Diary of a Witch’s Son by Oksana Leslie

★★★★  Diary of a Witch’s Son by Oksana Leslie follows an immigrant family’s harrowing experiences with their unfriendly and oftentimes dangerous neighbors. Told through the perspective of the author’s young son, this is a work of thrilling, narrative nonfiction that details the trauma and heartache the family faces at the hands of Mrs. Burton, their jealous neighbor who is bent on destroying the family and having their matriarch arrested. Max Bush, the young son, writes in diary form of how Mrs. Burton makes untrue claims about his family to the police, though they have a difficult time proving the claims to be false. Finally, after a sequence of dramatic turns, the Bush family is able to prove their innocence and continue on with their lives and livelihood. Overall, this is an inspiring story about a hard-working immigrant family finding personal success and financial security through honesty, long hours, strong family bonds, and pure determination. 


Kindness in a Scary World, written by Rebecca J. Hubbard & illustrated by Becca Johnson

★★★★★  Kindness in a Scary World, written by Rebecca J. Hubbard and illustrated by Becca Johnson, is a children’s book that serves as a conversation starter with kids about tragic events like terrorist attacks and mass shootings. The story follows a child who observes his parents’ reaction to live news footage of a shooting, and witnesses some of that footage himself. This draws parents and child into a discussion about the causes and effects of tragedies such as the one they watched play out on the television that very evening, and whether there is anything the family can do to help make the situation better. Ultimately, the child’s parents tell him, many of us are only able to contribute in small ways, like sending money or thoughtful letters. But even these small instances of kindness can add up to make large differences in the lives of people affected by tragedy.


Gus and the Winter Sprite by J. Steven Young

★★★★  In Gus and the Winter Sprite by J. Steven Young, a diminutive dragon named Gus is lamenting the loneliness that winter brings—after all, his friends are all hibernating for the season and his treasured garden has gone dormant—when a winter sprite comes zooming into his cozy house and interrupts the quiet. Crystal, the sprite, has a problem of her own: she’s not like other sprites, and helping to bring on winter doesn’t make her happy like it does everyone else. Gus swaps a story for a story and tells Crystal that he was once feared by the other inhabitants of the forest, who didn’t understand that Gus is actually harmless. Emboldened, Crystal tells Gus that what she really wants to be is a phoenix, the legendary bird of fire. She uses the power of a wish to transform into her heart’s true desire and helps awaken Gus’s friends so that they can all gather for a festive winter party.

This cheerful children’s book is brimming with earnestness, emotional intelligence, and charm. The story’s main characters, Crystal and Gus, connect by sharing their vulnerabilities with each other and finding that this is the basis of a great friendship. It’s a great demonstrative tool to show kids that feelings aren’t something to shy away from; they can be uncomfortable, but they are vital all the same. Written in verse, the book’s text is accompanied by computer-drawn pictures that have a potent energy to them. The three-dimensional depth of each image is an effective and clever way of capturing the expressiveness of the book’s characters. Ultimately, this book deserves a spot alongside the holiday classics.


Sarah’s Shadow, written by Nick Jones & illustrated by Si Clark

In Sarah’s Shadow, written by Nick Jones and illustrated by Si Clark, a young girl arrives home after being bullied about her scrawny shadow on the school playground that day. Upon seeing a shooting star up in the sky, Sarah makes a poorly thought-out wish to get rid of her shadow, thinking she’ll be better off without it. Initially, Sarah is thrilled to discover that her wish has come true and that she is no longer dogged by her shadow. But later at summer camp, as Sarah and her campmates are making shadow puppets on the wall of their tent, Sarah realizes just how disastrous of a situation her wish has created for her. In the end, she finds her shadow and the two of them pair up to perform some truly dazzling shadow puppetry for the entire camp.

Jones and Clark have put together a truly lovely children’s book here, reminiscent of beloved children’s classics like Peter Pan. Jones’s story has a nostalgic simplicity to it that brings sensitive issues, like school bullying and body image, to the forefront but avoids calling direct attention to them. This proves especially effective for young readers who are in greatest need of seeing these problems resolve themselves on the page in a subtle but socially responsible manner. As for Clark’s artwork, each image carries a fantastic sense of motion that drives the action along and creates an almost cinematic impression, which is further enhanced by the beautiful brushstroke pattern behind each picture. This is sure to make an excellent addition to any child’s ever-growing library.


