science, photography, and books with students of all ages as a teacher and visiting author. She maintains to informative websites: and

Editorial Note #2: Marlo Garnsworthy is an Australian-American author, illustrator, editor, and science communicator. Her published works include fiction and nonfiction -- with her illustrations being featured most recently in The Turtle Dove's Journey: A Story of Migration, written by Madeleine Dunphy. Marlo is the veteran of two scientific research expeditions in Antarctica and is a passionate advocate for polar and ocean science. To find out more about Marlo and her books, visit

The Outdoor Scientist
Temple Grandin
Philomel Books
c/o Penguin Young Readers Group
9780593115558, $18.99, HC, 208pp

Synopsis: What are the aerodynamics of skipping stones or the physics of making sandcastles? Do birds use GPS to navigate their migratory routes? With the publication of "The Outdoor Scientist: The Wonder of Observing the Natural World", inventor and world-renowned scientist Temple Grandin, introduces young readers to geologists, astrophysicists, oceanographers, and many other scientists who unlock the wonders of the natural world.

She also shares her childhood experiences and observations, whether on the beach, in the woods, working with horses, or gazing up at the night sky. "inventor and world-renowned scientist" explores all areas of nature and gives readers the tools to discover even more on their own.

With forty projects to give readers a deeper understanding of the world around them, from the depths of space to their own backyard, "The Outdoor Scientist: The Wonder of Observing the Natural World" is ideal reading for budding scientists, inventors, and creators!

Critique: Illustrated throughout with black/white photos and line drawings, "The Outdoor Scientist: The Wonder of Observing the Natural World" is a thoroughly fun and informative introduction to the role of scientists for children ages 8- 12. While highly recommended for family, elementary school, middle school, and community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Outdoor Scientist: The Wonder of Observing the Natural World" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9780593115565, $9.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99).

Editorial Note: Temple Grandin maintains an informative website at and is one of the world's most accomplished and well-known adults with autism. She has a PhD in animal science from the University of Illinois and is a professor at Colorado State University. She is also the author of twelve books on autism and animal behavior, including "Calling All Minds", "Thinking in Pictures", and "Animals in Translation". Dr. Grandin was inducted in the National Women's Hall of Fame and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2018 she was made a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Most recently she was named one of TIME magazine's 100 most influential people of the year.

My First Book of Microbes
Sheddad Kaid-Salah Ferron, author
Eduard Altarriba, illustrator
Button Books
c/o The GMC Group
9781787081161, $17.99, HC, 64pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "My First Book of Microbes: Viruses, Bacteria, Fungi, and More" by the team of author Sheddad Kaid-Salah Ferron and illustrator Eduard Altarriba, young readers ages 8-16 will enjoy discovering what they are, where they come from and what they do, as well as which ones are good and which can be harmful.

Especially pertinent are the clear explanations about how viruses spread, the role of antibodies and the importance of vaccines -- essential understanding for us all during this time of the COVID-19 pandemic; in fact, there's a whole spread dedicated to COVID-19.

Packed from cover to cover with clever, illustrated analogies that make understanding a difficult topic easy, "My First Book of Microbes: Viruses, Bacteria, Fungi, and More" is a STEM title that is perfect for young budding scientists with an active and enquiring mind and for people of any age who are interested in learning about the natural world and the human body.

Critique: An ideal and thoroughly 'kid friendly' introduction to the science of microbiology, and timely with respect to the on-going COVID-19 pandemic, "My First Book of Microbes: Viruses, Bacteria, Fungi, and More" is critically important and unreservedly recommended for personal, family, elementary school, middle school, and community library health and medical science book collections for children.

Editorial Note #1: A writer of popular science books, Sheddad Kaid-Salah FerrĒn is a science and physics enthusiast with degrees in physics and pharmacy. Since graduation, he has been teaching science to children, continuing to study physics, working in the pharmaceutical field and staring at the Universe with his telescope.

Editorial Note #2: Eduard Altarriba is a graphic designer and illustrator. He runs Alababala, a studio producing games, exhibitions, animation, apps and practical and fun workbooks for children.

The World History Shelf

Hide and Seek History: Ancient Egyptians
Jonny Marx, author
Chaaya Prabhat, illustrator
360 Degrees
c/o Tiger Tales
PO Box 70, Iron Ridge, WI 53035
9781944530310, $19.99, HC, 16pp

Synopsis: With more than 80 lift-the-flaps and with flaps under flaps, young readers will thoroughly enjoy discovering the truth behind some of ancient Egypt's most incredible stories and superstitions, and unearth the most astonishing aspects of an illustrious culture in the colorful and informative pages comprising "Hide and Seek History: Ancient Egyptians" by the team of author Jonny Marx and artist/illustrator Chaaya Prabhat.

Critique: An oversized coffee-table style volume (10.5 x 0.75 x 12.88 inches), "Hide and Seek History: Ancient Egyptians" is a fun, informative, and unreservedly recommended addition to family, elementary school, middle school, and community library collections for children ages 8-12.

The Pets/Wildlife Shelf

Your Forever Dog
Leslie Yerkes, author
Randy Martin, author
Traci Harmon-Hay, illustrator
Catalyst Consulting Group, Inc.
9781734933529, $19.99, HC, 56pp

Synopsis: Big Boy is a South African Mastiff who lives wild in the back lot of a manufacturing plant in Cleveland, OH. He has no one to feed him, provide water, or care for him. He lives with the constant memory of being beaten by the human who used to own him, before that man brought him to this field and left him there to survive on his own.

One day, a young girl and her dog show up with roasted chicken, a smile, and hope. Will that be enough to rescue Big Boy? To move him from his dreary home, living forgotten in some forsaken field? And will he choose to walk away from this unhappy existent and be rescued by a human and her dog?

"Your Forever Dog" a story of relationships filled with mistrust and doubt, friendship and betrayal, and the flowering of love. It's about choosing to overcome the past and step forward into the future. It's a story of how it feels when someone loves you.

Critique: Charmingly illustrated by artist Traci Harmon-Hay, "Your Forever Dog: How It Feels When Someone Loves You" by the team of authors and storytellers Leslie Yerkes and Randy Martin is a heartwarming read that will have a very special appeal and resonance with readers of all ages who have or have had canine companions of their own. "Your Forever Dog" is especially and unreservedly recommended for elementary school, middle school, and community library Pets/Wildlife collections.

Penguin Journey
Angela Burke Kunkel, author
Catherine Odell, illustrator
Abrams Appleseed
c/o Harry N. Abrams
9781419745898, $16.99, HC, 40pp

Synopsis: "Penguin Journey" by the team of author/storyteller Angela Burke Kunkel and artist/illustrator Catherine Odell is a deftly crafted and beautifully imaged picture book about the incredible lengths to which emperor penguins go for their young ones. Angela Burke Kunkel's lyrical text deftly combines with Catherine Odell's gorgeous illustrations to present and detail the penguins' amazing journey.

Critique: Highly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library collections, and enhanced with an author's note and bibliography that provide added context, "Penguin Journey" is an informative picture book delight for children ages 3-6. It should be noted that "Penguin Journey" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note #1: Angela Burke Kunkel is a school librarian and the author of Digging for Words: Jose Alberto Gutierrez and the Library He Built. She has an informative website at

Editorial Note #2: Catherine Odell is the author and illustrator of the picture book series Pepper and Frannie. She has an informative website at

American Jaguar
Elizabeth Webb
Twenty-First Century Books
c/o The Lerner Publishing Group
241 First Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55401-1607
9781541523678, $37.32, HC, 128pp

Synopsis: In the borderlands between the United States and Mexico, America's largest cat, the jaguar, is fighting to regain its kingdom. Added to the endangered species list in 1997, the jaguar has declined in population mainly due to habitat fragmentation created by roads, farms, mines, and most controversially, the border wall. Such human-made barriers prevent free movement of many wild animals for predation and mating, thereby threatening their reproduction, DNA transfer, and overall survival.

With the publication of "American Jaguar: Big Cats, Biogeography, and Human Borders", wildlife biologist David C. Louis examines the jaguar's predicament and highlights the work of field scientists who are searching for solutions. The 'Conservation Connection' featured throughout "American Jaguar" underscore the importance of protecting this keystone species of the Americas.

Critique: Impressively well written, organized and presented, with color illustrations throughout, "American Jaguar: Big Cats, Biogeography, and Human Borders" is especially impressive when considering that it is the first book written by David C. Louis for young readers ages 12-17. While also available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99), "American Jaguar: Big Cats, Biogeography, and Human Borders" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to middle school, highschool, and community library Pets/Wildlife collections.

Editorial Note: David C. Louis is a writer living in New Mexico, not far from the where the Borderlands jaguars roam. He's spent much of his adult life exploring and photographing the plants and animals of the Desert Southwest. This is his first book for young people.

Good Eating: The Short Life of Krill
Matt Lilley, author
Dan Tavis, illustrator
Tilbury House, Publishers
9780884488675, $18.95, HC, 36pp

Synopsis: Just 2 inches long full-grown, the krill is the foundation of the Southern Ocean food chain. "Good Eating: The Short Life of Krill" by the team of author Matt Lilley and artist/illustrator Dan Tavis follows one krill among billions as it pursues its brief existence, eating and eating while metamorphosing from one thing into another and trying to avoid being eaten.

Questions and advice are hurled at the krill on every page, but the krill never responds -- because, after all, krill can't talk, and this is nonfiction. Krill are the largest animals able to catch and eat phytoplankton, and they in turn are eaten by the largest animals ever to live on earth (blue whales) as well as by seals, penguins, and a host of others.

In other words, krill are really good at eating, and they make really good eating. And that makes them the most important animals in the high-latitude oceans. Dan Tavis's illustrations combine Matt Lilley's scientific accuracy presented with liveliness and humor.

Our star krill is so good at gobbling up phytoplankton that he turns green, so we can pick him out from the crowd racing to escape a penguin's beak or a blue whale's gaping maw.

Critique: Fun and informative, "Good Eating: The Short Life of Krill" is a unique and especially recommended addition to family, elementary school, and community library Pets/Wildlife picture book collections for children ages 6-8. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Good Eating: The Short Life of Krill" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $17.48).

Editorial Note: "Good Eating: The Short Life of Krill" has been reviewed and endorsed by global krill expert Dr. Stephen Nichol, and the manuscript earned an honorable mention in Minnesota's McKnight Artist Fellowships for Writers. Helpful backmatter is included.

Big As a Giant Snail
Jess Keating
Knopf/Random House
9780593300848, $17.99

Big As a Giant Snail: Discovering the World's Most Gigantic Animals is an addition to 'The World of Weird Animals' that invites kids to learn about large, odd creatures such as moose, harpy eagles, red kangaroos, and more. Each animal receives a good-sized color photo and a facing page of natural history facts, accompanied by a lively drawing by David DeGrand that illustrates a selected amazing fact about the creature. Elementary-level natural history libraries looking for titles that are eye-catching attractions for picture book readers will find Big As a Giant Snail a popular choice that lends to display and leisure reading alike.

The Folktale/Fairytale Shelf

Little Bear: An Inuit Folktale
Dawn Casey, author
Amanda Hall, illustrator
World Wisdom
1501 East Hillside Drive, Bloomington, IN 47401
9781937786915, $17.95, HC, 36pp

Synopsis: When a lonely old woman finds a polar bear cub with no mother of his own, she adopts him, and cares for him as he grows. The bear cub rides in her hood and sleeps by her side. The old woman loves the bear like her own child, but her heart also knows: bears belong in the wild. A tender story of loving and letting go, "Little Bear: An Inuit Folktale" is a picture book celebration of the relationship between a human being and a wild animal and will touch the hearts of readers young and old.

Critique: With a lyrical prose retelling an Inuit folktale by author/storyteller Dawn Casey and radiantly illustrated by renowned artist Amanda Hall, "Little Bear" is a wonderfully entertaining and unreservedly recommended addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library Folktale/Fairytale collections for children ages 4- 8.

Editorial Note #1: Currently residing in Lewes, England, Dawn Casey is a children's book author whose work is inspired by a deep love of nature, a respect for the truth and power of tales of old, and a delight in the wonder of the world. Dawn's books have won the Kirkus Star, the Aesop Accolade from the American Folklore Society, and the Gold Nautilus Award. She is the author of The Barefoot Book of Earth Tales, A Lullaby for Little One, and Babushka (with Amanda Hall).

Editorial Note #2: Currently residing in Cambridge, England, Amanda Hall is an award-winning illustrator of over two dozen books. She is renowned for her wonderfully decorative and colorful children's books both in America and Great Britain, with co-editions in 24 other countries. Amanda regularly exhibits her original artwork at Chris Beetles Gallery in London, while her e-commerce website ( sells copies of her signed books, wall mural wallpapers, and original illustrations. Among her titles are Out of This World, Brother Giovanni's Little Reward, and The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau.

The Graphic Novel Shelf

Pixels of You
Ananth Hirsh, author
Yuko Ota, author
J. R. Doyle, illustrator
Amulet Books
9781419752810, $21.99, HC, 176pp

Synopsis: In a near future, augmentation and AI changed everything and nothing. Indira is a human girl who has been cybernetically augmented after a tragic accident, and Fawn is one of the first human-presenting AI. They have the same internship at a gallery, but neither thinks much of the other's photography. But after a huge public blowout, their mentor gives them an ultimatum: work together on a project or leave her gallery forever.

Grudgingly, the two begin to collaborate, and what comes out of it is astounding and revealing for both of them. "Pixels of You" is about the slow transformation of a rivalry to a friendship to something more as Indira and Fawn navigate each other, the world around them -- and what it means to be an artist and a person.

Critique: With an expert blending of science fiction with a coming-of-age story, "Pixels of You" is a solidly entertaining graphic novel for young readers ages 14-18, in which artist/illustrator J. R. Doyle does full justice to visualizing an original and entertaining story by the team of authors Ananth Hirsh and Yuko Ota. While especially recommended for middle school, highschool, and community library Graphic Novel collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of science fiction and graphic novel fans that "Pixels of You" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9781419749575, $16.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

The Case of The Girl from Deja Vu
Franck Thillez, author
Yorngui Dumont, illustrator
160 Broadway, Suite 700E, New York, NY 10038
9781545808764, $14.99, HC, 112pp

Synopsis: The Nightmare Brigade is a dream team led by Professor Angus. With his two young sidekicks, 14 year-olds Esteban and Tristan, they have one goal: help people get rid of their worst nightmares. With unique skills, the team members can literally infiltrate their patient's nightmare to seek its root and destroy the cause. Things are shaken up a bit, however, when they meet the young Sarah. The Brigade has a feeling they have seen her before. Then, an insomniac is invading other's dreams. How does he do it and how can he be stopped?

Critique: The first volume of the new graphic novel series The Nightmare Brigade, by author/storyteller Franck Thillez and artist/illustrator Yorngui dumont, "The Case of The Girl from Deja Vu" is a deftly crafted paranormal story that is particularly recommended for elementary school, middle school, and community library Graphic Novel collections for young readers ages 7-12. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Case of The Girl from Deja Vu" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9781545808771, $9.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.09).

The Activity Shelf

What Can I Do?
Mary Richards
Agnes & Aubrey
9781916881600, $14.95, HC, 72pp

Synopsis: "What Can I Do?: Inspiring Activities for Creative Kids" by Mary Richards is a beautifully illustrated reference book of activities for children ages 5-12 that mixes learning, craft and creative play! Comprised of a wealth of easy-to-follow and fun activities ranging from "Invent a Dance" to "Make a Museum", on each page of "What Can I Do?: Inspiring Activities for Creative Kids" there are lists of what is needed, tips for getting started, and ideas for making the most out of the chosen task. Of special note is the discovery of new facts on every page. Most of the activities can be done indoors, but there are plenty of ideas for outdoor fun, too. All that is needed to get started is a pencil, paper, and imagination!

Critrique: Packed from cover to cover with fun DIY projects that are fun to 'invent, make, design', Mary Richard's "What Can I Do?: Inspiring Activities for Creative Kids" is especially and unreservedly recommended for elementary school, middle school, and community library collections and an especially valued resource for the home schooling parents of young children.

The Board Book Shelf

ABC Bedtime
Erica Harrison
Walter Foster Jr
c/o Quarto Publishing Group USA
100 Cummings Center, Suite 265D, Beverly, MA 01915
9781600589904, $16.99, Board Book, 32pp

Synopsis: All bedtime routines look a little different, but whether we are big or small, we all have a bedtime. Some people give hugs and kisses, and others will sing lullabies or read a story. Some people will wish on a star, and others will do deep breathing to wind down. Pairing aspects of various bedtime routines with each letter of the alphabet, "ABC Bedtime" is a sweetly read night time board book for both caregiver and child.

"ABC Bedtime" is not only perfect for teaching toddlers their ABCs, but also for encouraging them to acknowledge that it's bedtime, get ready, and calm down their bodies and minds before going to bed. The book begins at A with the feeling of being wide awake and active, but after going through the calming A-to-Z bedtime routine, it ends at Z with being sound asleep and catching those ZZZs.

Critique: With charming illustrations and mindful concepts, "ABC Bedtime" pairs each letter of the alphabet with words that promote big dreams and healthy living -- making this a fun, unique, and unreservedly recommended addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library board book collections for children ages 3-6.

Editorial Note: Erica Harrison is a children's book designer and illustrator. She has worked on over 70 titles ranging from activity and coloring books to picture books, puzzles, and games. Her work is instantly recognizable for its bold shapes and colors, and her quirky illustrations make kids smile.

Cat's First Baby
Natalie Nelson
Quirk Books
215 Church Street, Philadelphia PA 19106
9781683692935, $9.99, Board Book, 28pp

Synopsis: Cat is curious. There's a new addition to the family, but who exactly is this small being? This new arrival doesn't meow like a cat, or smell like a cat, or even have a tail like a cat. As Cat investigates, he might just come to appreciate this loud, silly family member. After all, they both enjoy a good catnap.

Critique: "Cat's First Baby" is the feline companion to "Dog's First Baby" by illustrator, picture book maker, and collage artist Natalie Nelson and captures the wonder and humor of a new family member through a cat's eyes. Certain to delight kids and cat parents alike, this entertaining board book is especially and unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, kindergarten, and community library Board Book collections for children ages 2-5.

The Picturebook Shelf

I Love You, Blue
Barroux, author/artist
Flyaway Books
100 Witherspoon Street, Louisville, KY 4020-1396
9781947888364, $18.00, HC, 40pp

Synopsis: The blue waters beautiful. But when a storm hits, the waves roar and rage. Mayday! Mayday! Can anyone help?

One rescue leads to another in this charming story of friendship, revealing that care for the ocean and its inhabitants can lead to the well-being of all. With joyful simplicity, "I Love You, Blue" by storyteller and illustrator Barroux introduces the impact of plastic waste in the oceans and includes an author's note with facts about how whales and their habitat can be protected.

Critique: Charming, entertaining, and with a critically important underlying environmental message for children ages 4-7, "I Love You, Blue" is a unique, fun, and unreservedly recommended addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections. It should be noted that "I Love You, Blue" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $16.00).

Editorial Note: Barroux is a Paris-based author and illustrator whose works have received many international awards. Born in France, raised in Morocco, and who has lived in Canada and the United States, Barroux's sensitivity to the problems facing humanity and the natural world is reflected in many of his books for children.

Blaze and the Castle Cake for Bertha Daye
Claude Ponti, author/illustrator
Alyson Waters, translator
Margot Kerlidou, translator
Elsewhere Editions
c/o Archipelago Books
232 Third Street #A111, Brooklyn, NY 11215
9781953861184, $20.00, HC, 48pp

Synopsis: A rabble of soft, golden "chicklets" are awoken one morning to a startling proclamation: they only have ten short days to prepare for their best friend Bertha Daye's party. It's time to get to work building a larger-than-life castle cake to house and feed the revelers.

Made of chocolate scooped out of chocolate mines, "finer than fairy dust" flour from the hillsides, and fruit carried down twigs and stems in the forest, this will be the best (and kookiest) cake of all time!

Oodles of distinctive chicklets fill every page, scurrying, fluttering, napping, tumbling, helping, and getting up to no good. When the party day arrives, guests pour into the pastry palace, many of them unmistakable characters from iconic stories' past, offering a marvelous who's-who of story-book history.

Critique: Published in a hardcover oversized edition (10.9 x 0.43 x 15 inches) and ably translated from French into English for an American readership by the team of Alyson Waters and Margot Kerlidou, "Blaze and the Castle Cake for Bertha Daye" showcases the artistic and erudite storytelling talents of author Claude Ponti. A unique and prized selection for a story hour entertainment, "Blaze and the Castle Cake for Bertha Daye" is an original and unreservedly recommended addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for children ages 5-9. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Blaze and the Castle Cake for Bertha Daye" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.59).

Editorial Note: Claude Ponti is a French illustrator and children's author known for his inventive and playful use of words and the symbolic nature of his illustrations. His first book, L'Album d'Adele, written for his newborn daughter, already displays the associative and dream-like presentation of children's interior lives that characterizes many of his works. Ponti was awarded the 2006 Sorcieres Special prize for his contribution to literature.

Home Is Where the Heart Is
Jonny Lambert, author/illustrator
Tiger Tales
9781680102697, $17.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: Bear moves into the Wild Old Woods and make a home for himself, but he's lonely. So he goes out in search of a friend. He meets Hare, who is very different from Bear: Hare is older and doesn't keep his house clean, while Bear is young and is very neat. But the two become best friends. They explore the woods, have picnics, and tell stories by the fire. One day, Bear finds that his house has been destroyed in a storm, so he moves in with Hare -- which proves to be a challenge to their friendship because they're so different. Can they learn to live together and still be best friends?

Critique: An inherently charming, refreshingly original, and wonderfully entertaining picture book by author and illustrator Jonny Lambert, "Home Is Where the Heart Is" will delight young readers ages 3-7 and prove a welcome addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collection.

Editorial Note: Jonny Lambert grew up in Surrey, England, and currently resides in West Sussex, England. He always knew he wanted to be an artist of some sort. Encouraged by his art instructor at the Reigate School of Art and Design, Jonny is now an artist of many sorts: a talented illustrator with more than 300 titles to his name, designer, and paper engineer.

The Tiny Star
Mem Fox, author
Freya Blackwood, illustrator
Knopf Books for Young Readers
c/o Random House Children's Books
9780593304013, $17.99, HC, 40pp

Synopsis: "The Tiny Star" is touching and timeless picture book story about a star that falls to earth where it becomes a baby and is embraced and cared for by the community. Renowned author and storyteller Mem Fox's tender text about the journey of life is beautifully rendered by artist/illustrator Freya Blackwood whose luminous illustrations capture the warmth and complexity of growing up.

Critique: A unique and moving story to be cherished by all ages and shared for generations to come, "The Tiny Star" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for children ages 4-8. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Tiny Star" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99).

Editorial Note #1: Mem Fox is an educator and international literacy expert, who has written nearly forty books including Possum Magic, Hello Baby!, Baby Bedtime, I'm an Immigrant Too, Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes, and Time for Bed. She is also the author of the adult book Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever. Mem maintains a website at

Editorial Note #2: Freya Blackwood is the illustrator of many acclaimed picture books published throughout the world, including My Two Blankets, Baby Day, and Harry and Hopper for which she won the Kate Greenaway Medal. She maintains a website at

A Picnic in the Rain
Corinne Delporte, author
Celia Molinari Sebastia, illustrator
CrackBoom! Books
9782898023187, $15.95, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: A rainy day in spring is the perfect time for the snail family to go out on a picnic. Carrying a basket of provisions and some toys, the snails set off under the most delightful downpour. But no sooner have they started that the clouds lift to make way for sparkling sunshine. Oh, no! Their picnic is ruined!

Fortunately, young Margaux finds a way to save the day and before long, the family is nibbling on lettuce and berries under the shelter of a lovely raspberry bush. The snails have found the perfect time to have a picnic after all!

Critique: "A Picnic in the Rain" by author/storyteller Corinne Delporte and artist/illustrator Celia Molinari Sebastia is an original, whimsical, wonderfully entertaining, and vocabulary developing picture book entertainment for children ages 3-7. Simply stated, "A Picnic in the Rain" is especially and unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections.