King Rooster and Little Chicken by Les C. Newvine

four stars

lesThis illustrated children’s book opens with King Rooster proudly perched on the farm fence, crowing to wake everyone up for another new day. King Rooster rules the roost over the other chickens, paired with Mother Hen who will soon be giving birth to a new batch of baby chicks. When a baby boy chick is born, King Rooster feels proud to be a father once again. Every day a young girl comes to feed the chickens with grain. As time passes, King Rooster’s baby chick surprisingly does not grow bigger like the other chicks, which worries King Rooster. Soon his disappointment turns to anger and he scolds Little Chicken for not growing up big and strong like him. Mother Hen overhears this exchange and becomes upset, scolding King Rooster and comforting Little Chicken. She encourages and tells him he is special for a reason, and is just fine the way he is. Eventually, a dangerous situation comes to overtake the coop, and Little Chicken decides to be brave to prove his father wrong. To find out what happens in the end, you’ll have to read the book!

King Rooster and Little Chicken by Les C. Newvine is an entertaining story that has many values and morals for young children. It shows the dynamics of family and friends that are applicable to people, through the lives of a bunch of barnyard chickens. The colorful illustrations go along with the story perfectly, and bring it to life in vibrant shades. At times it does feel like there is a great deal of text on the page, but nevertheless the story is fast moving and children are sure to watch as Little Chicken faces his fears and comes to save everyone in the end.


Pegasus: A Dragon’s Tale by Gina Lobiondo

four stars

pegAn illustrated children’s book, Pegasus: A Dragon’s Tale written by Gina Lobiondo and illustrated by Stephanie Zuppo follows the adventures of two young bears who just happen to be a prince and princess, named Dayshawn and Kameela. One day when they are playing, they find an egg and decide to take it home to see if it will eventually hatch. After some time passes, the egg hatches to reveal a baby dragon that Kameela decides to name Pegasus. Years pass by quickly and soon the baby dragon grows to be very large, so the cub’s father, the King, tells them that they must set Pegasus free. Even though Dayshawn and Kameela don’t want to let their dragon friend go, they decide to listen to their father. Even more years pass and the cubs grow up, yet neither of them have forgotten about Pegasus. Eventually the peaceful time ends as a neighboring kingdom declares war on the cub’s homeland, leading to the prince and princess’ capture. Just when things are looking grim, a large dragon swoops in, but will he remember the cubs who saved him and helped him grow? You’ll have to read the story to find out what becomes of this trio of unlikely companions!

This is an entertaining short story that is perfect for children who are ready to read longer books, but aren’t quite ready to leave colorful illustrations behind. It can easily be read in one sitting. The narrative is engaging because it moves quickly, and it’s fun to be able to watch both the bears and the dragon grow up. The illustrations are very well done and bring the story to life in vibrant hues. While the morals of the story may not be clearly spelled out like they are in many children’s book, there is still a lot to learn from how Dayshawn and Kameela care for Pegasus, only to be rewarded with help when they need it most. This is a great children’s book for any kid who likes animals, medieval stories, or tales about royalty.


Go to Sleep by Marion Adams


5152q8Ca2KL._SX398_BO1,204,203,200_Go to Sleep! written by Marion Adams and illustrated by Sarah-Leigh Wills is a children’s picture book about a young sheep named Tansy who finds it hard to fall asleep one evening when the rest of her flock is snoozing the night away. When she asks her mother for advice on how to fall asleep, she tells her to think of all the things she likes. We quickly learn that Tansy likes a lot of things, like munching on sweet green grass, playing with her sister Teasel, and feeling the warm sun on her back. When thinking of these nice things still don’t help Tansy fall asleep, she asks her sister Teasel for advice, but taking deep breaths doesn’t work either. Finally, a barn owl flying overhead tells Tansy to count sheep, which she quickly does, only to find that it appears as if one sheep is missing from the flock. Quickly the whole gang of sheep are awakened as the others try to see if a sheep is indeed missing. Soon it’s revealed that Tansy simply forgot to count herself, and from all the commotion that ensued, she’d gotten rather sleepy, finally falling into a deep slumber as all the other sheep are now wide awake.