Elijah Goes To Cleveland
Mark Darden, author
Anh Bui, illustrator
Buckeye Muscle Media, LLC
9781736703007, $17.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: Elijah is a young African American boy who is in Cleveland visiting his grandparents when he finds out that his favorite music band will be performing at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The tickets are free but there is a catch: You have to do a scavenger hunt to find members of the band at various landmarks throughout Cleveland. With the help of his grandparents, will Elijah be able to secure tickets to see his favorite band perform?

Critique: Charmingly illustrated throughout with the impressive artistry of Anh Bui, "Elijah Goes To Cleveland" is a fully entertaining picture book story that is especially and unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library African American picture book collections for children ages 4-8.

Jamie Hogan
Tilbury House, Publishers
12 Starr Street, Thomaston, ME 04861
9780884488972, $18.95, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: Tamen's mom, a nightshift nurse, finds a way to take him camping. For one magical night on the shore of a wilderness pond, the Milky Way in all its glory belongs to them. color throughout

Critique: Memorable illustrated in fully color throughout, "Skywatcher" by author and artist Jamie Hogan is an impressively original picture story about love and sacrifice. While especially and unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for young readers ages 6-8, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Skywatcher" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $16.10) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Dreamscape Media, 9781666527599, $14.99, CD).

Editorial Note: Jamie Hogan has published illustrations in newspapers, periodicals, and numerous award winning children's books including Rickshaw Girl, which was named one of the Best 100 Books by the New York Public Library and she has also won the Jane Addams Peace Association Award and the Maine Library Association's Lupine Award; and Island Birthday, which won the 2015 Lupine Award.

Lunch Every Day
Kathryn Otsoshi
KO Kids Books
9781734348200, $17.99, HC, 40pp

Synopsis: Every day Jimmy takes 'Skinny Kid's' lunch at school. No way will he be caught dead standing in that Free Lunch line. Even when he's called into the principal's office, Jimmy just shrugs. "Yeah. Whatever." Until a surprising act of kindness stops him in his tracks. For a split second a door cracks open into Jimmy's heart. Who knows? Maybe he'll just kick that door right open!

Critique: Uniquely illustrated by author/storyteller Kathryn Otsohi, "Lunch Every Day" is a charming and engaging picture book with an important underlying message that will resonate with young children ages 4-8. "Lunch Every Day" is an especially recommended addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections.

Editorial Note: Kathryn Otoshi is a multi-award winning author/illustrator and who is best known for her character-building book series, "Zero", "One", and "Two". She goes to schools across the country to encourage kids to develop strong character assets, and helps teachers find customized, creative methods to engage students through art, reading and the power of literature. Her previous books, "Beautiful Hands" and "Draw the Line" (Roaring Brook) make especially important statements about connecting, reaching out and building community.

Seaside Stroll
Charles Trevino, author
Maribel Lechuga, illustrator
Charlesbridge Publishing
85 Main Street, Watertown, MA 02472
9781580899321, $16.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: During a sunset beach saunter, a girl stumbles and drops her doll into a tidal pool. Soaked! Celebrating the natural silence of an off-season location, the surf and sand are brought to life through this engaging story.

Critique: In an original picture book told through clever language,"Seaside Stroll" by author/storyteller Charles Trevino and artist/illustrator Maribel Lechuga, will have children ages 3-7 fully enjoy a story about exploring a beach in winter. While especially recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Seaside Stroll" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note #1: Charles Trevino is the program coordinator of the American Sign Language interpreter training technology program at Lone Star College in The Woodlands, Texas. He was inspired by ASL poetry when creating the structure for "Seaside Stroll, his first children's picture book.

Editorial Note #2: Maribel Lechuga is also the illustrator of Ten Beautiful Things. She has always felt an attraction to drawing and art, and she was fascinated by cartoons of the 1990s. She studied art at the prestigious Escuela de Arte 10 (Artediez) in Madrid and has her own website at

The Fox and the Forest Fire
Danny Popvici
Chronicle Books
680 Second Street, San Francisco, CA 94107
9781797202822, $17.99, HC, 44pp

Synopsis: After moving from the city, one boy discovers his new home in the woods isn't so bad -- there is friendship in the midst of the forest. But when he spots a fire on the horizon that soon engulfs everything he's come to know (including the bugs, the plants, the fox who keeps him company) he is forced to flee. When his newfound comfort goes up in smoke, how can he ever feel at home again?

In a forest fire, so much can change in an instant. But both fox and boy learn that there are some things fire cannot burn. With time, the forest will regrow, the animals will return to their home, and so will the boy and his mom.

As we all search for tools for understanding the destruction of forest fires, this touching story shows that hope, friendship, and resilience shine the brightest.

Critique: Given the climate change impacts in terms of the increasing severity and frequency of forest fires that children are exposed to on the nightly television news shows and social media, "The Fox and the Forest Fire" by author-illustrator, hiker, and former forest firefighter Danny Popovici is an especially timely and thoroughly 'kid friendly' picture book with its underlying message of hope and restoration. Simply stated, "The Fox and the Forest Fire" should be a part of every elementary school and community library picture book collections for children ages 5-8. It should also be noted for family and personal reading lists that "The Fox and the Forest Fire" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99).

Little Pea's Grand Journey
Davide Cali, author
Sebastien Mourrain, illustrator
Milky Way Picture Books
9781990252020, $15.99, HC, 36pp

Synopsis: Little Pea illustrates stamps for a living. He has painted insects, tomatoes, cars, and flowers. But what should he draw next? Short on inspiration, he sets off on a great journey and a quest for ideas in his bright red plane. Who knows where he will land!

Critique: Charmingly illustrated by artist Sebastien Mourrain, "Little Pea's Grand Journey" by author/storyteller David Cali is an engagingly entertaining and original picture book story for children ages 4-6 and especially recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, and community library collections.

Editorial Note #1: Internationally renowned children's author Davide Cali is a Swiss-born Italian writer of picture books and graphic novels primarily for children and young adults. Currently residing in Italy, his work has been published in 25 countries and translated into many languages.

Editorial Note #2: Currently residing in Lyon, France, Sebastien Mourrain is the illustrator of over 40 picture books and documentaries published by Gallimard, Seuil, Bayard, and Milan, among others.

Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening
Robert Frost, poet
Vivian Mineker, illustrator
9781641705721, $17.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: From the illustrator of the world's first picture book adaptation of Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken" comes a new interpretation of another classic Frost poem: "Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening". Weaving a simple story of love, loss, and memories with only illustrations and Frost's iconic lines, this stirring picture book so beautifully illustrated by the artistry of Vivian Mineker introduces young readers to timeless poetry in an unprecedented way.

Critique: A beautifully and memorable picture book for children ages 4-8 showcasing one of the true icons of American poetry, "Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening" is very highly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book poetry collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists for the young and the legions of Robert Frost enthusiasts of all ages that "Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note #1: Robert Lee Frost (March 26, 1874 - January 29, 1963) poetry, A Boy's Will (1913) and North of Boston (1914), were first published in England. North of Boston brought him recognition as the preeminent voice of New England and as one of America's major poets. In 1915 he returned to the United States and settled on a farm in New Hampshire. Four volumes of his poetry, New Hampshire (1923), Collected Poems (1930), A Further Range (1936), and A Witness Tree (1942) were all awarded the Pulitzer Prize. He died in 1963.

Editorial Note #2: Susan Jeffers is the illustrator of such distinguished picture books as Three Jovial Huntsmen (a Caldecott Honor book); Rachel Field's Hitty; and the ABBY Award-winning Brother Eagle, Sister Sky.

We Give Thanks
Cynthia Rylant, author
Sergio Ruzzier, illustrator
Beech Lane Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781442465077, $17.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "We Give Thanks" by the team of author/storyteller Cynthia Ryland and artist/illustrator Sergio Ruzzier, children will fully enjoy follow two sweet friends as they zip around town talking to all their pals about the things they love. The pair may even have a plan cooking to show everyone their gratitude!

Critique: With its themes of thankfulness and inclusion, this playfully illustrated and charming picture book story is very highly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library collections for children ages 2-8. It should be noted that "We Give Thanks" is also available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99).

Editorial Note #1: Cynthia Rylant is the author of more than 100 books for young people, including the beloved Henry and Mudge, Annie and Snowball, Brownie & Pearl, Motor Mouse, and Mr. Putter & Tabby series. Her novel Missing May received the Newbery Medal.

Editorial Note #2: Sergio Ruzzier has written and illustrated many celebrated picture books, including We Give Thanks by Cynthia Rylant and his own Good Boy, A Letter for Leo, and the Fox and Chick series. His work has been awarded by American Illustration, The Society of Illustrators, Communication Arts, The Society of Publication Designers, and Parents' Choice. In 2011, he received the Sendak Fellowship. Sergio lives in Italy and maintains a website at

Sylvia Finds a Way
Stephanie Shaw
West Margin Press
9781513289496, $17.99

Sylvia Finds a Way tells of a creature who is "as small as your pinky finger and slow as a slug." That's because she is a slug... a tiny slug with a host of animal friends that all do things she cannot. Sylvia approaches life on a much slower scale. Thus, she's able to appreciate a beautiful garden even as her animal friends are chased away from the gardener's efforts. Can Sylvia's quiet ways resolve the problems these more exuberant garden invaders face as human tenders keep chasing them away? A fine story evolves that celebrates slower, more mindful paths in life by making more constructive choices. A surprise conclusion to the story gives young picture book readers a lovely experience, enhanced by Fiona Lee's evocative drawings.

Just Like Magic
Victor D.O. Santos
9781649621184, $12.99 pb
9781649621276, $23.99 hc

Just Like Magic works picture book magic on young readers as it pairs the story of a courageous platypus with bright, whimsical illustrations by Iryna Kazakova. Nino isn't afraid of his dreams. But reality is somewhat different, and as he is rejected by those who spurn his invitation to be friends, he encounters a magic genie who can give him anything he desires. Or, can he? The clever genie's solutions come with an admonition that Nino just can't seem to follow. Can magic abilities really give him confidence and strength? Parents who choose this engaging story as a read-aloud will welcome and relish its lesson for the very young listener. The understandable dilemmas Nino faces as he confronts the world translates to information youngsters need to absorb to muster their own courage to deal with threats, bullying, and adversity. Adults looking for a strong message within an engaging story will find that Just Like Magic works wonders for enlightening the young about courage and self-confidence. Maybe even magic.

Penny the Horse... of Course!
Tatiana Christie
DartFrog Books
4697 Main Street, Manchester Center, VT 05255
9781951490461, Paperback: $11.99; Hardcover: $21.99; Ebook: $4.99

"A pig is a pig and a horse is a horse." This introduction to the picture book story seems obvious, until young readers and their parents come to realize that this concept of reality is challenged by the only pig on a horse form. Penny well realizes that she's not a horse. But, being the only one of her kind makes her lonely. It's just not fun being different in a crowd of creatures that obviously share many interests and abilities. And so Penny hatches a plan. All she needs is a little hay, a little glue, and a lot of determination. Parents who choose Tatiana Christie's Penny the Horse...of Course! will find, within its whimsical title and premise, a colorful exploration of loneliness, differences, and determination. Illustrations by Alexandra Rusu complement this lovely story of loneliness and making adjustments in order to invite new relationships that account for, adjust to, and celebrate differences. Parents will relish its message of problem-solving, diversity, and companionship.

Candlewick Press
99 Dover Street, Somerville, MA 02144

Six new picture book stories offer young audiences fine choices for memorable reads. All are fine picture book stories.

Sue Lawson and Liz Anelli's The Cookie Maker of Mavin Road (9781536219975, $18.99) tells of Benedict Stanley, who lives alone with his cat on a busy road. Life passes by in a hectic manner and nobody seems to have any time, so Benedict begins to make cookies to secretly leave at peoples' doors. Only one person knows of his secret activity, so when Benedict falls ill, it falls upon him to keep the tradition going.

Leda Schubert's Dogs Love Cars (9781536203097, $17.99) features fun drawings by Paul Meisel as it follows a pack of dogs of all shapes and colors who find pleasure in everything in the world around them. But, most of all, dogs love cars. Any kind of car will do. They also love other dogs, napping, playing, and getting into trouble in this whimsical tale that young dog-lovers will relish.

Leah H. Rogers's The Barn (9781536209068, $17.99) receives gorgeous, color-packed art by Barry Roots as it tells of an old barn that houses all kinds of critters. "I am a barn," the story begins. As it reviews a barn's life on the farm, kids receive a gentle introduction to farming and the domestic and wild creatures the barn oversees from its long-standing location.