This is a charming short story that children are sure to enjoy, especially before bedtime as it is the perfect story for an evening when a young one doesn’t feel as tired as they perhaps should. The suggestion of the owl telling Tansy, a sheep, to count sheep, is rather comical, since this is known to be a tactic parents sometimes tell their children when struggling to fall asleep. The illustrations by Sarah-Leigh Wills are extremely well done, as they are both vibrant and timeless, creating a vintage-like look for the book that is sure to stand the test of time. Overall, this is a well-executed story in both its written content and colorful illustrations that readers of all ages will greatly enjoy.


Larry the Alligator Makes Friends by LaDonna Marie

four stars

61oSUkEFT0L._SY498_BO1,204,203,200_Larry the Alligator Makes Friends by LaDonna Marie is an illustrated children’s book about a shy young alligator named Larry who is finding it difficult to make friends in his neighborhood. The book begins with us being introduced to Larry, as the narrator explains that Larry often watches other young alligators play, being too nervous to approach them or try to join in on the fun. His mother tries to convince him that he has to put himself outside of his comfort zone to make friends, and that he won’t be able to form relationships with his peers unless he puts himself out there. Larry tries to join a group playing basketball, but they say their team is full which discourages Larry from making friends. After a pep talk from his mom, she encourages him to try again, so Larry approaches some kids playing soccer, and they are happy to invite him to be a part of their game. After introducing themselves to one another, the young alligators quickly begin a fun game of soccer, and Larry feels like he fits in for the first time.

The illustrations in this picture book are very well done and bring the story to life. The story of Larry trying to make friends is one that many children are sure to relate to, as it can often be scary and intimidating to put yourself out there, especially to other people that you don’t know. The book teaches children that building friendships is not necessarily always easy, but that if at first you don’t succeed you must persevere and try again. The end of the story highlights the key points the author is trying to get across, like building confidence and promoting positive interactions. The only way this book could be improved is if the text was on a separate page, and not overlapping with the lovely illustrations.


What Would JeeMin Do: Stranger Danger Series by Lori and Matthew Brown

four stars

Screen Shot 2017-07-26 at 4.23.33 PMA collection of four illustrated children’s stories focusing on stranger danger, What Would JeeMin Do: Stranger Danger Series by Lori and Matthew Brown shows kids the proper and safe way to behave when faced with a stranger. The four stories here each focus on a different kind of scenario in regards to dealing with a stranger. The first story, Home Alone Stranger at the Door takes place when JeeMin is home alone after school and a stranger knocks on the door, claiming to be there to fix the heat, even though her parents said nothing about it. The second story, Stranger Near the Neighborhood focuses on an unknown man who seems to be luring JeeMin and her friends away from safety, even though they are smart enough to not fall for it and call out for help. The third story, Stranger in the Shadows is when a man is lurking around JeeMin and her mom in the parking lot, making them feel unsafe and uncomfortable. And finally, the last story, Halloween Stranger takes place as JeeMin and her friends are at karate and take part in a special safety class to prepare for Halloween in case anyone would try and cause them harm.

The lessons provided in this book are very important ones, and Lori and Matthew Brown do a good job at explaining all of the different kinds of scenarios that may occur when dealing with strangers. JeeMin is a smart young girl that readers will enjoy following as she deals with problems and overcoming difficult scenarios. The various kinds of stranger issues in the book cover all of the bases, and between the multiple conversations JeeMin has with her parents, helpful tips about how to deal with strangers are explained in an easy to follow manner. The artwork in the book is engaging and brings the stories to life in colorful variety. If you’re looking for a children’s book about how to teach your child to avoid strangers, this is the perfect choice.


Treasures by Sarah Klaiber

four stars

61SgllvxP4L._SX473_BO1,204,203,200_This illustrated children’s book is told in a rhyming scheme, explaining to children how many special things there are in this world. Treasures by Sarah Klaiber is written in two line stanzas, accompanied by colorful pictures that talk about all of the wonderful things we hold close to our hearts. Whether it is a gold ring,  a trophy, a lovable pet dog, a flower we find in the garden, a doll, a trusted car that gets us places, or even a newborn baby, there are many kinds of treasures. The book explains that not all treasures are shiny and in great shape, sometimes treasures are the people we love and care about, our friends, our family, and those who are there for us during times of need. This is an important lesson to young children that teaches them to love and appreciate not only the material things, but also the special relationships we have with one another.

This book is the perfect bedtime story for younger children, as the rhyming lines are easy to get through, and the many illustrations keep the book exciting. The artwork by Jeffrey Scott Perdziak is well done and goes with the story perfectly. The narrative itself is not very long, but since it goes through so many different kinds of treasures, it will keep children involved in the story line. The lesson offered is a crucial one, and parents will be sure to support the message that the book is trying to make.