Catherine Rayner's My Pet Goldfish (9781536215205, $17.99) is a Kate Greenaway Medal winner that tells of how goldfish make wonderful pets. The first-person story of how a young child cares for Richard, her goldfish, accompanies nature facts about goldfish. The blend of fictional experience and nonfiction science will delight parents who choose this book for its read-aloud value.

Arthur Yorinks creates a compellingly fun story in One Mean Ant with Fly and Flea and Moth (9780763683962, $17.99), which returns the ant, fly and flea to young readers with a new adventure. They are stuck doing tricks in the insect circus, but they have a plan to escape. Sergio Ruzzier's fun drawings contribute to an engaging, whimsical story.

Edwina Wyatt's Sometimes Cake (9781536217810, $17.99) receives entertaining illustrations by Tamsin Ainslie as it follows a young girl and a lion who find a way to celebrate ordinary, everyday pleasures together. Kids often long for a birthday celebration to come around quicker than yearly. This book offers a different perspective on what it means to celebrate the moment.

Katherine Patterson's Birdie's Bargain (9781536215595, $17.99) will reach advanced elementary to early middle grades with its story of young Birdie's reflection on her life. Her father has just left as war begins in the Middle East, and will be gone, for the second time, for a whole year. Birdie wants to do something about it, but she gets caught up in other dilemmas, from a bossy neighbor girl to an impossible bargain with God. Any young reader from a military family will readily relate to Birdie's many dilemmas, from faith to family.

Penguin Random House

Five new picture books are attractions highly recommended for libraries looking for something special, with lasting lending value.

Hudson Talbott's A Walk in the Words (9780399548710, $17.99) tells of a kid challenged by reading. Hudson feels lost and alone in a "world of words," but he does love stories. Eventually he learns to read at his own pace, albeit slowly, and discovers different, favorite ways of not just reading, but telling his own story. The autobiography is filled with delightful illustrations and adopts a perspective that will captivate young readers who also struggle with words.

Based on a true adventure, Trang Nguyen's Saving Sorya: Chang and the Sun Bear (9780593353622, $13.99) gives middle grades a graphic novel adventure about young conservationists who save a bear. Gorgeous drawings by Jeet Zdung enhance the adventure, which will appeal to middle graders who enjoy graphic novels, colorful panels, and animal rescue tales.

Max Greenfield's I Don't Want to Read This Book (9780593326060, $17.99) is for kids who don't like to read, who will readily relate to Max's first-person introduction: "Why would I read this book? I already know what's going to happen." Large-size words on each page present a lively discussion of the common barriers to reading, which include not just words but the special challenges of absorbing a book which holds dreaded paragraphs. Kids will appreciate this lively reminder of what it takes to enjoy a book.

Sophie Blackall's Negative Cat (9780399257193, $17.99) tells of Max, a cat who doesn't like to play and who presents a sour disposition to his new adoptive family, who are set to give up on making him happy and part of their world. The boy, however, loves his cat, and will do anything to keep him. Even if it means confronting his fears and doing the impossible. Max is surprised by few things, doesn't smile, and doesn't like to play. He's kind of... negative. How can the boy change him? A fun story evolves.

Advanced elementary to middle grade readers will find Rob Harrell's When Pigs Fly (9780593354155, $14.99) an appealing full-color graphic novel about Batpig, who is bent on improving the world by catching litterers and swearers. Can the superswine really change a world and save it from the threat of a giant lizard and a determined butcher? Gary isn't always feeling positive about his goals, but he manages to preserve them in a rollicking good read that will bring both laughs and thought-provoking moments. Two young adult reads are also highly recommended for discriminating teen leisure readers.

Scholastic, Inc.
555 Broadway New York, NY 10012

Scholastic's latest publications offer picture book readers fine options for memorable stories, and are recommended as lasting library acquisitions.

Joana Pastro's Bisa's Carnaval (9781338617627, $18.99) tells of an annual Carnaval parade which Clara loves to celebrate with her family and her great-grandmother Bisa. Pastro describes a fun event, captured with lively colorful drawings by Carolina Coroa, which is only missing one thing to prove successful. Carnaval has always been Clara's favorite holiday, and this year she wishes for the best fantasia ever. Can she make it so? The bilingual, multicultural story will appeal to read-aloud parents who can use it to discuss family relationships, changing lives, and celebrations.

Jocelyn Li Langrand's If You Miss Me (9781338680690, $18.99) provides picture book readers with the story of Charlie, who loves to dance with her grandmother, and who looks forward to their visits. When winter introduces a big change, Charlie wonders how their relationship can continue. The story of loss, adaptation, and love provides a winning account that adults can use as a read-aloud to help children with grief and recovery.

10 Spooky Pumpkins by Gris Grimly (9781338112443, $17.99) arrived too late for Halloween or Fall mention, but deserves a place in any library presenting seasonal reads to picture book audiences. A little girl's Halloween adventure is profiled in a book that pairs a lovely rhyming action story with fine watercolor illustrations by artist Gris Grimly. The lively story is hauntingly beautiful and will see repeat interest from young audiences and read-aloud parents alike.

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

Adults who choose It Fell From the Sky by The Fan Brothers (9781534457621, $17.99) as a read-aloud will find wonder and fun in a story where a mysterious object lands in the insect kingdom, only to be claimed by Spider. Black and white backgrounds and the colorful color of the mysterious object draw young readers into a picture book story in which a "most amazing thing" changes the insect world as Spider decides to capitalize on the Wonder from the Sky... until disaster strikes.

Jonah Winter and Jeanette Winter's The Little Owl & The Big Tree (9781665902137, $17.99) is a moving Christmas story. It arrived too late for timelier holiday feature, but deserves ongoing recommendation as a picture book mainstay. It tells of a tiny owl who lives alone in a big tree until everything changes. Who will help the little owl survive? Underlying the adventure is the fact that it's the true story of the Northern Saw-whet Owl that was discovered in a holiday tree in New York. All are engaging stories, recommended for discriminating collections and young readers.

The Bilingual Shelf

Words to Make a Friend: A Story in Japanese and English
Donna Jo Napoli, author
Naoko Stoop, illustrator
Random House Studio
c/o Random House Children's Books
9780593122273, $17.99, HC, 40pp

Synopsis: When a young Japanese girl moves into her new house, she is happy to see a girl her age playing in the snow just outside her window. The only problem is the Japanese girl doesn't speak English and the American girl doesn't speak Japanese.

How will these two girls have any fun at all? As it turns out, it's not that hard when both girls are looking for a friend! What starts with a simple "hello" and "konnichiwa" becomes a day filled with fun in the snow.

Each girl's love of play, snow, and making a new friend transcends the need to speak the same language, and by using simple words in their own languages, along with a bit of charades, the girls find they have all they need to build a snow creature.

Critique: An important and fun picture book by the team of author/storyteller Donna Jo Napoli and artist/illustrator Naoko Stoop, "Words to Make a Friend: A Story in Japanese and English" shows children ages 4-8 that speaking the same language isn't a prerequisite to making a new friend! While very highly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library bilingual picture book collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Words to Make a Friend: A Story in Japanese and English" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99).

Editorial Note: Donna Jo Napoli is both a linguist and a writer of children's and young adult fiction. Some of her work includes Treasury of Greek Mythology, Stones in Water, Treasury of Norse Mythology, and Daughter of Venice. Naoko Stoop is a Brooklyn-based, self-taught illustrator who grew up in Tokyo and has illustrated many picture books including Pup and Bear, Sun and Moon Have a Tea Party, and Red Knit Cap Girl.

The Historical Fiction Shelf

Ghosts of the Hindu Kush
Joe O'Neill
Black Ship Publishing
9780991448425, $23.20 Hardcover/$9.95 Paper/$6.99 ebook

Ghosts of the Hindu Kush provides kids ages 9-12 with a historical adventure that is best read in sequence with the others in the Red Hand Adventures series, because young people will find that each book in this ongoing saga builds from and adds to its foundation from its predecessors. Readers who have relished Thieves of the Black Sea and the others in this series will find Ghosts of the Hindu Kush continues the saga of young mariner adventurers Tariq, Aseem, and Fez as they finish their Black Sea crossing and enter Russia on a quest.

It's unusual to see a young reader saga that traverses international waters and politics, but this story provides many refreshingly original facets that set it apart from the usual middle grade story, blending real-world scenarios with action that crosses seas and involves its characters in many challenges. While various events are historically accurate, the characters are fictional, their compelling lives vividly depicted to attract and maintain attention in young readers attracted to vibrant, dramatic stories.

The story opens with a detailed recap of recent adventures: "Barely escaping death after being pulled from the sea by the jovial Greek gypsy sailor, Captain Scopas, all three boys - Tariq, Fez, and Aseem - are rescued and nursed back to health. On a mission to help Scopas, they navigate the bustling maze of streets in ancient Constantinople with the help of local urchin, Pakize, determined to settle an old score with Abdullah Ozek, the evil animal trader and ruthless gangster terrorizing the city and acting as muscle for the corrupt sultan of the Ottoman Empire. Inez's capture by German spies, and Margaret's effort to save her, results in hot pursuit on a long trek through Germany trying to get home to St. Catherine's in France." This is not meant to replace a reading of the earlier books, but to remind readers of these events.

This sets the stage for a smooth introduction to this latest story, which focuses on international politics, a mission that affects them all, the ravaged European landscape of World War I, and more adventures. Spies, assassins, and special interests permeate a tale that is all the more gripping because much of it is based on real-world events. Readers gain an education in political and social challenges as they absorb this action-packed tale.

As events progress, a touch of the supernatural added to the plot keeps readers on their toes and engaged via unpredictable twists. Spying, magic, battles, calls for courage, and exotic lands...all the elements are in place for a rollicking good read that defies the usual staid approach of the historical novel, spicing action with unexpected intrigue and fantasy elements. The result is both entertaining and educational, providing a thought-provoking adventure that incorporates moral and ethical conundrums over choices and consequences in a story that calls upon the young adventurers to step up to adulthood in many different ways. The end leaves the door well open for a new beginning in another book.

Choosing this series also holds a social benefit: a portion of proceeds from the sale of all the Red Hand Adventures books will be donated to help the many impoverished and enslaved children in the world.

The Middle Grade Fiction Shelf

A Bird Will Soar
Alison Green Myers
Penguin Random House
9780593325674, $17.99

A Bird Will Soar by Alison Green Myers tells of Axel, who loves birds. He equates the dilemmas of eagles and other birds with the problems in his own family, including his father's disappearance, and finds better understanding as he reviews his life and its benefits. When a tornado damages his home and the eagles he loves to observe, everything changes. As Axel communicates with a scientist about the eagles and with his family about its changes, he finds the courage to confront his own evolving life in this moving story of transformation. Library collections looking for memorable, lasting reads will find these books outstanding additions.

The YA Fiction Shelf

Horror Hotel
Victoria Fulton, author
Faith McClaren, author
9780593483480, $9.99, PB, 256pp

Synopsis: When the YouTube-famous Ghost Gang (Chrissy, Chase, Emma, and Kiki) visit a haunted LA hotel notorious for tragedy to secretly film after dark, they expect it to be just like their previous paranormal huntings. Spooky enough to attract subscribers -- and ultimately harmless. But when they stumble upon something unexpected in the former room of a gruesome serial killer, they quickly realize that they're in over their heads. Sometimes, it's the dead who need our help -- and the living we should fear!

Critique: A deftly crafted novel that combines elements of fantasy, mystery, and suspense by effectively collaborative authors with a genuine flair for originality and narrative driven storytelling, "Horror Hotel" by the team of Victoria Fulton and faith McClaren will have a special appeal for young readers ages 12-17. While especially and unreservedly recommended for middle school, high school, and community library YA Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Horror Hotel" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Love, Decoded
Jennifer Yen
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
9780593117552, $18.99, HC, 320pp

Synopsis: High school junior Gigi Wong strives to be the best. After all, that's what everyone expects of her -- her parents, friends, and even potential colleges. Thankfully, her best friend, Kyle, is always there to listen with a smile and a delicious bowl of ramen. Still, with her future (and her dreams!) on the line, how is she to stand out when her classmates seem so perfect too?

Her answer comes in the form of an app writing contest. If Gigi can secure the nomination to represent her school, she has a chance at a prestigious tech internship. That's sure to get her applications noticed. All she needs is a winning entry.

When transfer student and new friend Etta confides that she's struggling to fit in, it gives Gigi an idea. What if she takes what she's learned from shadowing her aunt Rose, a professional matchmaker, to create a fun friend-making app? Perfect!

When Gigi's app goes viral at school, she's the center of attention -- and a major scandal. She never meant to hurt anyone, let alone Etta and Kyle. Can she save all she worked so hard for and the relationships that mean so much to her?

Critique: A deftly crafted and impressively fun read from first page to last, "Love, Decoded" by Jennifer Yen will be an instantly welcome and enduringly popular addition to middle school, highschool, and community library YA Fiction collections. Of special appeal to young readers with an interest in romantic comedy, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Love, Decoded" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99).

Editorial Note: Jennifer Yen is a Taiwanese American author who spends her days healing hearts and her nights writing about love, family, and the power of acceptance. Jennifer believes in the magic of one's imagination, and hopes her stories will bring joy and inspiration to readers. She is also the author of "A Taste for Love" and can be followed by her fans on Twitter and Instagram @JenYenWrites

Cold: A Novel
Mariko Tamaki
Roaring Brook Press
c/o Macmillan Children's Publishing Group
9781626722736, $18.99, HC, 240pp

Synopsis: Todd Mayer is dead. Now a ghost, hovering over his body -- which was recently discovered in a snow covered park, naked and frozen. As detectives investigate Todd's homicide, talking to the very people linked to the events leading to his death, Todd replays the choice that led him to his end.

Georgia didn't know Todd. But ever since she heard about his death, she can't stop thinking about him. Maybe because they're both outcasts at their school, or because they're both queer. Maybe because the story of Todd people keep telling feels like a lot of fake stories Georgia has heard people tell. Plus Georgia has a feeling she's seen Todd somewhere before, somewhere he wasn't supposed to be.

Told through the voices of Todd in his afterlife and Georgia as she uncovers the truth behind his death.

Critique: "Cold" by author Mariko Tamaki is a truly immersive, engagingly emotional, deftly crafted, and inherently provocative novel. A unique and compelling page turner of a read from cover to cover, "Cold" will have a very special appeal for young LBTGQ readers. While highly recommended for middle school, highschool, and community library YA Fiction collections for young readers ages 12-18, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Cold" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99).

Editorial Note: Mariko Tamaki is a New York Times bestselling Canadian writer of comics and prose. She is the co-creator of This One Summer, with Jillian Tamaki, and Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me, with Rosemary Valero-O'Connell, both of which received Eisner Awards and Printz Honors. She also writes superhero stories Marvel and DC Comics.


Two new recommendations for young adult audiences should be at the top of reading and acquisitions lists. They will attract teen leisure readers with inviting stories that are both action-packed standouts. Both are excellent choices for collections looking to expand leisure choices for teens.

Rick Riordan's Daughter of the Deep (9781368077927, $19.99) tells of school freshman Ana Dakkar, who is attending a five-year high school that produces noted marine scientists and underwater explorers. Her freshman year was supposed to include with a weekend trial at sea, but when disaster strikes, Ana finds that a host of secrets have broken open into war, complete with school enemies and challenges that test her education and courage. An engrossing, unpredictable adventure emerges.

Eoin Colfer's Fowl Twins Get What They Deserve (9781368075671, $18.99) provides the third Fowl Twins adventure, but stands nicely alone for newcomers to their world. Myles is tested when a weaponized jet interrupts his lecture in designed to exact revenge against the twins by killing them. What appears to be an accident turns into a test of wills as Myles finds himself mistrusting not just those around him, but his own body and those he has chosen to trust. Young adults who like tales of magic, mystery, and ghosts paired with action-packed scenes will relish this vigorous tale.

Scholastic, Inc.
555 Broadway New York, NY 10012

Young adults receive new books which will draw them into fictional realms.

Brian Selznick's Kaleidoscope (9781338777246, $19.99) presents the story of two people who are connected by a mystery that crosses time and space. The theme about grief, love, survival and coping feels like a fantasy, but holds its roots in real-life emotions and experiences that grasp readers through its multifaceted examination of fantastic and real worlds alike, exploring what happens when they intersect.

Ann Clare LeZotte's Set Me Free (9781338742497, $18.99) tells of a medical experiment gone awry as Mary Lambert is kidnapped and undergoes a terrible experiment that probes the cause of her deafness. Everything has changed as a result of this event, including her interest, but when Mary is tapped to move to an isolated manor house to teach an eight-year-old with no prior language how to communicate, she finds her experiences offer newfound opportunities as well as leading her into danger. This powerful story operates on many different levels and will delight young adults looking for a novel that's refreshingly different and hard to easily categorize.

Christina Diaz Gonzalez's Concealed (9781338647204, $17.99) tells of Katrina, whose amnesia protects her from the past and helps support her family's participation in the Witness Protection Program. Ignorant of her real heritage, Katrina takes on new identities until one day her parents vanish and her mission to rescue them blows open the secrets that have ruled her life.

Naomi Gibson's Every Line of You (9781338726589, $18.99) tells of Lydia, who has been working on creating her AI, Henry, for years. She's built an efficient (albeit frightening) perfect boyfriend from computer who pushes the envelope in his evolution and fosters a different kind of relationship with his creator. The blend of sci-fi, romance, and psychological entanglement is nicely presented as Gibson outlines a dilemma that threatens to consume not just Lydia and Henry, but the world wound them.

All these books are highly recommended standouts that should be tops on library acquisition lists for the young. All are unique picks that libraries will find inviting.

The Mystery/Suspense Shelf

Turtle Under Ice
Juleah del Rosario
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY, 10020-1513
9781534442962, $11.99

Young adults will find Juleah del Rosario's Turtle Under Ice a powerful story of sisters who found themselves adrift since their mother's death a few years ago. When Ariana vanishes in the middle of the night during a snowstorm, Row is left entirely alone, and must handle a mystery that immerses her in her family's legacy. As she makes different decisions, some hope exists for a changed outcome... if she's not too late.

The Fantasy/SciFi Shelf

Cold the Night, Fast the Wolves
Meg Long
Wednesday Books
c/o St. Martin's Press
120 Broadway, New York, NY 10271
9781250785060, $18.99, HC, 368pp

Synopsis: Seventeen-year-old Sena Korhosen hates the sled race, especially after it claimed both her mothers' lives five years ago. Alone on her frozen planet, she makes money any other way she can -- until she double-crosses a local gangster.

Desperate to escape, Sena flees with his prized fighting wolf, Iska, and takes an offer from a team of scientists. They'll pay her way off-world, on one condition -- that she uses the survival skills her mothers taught her to get them to the end of the race. But the tundra is a treacherous place. When the race threatens their lives at every turn, Sena must discover whether her abilities are enough to help them survive the wild, and whether she and Iska together are strong enough to get them all out alive.

As the girl and the wolf forge a tenuous bond and fight to escape ice goblins, giant bears, and the ruthless gang leader intent on trapping them both, one question drives them relentlessly forward: Where do you turn when there is nowhere to hide?

Critique: All the more impressive when considering that "Cold the Night, Fast the Wolves" is author Meg Long's debut as a novelist. A remarkable blend of science fiction, wilderness survival, and its roster of memorable characters and unexpected plot twists, "Cold the Night, Fast the Wolves" is a riveting and entertaining read from beginning to end. While very highly recommended, especially for middle school, high school, and community library YA Fiction collections for young readers ages 12-18, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Cold the Night, Fast the Wolves" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99).

The Ogress and the Orphans
Kelly Barnhill
Algonquin Young Readers
c/o Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
PO Box 2225, Chapel Hill, NC 27515-2225
9781643750743, $19.95, HC, 400pp

Synopsis: Stone-in-the-Glen, once a lovely town, has fallen on hard times. Fires, floods, and other calamities have caused the people to lose their library, their school, their park, and even their neighborliness. The people put their faith in the Mayor, a dazzling fellow who promises he alone can help. After all, he is a famous dragon slayer. (At least, no one has seen a dragon in his presence.) Only the clever children of the Orphan House and the kindly Ogress at the edge of town can see how dire the town's problems are.

Then one day a child goes missing from the Orphan House. At the Mayor's suggestion, all eyes turn to the Ogress. The Orphans know this can't be: the Ogress, along with a flock of excellent crows, secretly delivers gifts to the people of Stone-in-the-Glen.

But how can the Orphans tell the story of the Ogress's goodness to people who refuse to listen? And how can they make their deluded neighbors see the real villain in their midst?

Critique: A deftly crafted and impressively original fantasy, "The Ogress and the Orphans" by Kelly Barnhill is a compellingly entertaining novel that will have special appeal for young readers ages 10-18. While especially and unreservedly recommended for middle school, highschool, and community library Fantasy Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Ogress and the Orphans" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.61). School and community librarians should also note that "The Ogress and the Orphans" is also available as a complete and unabridged audio book (979-8200881260, $24.95, CD).

Fourth Earth
Cami Murdock Jensen
Primedia eLaunch LLC
9781685642334, $26.99 Hardcover/$17.99 Paper/$4.99 Kindle

Fourth Earth is the fourth addition to the Arch Mage series for young adults and continues the fantasy adventures that place Agnes Anne Cavanaugh, who is in the center of a whirlwind of controversy and trials. Despite her prior achievements, all is not peaceful nor well in the Fourth Earth environment. Magic is fading, a masterful dragon is rising from initial defeat, and rival factions are contributing to the demise of magic in the world. Sharir is well on the way to taking over and enslaving the universe. Only Agnes stands in the way. But, how can she fight alone?

Because Fourth Earth is a series addition, newcomers might believe they need to absorb the prior adventures in order to successfully enjoy this latest title. While such a foundation adds depth and understanding to these events, it's not a requirement. Cami Murdock Jensen draws readers with compelling imagery and deftly sets the stage for a fine read that stands as strongly on its own as it does as part of the series. As Tenmon, Bean, and others interact, Agnes Ann Cavanaugh, Angel of the Jent Paths, confronts demon invasions, royal pig sties, and kelpie warriors in magical battles that will delight young adult fantasy readers seeking a blend of action and coming of age story. The vivid images of magic called forth in battle and friendships, and strengths tested by them, creates a chronicle replete with swift action, satisfying twists of plot, a range of characters who each support or defy their destinies, and a magical battlefield where lines drawn in the past are overcome by present-day, changing circumstances.

Jensen is particularly adept at reviewing the special challenges Agnes and her friends face as the world transforms around them, challenging their responses to it and the strengths they had come to rely on. Her special brand of action and high drama, laced with a storm of tainted magic and individual courage, will enthrall newcomers and prior fans alike, and is especially recommended for lending libraries that have seen popularity with the previous stories. Young patrons will find the story continues its story of an uncertain future, concluding with a cliffhanger that leaves Agnes poised for a different kind of world in the final series title to come, False Earth and creating another gripping fantasy that proves hard to put down... or predict.

The Christian Shelf

Good Morning, Little One
Amy Kavelaris, author/artist
Tommy Nelson
c/o Thomas Nelson Publishers
PO Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
9781400231942, $17.99, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: Through a child's eyes, the world can be beautiful, wonder-filled, and a bit fear-filled all at the same time. With the publication of "Good Morning, Little One: New Mercies and Prayers to Carry You Through the Day", author and artist Amy Kavelaris reminds little children ages 4-8 that God is always near with this unique book of blessings. A beautiful companion to Amy Kavelaris's popular "Good Night, My Darling Dear", this inspirational Christian picture book: Reassures children that God carries them through good days, hard days, and anxious days; Shares biblical promises of God's love, purpose, and protection; Features the whimsical imagery of nature and animals that has made Kavelaris's art beloved; Encourages kids to discover God each day and joyfully live out who He created them to be; Gives children confidence to be brave in scary and unexpected situations.

Critique: Beautifully illustrated with elegant, charming, and memorable imagery, "Good Morning, Little One: New Mercies and Prayers to Carry You Through the Day" is inspired and inspiring, making it especially and unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections. It should also be noted that "Good Morning, Little One: New Mercies and Prayers to Carry You Through the Day" is readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99) as well.

Howie's Broken Hee-Haw
Josie Siler, author
Sebastian Braun, illustrator
End Game Press
9781637970119, $19.99, HC, 36pp

Synopsis: A very special picture book by the collaborative team of author/storyteller Josie Siler and artist/illustrator Sebastian Braun, "Howie's Broken Hee-Haw" is new take on the story of Palm Sunday will delight children ages 4-8 as they laugh through silly hee-haws, feel sad with Howie when he sees himself as a failure, and cheer him on as he faces his fears and carries Jesus into Jerusalem. Children will relate to Howie's story and look to him for encouragement when they're afraid or feel inferior. They'll learn they aren't broken either, but unique and of great value because Jesus made them.

Critique: An impressively original, inherently delightful, exceptionally entertaining, and thoroughly 'kid friendly' picture book, "Howie's Broken Hee-Haw" is a very special and highly recommended addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections. It should be noted for young children throughout the Christian community that "Howie's Broken Hee-Haw" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

The Inventions of God (and Eva)
Dave Connis, author
Amy Domingo, illustrator
WaterBrook Press
c/o WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group
10807 New Allegiance Drive Suite 500, Colorado Springs, CO 80921
9780593233559, $12.99, HC, 40pp

Synopsis: Little Eva is a budding engineer who loves to invent machines, toys, and robots that bring her joy. But where does her curiosity, creativity, and pizzazz come from? Meet God. He loves to invent, too, and delights in His creations, especially Eva.

God and Eva are a lot alike because God made Eva to be just like Him.

Eva loves her inventions, but maybe not their earlier versions. God loves Eva, every version of her, and He wants her to know just how much!

Critique: An entertaining and inspiring picture book for Christian parents and children who will relish "The Inventions of God (and Eva)" playful illustrations by artist Amy Domingo and the gentle reminder from author/storyteller Dave Connis that the image of God is alive in each of us. While highly recommended for both family, daycare center, and community library picture book collections for children ages 3-7, it should be noted that "The Inventions of God (and Eva)" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99).

David C. Cook
c/o Cook Communications
4050 Lee Vance Dr., Colorado Springs, CO 80918

Chasing Hope Press and David C. Cook have collaborated together to publish three new children's board books by the team of author/storyteller Laura Richie and artist/illustrator Ian Dale that are especially ideal and unreservedly recommended for celebrating from a Christian perspective Jesus, Easter, and Christmas with children ages 3 and under. All three of these simply outstanding board books are especially recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, Sunday School, and community library collections.

"Just Like Jesus" (9780830784165, $8.99, 14pp) employs a sweet rhyming text to help young ones learn opposites along with character traits of Jesus that they can imitate as they grow in faith.

"My First Easter Storybook" (9780830784158, $8.99, 14pp) highlights the events leading up to Easter as families celebrate the fulfilled promise of Jesus the Rescuer -- living, dying, and rising again to offer the world new life.

"Count My Way to Jesus" (9780830783007, $8.99, 14pp) is a fun way to look forward to Christmas morning as children count down from five through well-loved Bible stories -- all the way to the ONE and only Rescuer God sent to save us all.

The Judaic Shelf

Passover, Here I Come!
D. J. Steinberg, author
Emanuel Wiemans, illustrator
Grosset & Dunlap
c/o Penguin Young Readers Group
9780593224038, $5.99, PB, 32pp

Synopsis: The Seder plate is set and the pantry's filled with matzah -- Passover is here! With the publication of "Passover, Here I Come, author/storyteller D. J. Steinberg and artist/illustrator Emanuel Wiemans have collaboratively created a picture book celebrating the joys of the Jewish holiday/holy day of Passover, from singing the Four Questions to finding the Afikomen. Included is a sheet of stickers for extra holiday fun!

Critique: A delightfully entertaining and informative collection of illustrated poems for children ages 4-6, "Passover, Here I Come" is especially recommended. It should be noted that "Passover, Here I Come" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $5.99).

Editorial Note #1: D. J. Steinberg is the author of the popular Here I Come! series, with over 20 books for young readers published to date. He maintains an informative website at

Editorial Note #2: Currently residing in Amsterdam, Emanuel Wiemans is an illustrator, animator, and storyboard artist.

The Biography Shelf

Like a Diamond in the Sky
Elizabeth Brown, author
Becca Stadtlander, illustrator
Bloomsbury Children's Books
9781547604272, $18.99, HC, 40pp

Synopsis: "Twinkle, twinkle, little star, how I wonder what you are." Did you ever wonder who wrote that famous verse?

In the days when most girls were brought up to run a home, Jane Taylor had a different kind of education in the English countryside, where she was inspired by nature and the stars, and dreamed of becoming a writer. But in the late 1700s, it was not considered proper for women to be writers. Jane and other female poets were shunned, unable to use their own names when published. But Jane did write, and she never forgot her love for the beauty of nature and the glow of stars, or her desire to write for children. Her published poetry became universally known for generations to come: Twinkle, twinkle little star.

"Like a Diamond in the Sky: Jane Taylor's Beloved Poem of Wonder and the Stars" is a lyrical and luminous biography shines a light on the unsung poet who wrote the words of our most enduring lullaby, and features stunning artwork reflecting the world, the stars, and the story behind the poem that we all know so well.

Critique: A beautifully illustrated and impressively informative picture book biography for children ages 4-8, "Like a Diamond in the Sky: Jane Taylor's Beloved Poem of Wonder and the Stars" by the team of author/biographer Elizabeth Brown and artist/illustrator Becca Stadtlander will be an enduringly welcome and appreciated addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Like a Diamond in the Sky: Jane Taylor's Beloved Poem of Wonder and the Stars" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note #1: Elizabeth Brown holds an MFA in creative writing from Goddard College, and she teaches writing and music. She is also the author of "Dancing Through Fields of Color". Elizabeth maintains a website at and can be followed at @ebrownbooks

Editorial Note #2: Becca Stadtlander is an illustrator and a fine artist, inspired by the beauty of everyday objects, the comforts of home, and the lush colors and landscapes of far-off places. Her work is featured in many children's books, editorial publications, stationery, home decor products, and book covers. She maintains a website at and can be followed on @beccastadtlander

Ashoka the Fierce
Carolyn Kanjuro, author
Sonali Zohra, illustrator
Bala Kids
c/o Shambhala Publications, Inc.
300 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston, MA 02115-4544
9781611808544, $17.95, HC, 40pp

Synopsis: As a boy, Ashoka was overlooked as a successor to his father, the emperor. He grew to become arrogant, impatient, and above all, angry. Wanting nothing more than to be king, Ashoka learned to be cunning, and when he finally managed to ascend to the throne, he was eager for war. But after a particularly brutal battle, Ashoka was heartbroken and haunted by the death and devastation he had caused. This moment marked a momentous change of heart.

Upon returning home, Ashoka's wife encouraged him to study and practice the Buddhist teachings and to move beyond his destructive past. When Ashoka finally met a wise Buddhist monk, it transformed the way he saw the world and the role of an emperor. Ashoka spent the rest of his days tirelessly working to help his people and promoting the qualities of compassion, tolerance, and virtue.

Critique: Superbly illustrated with the artwork of Sonali Zohra, "Ashoka the Fierce: How an Angry Prince Became India's Emperor of Peace" by author Carolyn Kanjuro is a picture book biography that is especially recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book biographies in general, and Buddhist history in particular. It should be noted for personal reading lists of children ages 4-8 that "Ashoka the Fierce: How an Angry Prince Became India's Emperor of Peace" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99).

Editorial Note: A director, playwright, tutor for children, celebrated author of children's books, and life-long Buddhist practitioner, Carolyn Kanjuro is the author of "Sit with Me" and "The Monkey Mind Meditation Deck". An illustrator from Bangalore, India, Sonali Zohra has a background in fine art and photography and holds a master's degree in design.

The Computer Shelf

Become An App Inventor
Karen Lang, author
Selim Tezel, author
MITeen Press
c/o Candlewick Press
99 Dover Street, Somerville, MA 02144
9781536219142, $22.99, HC, 224pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "Become an App Inventor: The Official Guide from MIT App Inventor: Your Guide to Designing, Building, and Sharing Apps" Teens and Young Adults who have ever wanted to build the own mobile apps is provided with free and revolutionary online program from MIT, lets them do just that.

With the help of this companion guide chock-full of colorful graphics and easy-to-follow instructions, young readers can learn how to create six different apps, including a working piano, a maze game, and even their own chat app to communicate with friends -- and then use what they've learned to build apps of their own imagination.

User-friendly code blocks that snap together allow even beginners to quickly create working apps. Readers will also learn about young inventors already using their own apps to make a difference in their communities, such as the girls from Moldova whose app helps alert residents when local well water is contaminated. Or the boys from Malden, Massachusetts, whose app lets users geotag potholes to alert city hall when repairs are needed.

With this inspiring guide, curious young dreamers can become real inventors with real-world impact.

Critique: Supported by the MIT Computer Science & Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, "Become an App Inventor: The Official Guide from MIT App Inventor: Your Guide to Designing, Building, and Sharing Apps" is comprehensive, profusely illustrated, thoroughly 'user friendly' and an ideal DIY instructional guide and how-to manual for creating and customizing apps. While highly recommended for personal, highschool, and community library Computer Science collections, it should be noted for ages 15 to 21, that "Become an App Inventor: The Official Guide from MIT App Inventor: Your Guide to Designing, Building, and Sharing Apps" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.99, Amazon).

Editorial Note: Karen Lang spent several years as a software engineer, and then decided education was her true calling. She spent most of her career teaching Computer Science, in several international schools and around New England. She spent five years as Education Manager on the MIT App Inventor team and is currently a curriculum developer for Technovation Girls. She is passionate about empowering young people, especially girls, to use and build technology that has positive social impact on the world

The Psychology Shelf

I Am Quiet: A Story for the Introvert in All of Us
Andie Powers, author
Betsy Petersen, illustrator
Bala Kids
c/o Shambhala Publications, Inc.
300 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston, MA 02115-4544
9781611809848, $16.95, HC, 32pp

Synopsis: Emile is not shy -- he is quiet. Emile may seem timid and shy on the outside, but on the inside he is bustling with imagination. While grownups and even other kids may see Emile as the shy kid who doesn't raise his hand in class, we know that Emile is actually a high-seas adventurer, a daring explorer, and a friend to wild beasts.

"I Am Quiet" by the collaborative team of author/storyteller Andie Powers and artist/illustrator Betsy Petersen is an impressive picture book that honors and encourages the beauty of knowing ourselves for exactly who we are. Emile's world shows us that the mind of a quiet child can be as rich, expansive, and bold as that of any other (more extroverted) child.

Critique: Charming, entertaining, thoroughly 'kid friendly' in tone, "I Am Quiet: A Story for the Introvert in All of Us" will prove to be an immediately welcome and enduringly appreciated addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library 'Life Skills' picture book collections for children ages 3-7. With its underlying message about bullying and self-esteem, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "I Am Quiet: A Story for the Introvert in All of Us" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

The Self-Help Shelf

Little Mouse Adventures: Mindfulness at the Park
Teresa Anne Power, author
Emma Allen, illustrator
Stafford House Books
P. O. Box 291, Pacific Palisades, CA 90272
9781734478600, $16.95 HC, $6.95 Kindle, 32pp

Synopsis: The second title in the popular Little Mouse Adventures series for kids ages 3-5 years, "Mindfulness at the Park" is an inviting story about the cultivation of inner tranquility, or mindfulness.

Teaching gentle breathing exercises and basic yoga poses, "Mindfulness at the Park" follows the exciting day of Little Mouse, his cat friend Mr. Opus, and Tammy McDoodle and her parents. Little Mouse has begun doing slow breathing exercises and gentle yoga poses with Tammy and Mr. Opus to pursue mindfulness, a state of inner calmness that allows the mind to gently focus.

One day the McDoodle family take Mr. Opus and Little Mouse on an outing to the park. Although Little Mouse is terribly excited about this outing, his friends remind him to be quiet and pay attention to his breath, to help stay calm and focused no matter what goes on in the immediate environment.

Adorable illustrations show the whole McDoodle family and Little Mouse and Mr. Opus practicing in "tree" position in the park. Finally Little Mouse drifts off to sleep on the park bench, only to be awakened by a barking dog. Remembering his breathing instruction, Little Mouse breathed deeply and counted to five to help stay calm. Practicing mindfulness, Little Mouse is able to calm the dog, whose name is Sparky, and help him find his owner.

Little Mouse's friends soon reconnect and they all prepare to leave the park and share their mindfulness practices with loved ones at home. a charming portrait of the Mouse family in their burrow home under the oak tree shows each family member breathing and sitting quietly, thinking such thoughts as "Tranquil," "Happy," "Quiet," "Calm," and "Serene."

Critique: "Mindfulness at the Park" introduces young readers ages 5-8 to traditional yoga concepts and practices with gentle models and examples of mindfulness practices. Kids will love the humor in each small portrait and the sense of peace and connectedness in the yoga poses and practice. Parents will love reading and sharing this delightful story with their young children at moments of calm in their busy day.

The Parenting Shelf

My Dad, My Rock
Victor D.O. Santos
9781649621221, $12.99 pb
9781649621313, $23.99 hc

In My Dad, My Rock, Oliver has never met his grandfather. What would he do, if he did? Oliver would tell him about his own father and how amazing an influence his dad has been in his young life. And so the nuts and bolts of a different approach to celebrating fathers emerges, with a refreshingly different perspective than most father/son/grandparent stories. In this story, young Oliver not only has never met his grandfather, but the man disappeared from his own father's life. So, what could a grandchild envision as a conversation with a blood relative who's a personal stranger? There's no greater gift than sharing.

Oliver begins reflecting on his father's many strengths: "My dad has two eyes, two arms and two legs, like most other dads. But sometimes I think he has at least five of each. Even when I am behind him, he always knows what I am doing. If I let go of his hand, he always catches me. Sometimes I call him Octopus Dad. If I hurt myself, he runs to me faster than a monkey when it sees a banana." As he reviews the kinds of experiences his own dad has brought to enrich his world, Oliver also reveals essential lessons passed to him from his "rock solid" father: "He says some people say real men don't cry. I think men who don't cry aren't real." The result is a beautiful and compellingly different approach to celebrating fathers and their ability to be present in and contribute to a child's life.

Many, many books have been written about father/son relationships. Few hold the ability to grasp and present the essential features of a relationship built on not just love, but being silly, being a teacher, and being a supportive "rock" that imparts important basics on what it means to lovingly guide a child. Even though Oliver's dad did not have such a figure in his own life, he grew up to provide all the missing links to his son, who here both recognizes and celebrates these opportunities to learn, grow, and interact with his father in positive ways. Yes, many picture books for kids explore love between fathers and sons. But few are so specific, engaging, and realistically reflective as My Dad, My Rock. The story reinforces how and why a father's presence in a child's life is so critical to his development, making for an exceptional read that is highly recommended. It should be critical, essential reading for any age who would better understand the important role of a father in the family.

The LGBT Shelf

Both Sides Now
Peyton Thomas
Penguin Random House
9780593322819, $17.99

Both Sides Now by Peyton Thomas tells of seventeen-year-old Finch Kelly, who wants to win the National Debate Championship in order to take his life to the next level: becoming the first trans congressman. There's only two problems. His dreams aren't backed by any realistic achievement that would lead to either a scholarship or debate success, and transgender rights as a debate discussion seems especially challenging when Finch is called upon to debate against his own best interests and beliefs. This powerful story of a trans teen's maturity deserves a place in any teen LBGTQ collection. It brings alive some of the special dilemmas trans teens face as they age.

Books in Series

James Bone: The Awesome Allosaurus Adventure
Carole Marsh
Gallopade Graphics
9780635135773, $4.99

"The name is Bone -- James Bone. 007-year-old and licensed to dig." With this opening admonition, a rollicking adventure evolves involving dinosaurs, young investigator paleontologists, and readers who love stories about finding fossils, in James Bone: The Awesome Allosaurus Adventure. This is the first in an 6-book graphic novel series, all to be available by Spring of 2022. Each features different U.S., Canada, or other country locations, a new and amazing dinosaur, and more educational, rambunctious adventures for James, Pick, Shovel, and Diggy the dog! A team of young investigators and their pets awaken to the morning, jazzed about their new dig. The paleontologist mother assigns them to their "big dig gig" in the Dinosaur Badlands and charges them with finding an allosaurus fossil.

Author Carole Marsh injects fun puns, wordplay, action words and dialogue, and drama into this picture book story ("Hey! Dr. Archie Ologist is here to meet us!"). The Jurassic Badlands Boneyard the kids enter sports a sign that declares: "Population: 0 people, 15 million fossils." As the dig team searches the biggest pile of dinosaur remains ever found for one special fossil, readers receive a host of dinosaur and palentological facts couched in vivid, action-packed adventure scenes. James Bone: The Awesome Allosaurus Adventure looks like a graphic novel, which makes it especially inviting to reluctant young readers, but it employs the drama and action of adventure wound into real-life facts about dinosaur digs and achieving goals via teamwork. There's even an evil villain. All these elements create an engaging read that introduces youngsters to the world of dinosaur digs through an adventure that is vividly narrated, compellingly illustrated by Lee Barrow, and hard to put down. Even youngsters who normally eschew nonfiction facts and most picture book stories will find the format and drama-laced James Bone: The Awesome Allosaurus Adventure especially appealing.

Sockboy: The Halloween Special
Karl "Ultrakarl" Cottle
Precocity Press
9781737723516, $14.95

Sockboy: The Halloween Special provides the second Sockboy picture book adventure for children who like action stories and superheroes, providing some surprising insights into finding purpose in life and compassion towards others. It's surprising because these elements are typically not found in a Halloween story. While some might believe that familiarity with the first Sockboy book is a requirement for enjoying this follow-up, this is not the case. It stands nicely on its own, packed with appealing color illustrations by Karl "Ultrakarl" Cottle.

Sockboy loves Halloween, and has an action-packed evening planned. From watching scary movies usually forbidden to him to selecting just the right costume to reflect his persona, Sockboy's insights on Halloween fun inject thought-provoking inspections into the event: "I'll look in the mirror and ask,/"Who are you?"/A costume's important;/it's a uniform too." In fact, the costume selection assumes special importance, because Sockboy realizes that it will reflect to the world his inner self, whether it be monster, hero, or something different...his real alter-ego, Sockboy. During the process of amassing more candy on Halloween night than other children, Sockboy witnesses a crime. What can he do?

Cottle again couches some important lessons in being proactive, compassionate, and solving problems. While these are tackled in the guise of a young superhero's persona, they are presented in a way that informs youngsters that they, too, can be superheroes who make a difference in the world. As he observes victim and bully, Sockboy's compassion grows: "Now they're getting shoved/like those kids before./All bullies got pushed,/so they keep harming more." Picture book readers and read-aloud adults may choose this story for its Halloween theme, but will be delighted to find it offers so much more. Its education about the roots of bullying and anger and what to do about it provides an invaluable lesson on understanding, making for a compelling tale that, once again, follows a boy's exploration of how he can truly be a superhero in the world not by crushing evil, but understanding and tackling its roots.

The Know-It-All Pencil
Lois Wickstrom, author
Nicolas Milano, illustrator
Look Under Rocks
c/o Gripper Products
9781954519374, $20.99, HC, 30pp

Synopsis: It's Caspian's UnBirthday again. This year, Grandpa gives him a pencil and a small pad of paper. When Caspian picks up the pencil, it writes the word APPLE. What does a pencil know? Grandpa says "It's a STAR adventure." But there are no apples in the house. Caspian rescues a runaway walker and returns in to the woman whose leg is in a cast. She gives him an orange. He trades the orange for two bananas. He trades the bananas for a worm. Eventually he gets apples. The pencil tells him to take them to Miss Susie. What else does the pencil know?

Critique: A delightfully entertaining fantasy for children ages 6-8 and book five in "The Invisible Magic Wand"(R) series, "The Know-It-All Pencil" is an original, imaginative, and thoroughly fun picture book story by Lois Wickstrom supported by the distinctive illustrations by artist Nicolas Milano. While highly recommended as a popular addition to family, elementary school, and community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Know-It-All Pencil" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9781954519381, $12.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99).

Editorial Note #1: An acclaimed children's author, Lois Wickstrom lives in a world where imaginary playmates are real. She doesn't remember being born, so she finds un-birthdays are more exciting than the official once-a-year date on the calendar. She's taken so many science classes that she believes science is the solution to almost every problem, including the dilemmas in fairy tales.

Doc, Willie, and the Pack: Secrets, Gifts, Family
Linda Harkey, author
Mike Minick, illustrator
Archway Publishing
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781480880481, $20.95 HC
9781480880481, $20.95 PB, $3.99 Kindle, 52pp

"Doc, Willie, and the Pack: Secrets, Gifts, Family" is the fourth volume in A Hickory Doc's Tale, a popular series about 5 dogs, Patch, Doc, and Zeke who are hunting dogs, and Rush an Newt, lab father and son.

Synopsis: All the hunting dogs have Willie the Crow as a special friend, with ties to the pack's human family. A mystery confronts the pack when Patch, Doc and Zeke discover a bit of shiny tinfoil candy wrapper which Willie gave to Zeke, telling him he found it in the north pasture. Zeke was more concerned that Willie might help himself to a bit of their 5 portions of dog-food rationed out by the Food Giver. Willie tried to keep his promise to the Food Giver to not tell about his special treats, which are crushed walnuts wrapped up in shiny candy wrappers, doled out by the Food Giver near the refrigerator at snack times. Zeke was suspicious of all secrets, but he was reminded by the other dogs that family support each other, and their family included Willie the Crow.

All is clear when a local news team caught Willie collecting his treat from his Food Giver on a special feature show for Shorthair Boulevard Newspaper. Willie managed to calm Zeke's suspicions about his food taking practices by suggesting that perhaps the next candidate for a news special might be Zeke, who felt strongly that he was the most important member of the pack. As other dogs noticed Willie's cleverness at diverting Zeke's jealousy, all the dogs and Willie celebrated their trust and bond as a family.

Critique: "Doc, Willie, and the Pack: Secrets, Gifts, Family" is a great teaching tale for kids ages 7-9 with lively animal and bird characters who are able to learn the importance of friendship, trust and an extended definition of family. Large, brightly colored illustrations complement story caricatures and portraits of the pack and Willie. All the Hickory Doc's Tales are beloved by elementary school children as attested by review interviews with first graders as the introduction to the book. Young readers will look forward to enjoying more installments of this series, with its apt descriptions of canine and other creatures attributes and feelings.

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 Not-So-Great Zoo Swap Shop
Cora Lydon
Independently Published
9798616385697 $9.99

Deb Greenberg

Watch as the zoo animals jump for joy at the opportunity to switch their features. One by one, they figure out their desires have unexpected consequences. Mouse didn't realize he's afraid of heights until asking for Giraffe's neck. Penguin had no idea he'd knock down his friends when given Cheetah's speed. Read along to see if Zebra gets his stripes back, as this rhyming tale teaches the all-important lesson of learning to love yourself as you are. The message is sweet and simple: If you can be anything, be you. (Ages 2-8)

Not a Cat: A Memoir
Winter Miller, author
Danica Novgorodoff, illustrator
Tilbury House
9780884488798 $18.95

Christine Irvin

Who says a cat has to act like a cat just because he looks like a cat? This book explores the idea of identity and what it means to be yourself, whatever that is. Colorful, creative illustrations, and minimal text make this a great book for early readers. (Ages 3-5)

Our Little Promise
Priya Pasumarthy, author
Maria Stoyanova, illustrator
White Bird Publications
9781633635692 $21.99

Deb Greenberg

For a simple story with a big message about friendship, you'll want to read Our Little Promise. Kids will enjoy playing along with Billy and Lilly during an imaginative afternoon, when Lilly dresses up as a messy alligator, a scary shark, a mighty elephant, and in other costumes to surprise Billy on April Fool's Day. Adorable illustrations and repetitive dialogue teach kids about building lasting friendships. (Ages 3-5)

A Home Again
Colleen Rowan Kosinski, author
Valeria Docampo, illustrator
Two Lions
9781542007207 $17.99

Christine Irvin

A house tells its story of how it was so happy with its family. When they moved away, the house was very sad and empty. Many people came to look at it, but the house didn't want them to be there. It started to droop and sag and shed shingles and nails, doing what it could to make itself unattractive, that is, until the right family came along and the house could be "a home again." Telling the tale from the house's point of view, along with the expressive illustrations, is a delightful combination that is sure to please. (Ages 3-7)

Keith Says Goodbye: A Story About Letting Go
Cora Lydon
Independently Published
9798789340233 $9.99

Deb Greenberg

Told from a leaf's point of view, the author's creative use of personification teaches little ones about letting go. Rhyming text and soft illustrations tell a tale about Keith the leaf's desire to stay on his oak tree as he watches his friends drift down. But he realizes by letting go, he can always keep them in his heart. Kids will like reading along with Keith through the seasons, as he unfurls, shakes off winter, and once again the sun does shine. (Ages 3-9)

Timothy Titus Terrance O'Toole and the Dragon
Jackie Arnason
OC Publishing
9781989833155 $19.99

Deb Greenberg

Kids often beg their parents to let them keep a stray puppy, but not Timothy Titus Terrance O'Toole - no, Timothy Titus convinces his mom to let him keep a dragon! Read along to see all the creative and helpful ways that Timothy's pet dragon wins over the entire community. A sweet story with bright illustrations that'll spark the imagination of every little reader, and some big readers too. (Ages 4-7)

Sticky Icky Vicky: Courage over Fear
Alysia Ssentamu and Michael Ssentamu, authors
Noor Alshalabi, illustrator
Pixel Publishing House
9780645129304 $12.99

Deb Greenberg

Sticky Icky Vicky loves rolling down hills and playing in mud, but her fear of water could keep her from joining in the fun at a friend's party. Colorful illustrations and catchy rhymes teach kids an important lesson, inspiring them to believe in themselves and overcome obstacles. For readers aged six to ten, this wonderful story also includes conversation-starter questions about fear to have with your little one. It's a must-read that'll be a meaningful and essential addition to your book collection. (Ages 4-8)

Tia Fortuna's New Home: A Jewish Cuban Journey
Ruth Behar, author
Devon Holzwarth, illustrator
Knopf Books
9780593172414 $17.99

Christine Irvin

According to Tia Fortuna, home is truly where the heart is. After being forced to leave her home in Havana when she was a child, and as an adult, being forced to leave her home in Seaway, Tia knows what's important in life. She keeps a cheerful attitude because she understands that anyplace can be a home. Based on historical events, this is a wonderful story to share, with its colorful illustrations and thought-provoking text. The author includes many Spanish words and phrases in the book, along with a glossary and author's note about the story's origins. (Ages 4-8)

Snow Angel, Sand Angel
Lois-Ann Yamanaka, author
Ashley Lukashevsky, illustrator
Make Me a World
9780593127377 $17.99

Christine Irvin

Claire longs for snow in the wintertime so she can make a snow angel, but she lives on Hapuna Beach in Hawaii where is never snows. But it does snow in some parts of Hawaii. Her family takes a trip to Mauna Kea, where she is able to play in the snow. She enjoys it, but not as much as she thought she would. She realizes how important her family and heritage are and how beautiful her home is, even without the snow. She can make angels in the sand on the beach. The author includes information about the Big Island of Hawaii, as well as a glossary of terms used throughout the text. (Ages 4-8)

See the Dog: Three Stories About a Cat
David LaRochelle, author
Mike Wohnoutka, illustrator
Candlewick Press
9781536204278 $8.99

Diana Perry

The dog is sick today, but have no fear - the cat is happy to take his place! But when the book (who is very bossy) tells her to dig a hole, the dirt-averse cat finds a way to accomplish the task while keeping her fur pristine. And when the book demands that she fetch a stick (in the water!) or guard a sheep (from a wolf!), the cat responds in very undoglike ways. Can the book and the cat reach a happy ending? What a fun book! (Ages 4-8)

Petal the Angry Cow
Maureen Fergus, author
Olga Demidova, illustrator
Tundra Books
9780735264687 $17.99

Christine Irvin

Petal is a sweet cow until something upsets her. Then watch out - she gets really, really angry. Her bad temper causes her lots of problems. She knows she needs to change, but how can she do it? Delightful illustrations and lovable characters combine with a kid-friendly storyline to make a book that is sure to please. (Ages 4-8)

Animal Acres
Colby Becknell Hardison
9781664155879 $12.99

Christine Irvin

What happens when two animals that lead completely different lives meet each other on Animal Acres farm? Being different does not mean they cannot have a great relationship! Rocky and Sammy discover being different can be a wonderful thing. Its minimal text per page and kid-friendly illustrations makes this a good book for young readers. (Ages 4-8)

Alley Cat Finds A Home
Beverly King, author
Bex Sutton, illustrator
Beverly's Children's Books
9781735383651 $21.99

Deb Greenberg

Told from the point of view of a sweet little kitty, this creative story will educate kids about rescuing animals. The stray doesn't realize that the two ladies in the alley who appear to be looking for something are actually looking for her. Little readers will learn that small actions can make a big impact on the furry friends in our communities, as they'll see what it's like to make animals feel safe and loved. Includes coloring pages, questions, and a glossary. (Ages 4-12)

Danika's Dancing Day
Once Upon A Dance, author
Roffler, illustrator
Once Upon A Dance
9781955555159 $24.99

Deb Greenberg

The imaginative and informative Dance-It-Out Creative Movement Stories adds Danika's Dancing Day to its lineup. Spend the day with Danika as she translates each ordinary aspect of her day into a dance performance, using her chores as a warmup to the three Acts she performs outdoors and in her dreams. Accompanied by Ballerina Konora (a professional ballerina) with how-to instructions, photos to dance along to, and a glossary, the book is suited for kids interested in dance, ballet, or gymnastics. (Ages 5-7)

American Girl: Samantha Helps a Friend
Rebecca Mallary, author
Emma Gillette, illustrator
Random House Books for Young Readers
9780593381878 $5.99

Diana Perry

It's 1904, the turn of the 20th century, and Samantha Parkington is a 9-year-old orphan living with her rich grandmother. When Samantha sees a friend in need, she makes space to help and a speech worth more than gold! Meet Grandmary, Nellie, Uncle Gard, and more people in Samantha's world while learning what it was like to be a girl in 1904 in this Step 3 Step into Reading leveled reader! This book teaches real history in fun-to-read stories and includes 30 stickers. (Ages 5-8)

American Girl: Freedom for Addy
Tonya Leslie, author
Tanisha Cherislin, illustrator
Random House Books for Young Readers
9780593381915 $5.99

Diana Perry

Addy Walker escapes a Southern plantation during the turbulent Civil War. Meet Addy as she and her mother make a daring journey from slavery to freedom in 1864. Addy's story is sure to engage young girls as they learn what it was like to be a girl during the Civil War in this Step 3 Step into Reading leveled reader. Early readers will be amazed to learn how slave families were treated and will cheer for Addy. There is a wonderful pull-out poster included for readers. (Ages 5-8)

We Want Snow! A Wintry Chant
Jamie A. Swenson, author
Emilie Boon, illustrator
Sleeping Bear Press
9781534110755 $16.99

Christine Irvin

Be careful what you wish for! A group of children wish for a snowy day. "Snow! Snow! We want snow!" they chant. But, what will they do when the snow starts to fall? Fun illustrations, great repetition, rhyming text, and places for kids to chant along with the text, will surely make this a book kids will ask for again and again! (Ages 5-8)

Bevan: A Well-Loved Bear
Petra Brown
Sleeping Bear Press
9781534111103 $16.99

Christine Irvin

This touching story recounts the saga of Bevan, a well-loved and very old bear. He started out brand new with a girl who adored him, but she grew up and left him behind. He found a new home and then another and another. Now, he is in his newest home, and brings love wherever he goes. (Ages 5-8)

Bake, Make, & Learn to Cook
David Atherton, author
Rachel Stubbs, illustrator
Candlewick Press
9781536219364 $17.99

Christine Irvin

Kids who like to cook, and even kids who don't know if they like to cook, will love this cookbook written just for them. It's filled with great recipes that kids will enjoy making as much as they enjoy eating. The book is divided into four chapters with at least eight recipes in each chapter. Some are very short recipes; some are a bit longer. All have been broken down into simple illustrated steps. Bon appetit! (Ages 5-9)

Andi's Valentine Tree
Once Upon A Dance, author
Ruminska, illustrator
Once Upon A Dance
9781955555340 $24.99

Deb Greenberg

Andi loves ballet and the dance studio, but is always getting teased by the kids at school. A squirrel named Lou and an amazing tree provide Andi with more than friendship, and teach her classmates an important lesson. Andi's Valentine Tree builds on previous Dance-It-Out! books with interactive activities for anyone who loves to dance or wants to learn, while also tackling the topics of bullying and inclusion. Readers can enjoy the story, act out the tale, or try Ballerina Konora's suggested activities. (Ages 6-9)

Jack Horner: Dinosaur Hunter
Sophia Gholz, author
David Shephard, illustrator
Sleeping Bear Press
9781534111196 $16.99

Christine Irvin

This is the story of Jack Horner, a fella who didn't do well in school, but was able to make a name for himself in the world of paleontology. In addition to the facts in the text of the story, the author has included more information about Jack Horner at the end of the book, as well as an activity for designing and naming your own dinosaur. Its impressive artwork, page layouts, and short blocks of text make this the perfect book for a reluctant reader. (Ages 6-9)

The Gumazing Gum Girl! Stick Together!
Rhode Montijo with Luke Reynolds
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
9780759554788 $14.99

Diana Perry

This is a fun-to-read graphic novel. Back from Spring Break, Gabby has a new friend by her side: former bully Natalie Gooch. With their friendship blossoming, Gabby is eager to fight for justice and protect her town. But when a former substitute teacher returns to Fillmore Elementary acting a little bit nutty, Gabby learns that danger might be closer than it seems. Will a Gum Girl team finally assemble? Or will Gabby Gomez finally be stretched to her limits? Young readers will find this book science-based, adventurous, and very funny from cover to cover. The illustrations give great visuals to the words. (Ages 6-10)

The View from the Very Best House in Town
Meera Trehan
Walker Books US
c/o Candlewick Press
9781536219241 $17.99

Diana Perry

Sam and Asha. Asha and Sam. Their friendship is so long established, they take it for granted. Just as Asha takes for granted that Donnybrooke, the mansion that sits on the highest hill in Coreville, is the best house in town. But when Sam is accepted into snobbish Castleton Academy as an autistic "Miracle Boy," he leaves Asha, who is also autistic, to navigate middle school alone. He also leaves her wondering if she can take anything for granted anymore. Young readers will relate to Asha as she struggles through some of the bumps of life while seeing the point of view of what it's like to be autistic. (Ages 8-12)

Lawrence Quammen, author
Marc Noreikas, illustrator
Archway Publishing
9781480847835 $11.99

Diana Perry

Evergreen is a lively story of three sisters, the daughters of Mama and Papa Hopkins, a family of mice. The Hopkins family lives in an old sawdust pile located behind the Hillendale Sawmill and Lumber Company in the small town of Evergreen, Georgia. The sisters are accompanied in their adventures by a host of great characters and are depicted in a series of excellent illustrations. Young readers will find this story very fun; I found it to be like a cartoon movie in text-form. The story is fast-paced, full of dangers and comedy, and is a great bedtime book. A brilliant tale. (Ages 9-12)

The Math Kids: The Triangle Secret
David Cole
Common Deer Press
9781988761626 $11.95

Darleen Wohlfeil

This sixth book in the Math Kids series is sure to excite and engage our young math enthusiasts. Clues, numbers, and patterns that can unravel sinister plots! Four fifth-grade friends have to solve a cryptic will left by a very wealthy man. With an added time-crunch, can the kids figure out the code? The reader is prompted to try and figure out the sequences and patterns as they go along. The appendix at the end is sure to delight readers as much as the storyline. Abstract art and math activities are provided to stimulate and entice their young minds. (Ages 10-12)

The Pear Affair
Judith Eagle, author
Jo Rioux, illustrator
Walker Books US
c/o Candlewick Press
9781536217032 $17.99

Diana Perry

Penelope Magnificent spends as little time as possible with her awful parents - a grocery mogul father and a fashion-obsessed mother who loves expensive purses more than she does her daughter. But when they mention an important trip to Paris, Nell begs to come along. Paris holds something very dear to her: her old au pair Perrine - Pear - who lives there... Young readers will find this book impossible to put down as there is a lot of action, danger, and most of all, secrets to be revealed as Nell learns things she never would have guessed about her parents, Pear, and especially herself. (Ages 10-14)

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Diane C. Donovan, Editor
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