Pilgrim by Bobbi Schlosser

four stars

51RR+qkrXcL._SX384_BO1,204,203,200_An illustrated book for children about a young kitten found on the side of the road, Pilgrim, written and illustrated by Bobbi Schlosser is an endearing true story. The book begins with two ladies driving when they discover a kitten on the edge of the highway with a soup can stuck on its head. They stop to help it and decide to bring it to work with them. Since it’s only a few days before Thanksgiving, they decide to name the cute black and white kitten Pilgrim. One of the ladies decides to keep Pilgrim and takes him home, giving him a nice bath to clean him up. After eating some tasty cat food Pilgrim falls asleep, only to be woken up by a dog named Lucy. Lucy questions why Pilgrim is in her house, and slowly accepts the fact that the kitten will be her new companion. She also explains to Pilgrim how he got his name, and why we celebrate Thanksgiving every year. In the end, the dog and the cat decide to be friends.

The illustrations in this book are extremely well done and bring the narrative to life. Each picture looks like a beautiful painting that really helps the story pop off of the page. The tale of how Pilgrim got his name and ended up living with the dog Lucy is a sweet one, and putting in the message about Thanksgiving for younger children is also a nice and somewhat unexpected touch. The pictures of the real animals the story is based off that are included at the end of the book is also something that young readers are sure to enjoy. All in all, this is a great book for kids who love animals, especially during the month of November.


Kathy’s Bike by Steven McDaniel


61gr4z+Yf4L._SY346_The children’s picture book Kathy’s Bike begins as the author tells the reader how this story is based on a true tale about his sister Kathy. We are then introduced to his family, before learning that when Kathy and Steven were kids they didn’t have bicycles because their mother couldn’t afford them as a single parent. They used to watch the other kids ride around on Beaver Hill, which prompted Kathy to decide she would earn enough money to buy a bike of her own. She did chores around the house, mowed neighbor’s lawns, and took care of the leaves and snow in fall and winter. It still took a while for Kathy to save money for her bike, and eventually with her fifteen dollars she had saved she was able to go to a warehouse where bikes were being sold to the highest bidder. At the end of the auction Kathy was able to secure a few bikes for herself and some of her siblings which meant a lot to the family. The story ends with Kathy, Steven, and their younger brother Patrick riding their bikes down Beaver Hill.

This is a cute and endearing book about a brother who clearly looks up to his older sister, and appreciates the hard work she put into buying bicycles for them when they were young. The colorful illustrations go well with the narrative and bring the story to life. For a children’s book, the text of the story proves to be rather long, and each page contains a large amount of words that perhaps could have been split up further. The majority of the story seems to focus on the auction and buying of the bicycles, which should be shortened, as children will likely not be as interested in this part of the tale. Nevertheless, this is an entertaining book based on a true story that shows the true meaning of family and hard work.


Cuz I Do It With My Friends by Kathleen Krapf Kral

four stars

cyzAn illustrated children’s book about a young boy starting his first day of school, ‘Cuz I Do It With My Friends: An Exciting Day at School by Kathleen Krapf Kral is a fun rhyming book about how great school can be. The book opens with a young unnamed boy who is about to start his first day of kindergarten. We follow his morning routine as his mother and father help him get ready for school before the yellow bus arrives to take him on a ride. He makes a new friend on the bus when he sits next to another little boy, and before long they are at their classroom, meeting the other students and their teacher. We are told about all of the exciting things that happen at school, like learning new things, working together, reading books, painting pictures, and going outside for recess. By the time the end of the school day comes along, the little boy feels happy and like he’s achieved a great deal, especially with the help of his friends.

The rhyming pace of this book keeps the tone upbeat and positive, as we follow along the main character as he learns all of the new things that will happen at school each day. The colorful illustrations pair perfectly with the text, and children of all different shapes, sizes, and ethnicities are displayed as being members of the classroom, which is a nice touch, allowing any kind of child to find someone who looks like them while reading this story. While there isn’t anything super original about this book, it’s still a nicely crafted picture book about starting school for the first time, and will appeal to children around the same age level as the characters featured.


Caesar Saves Christmas by Les C. Newvine

four stars

christmasA Christmas story about a polar bear named Caesar and his granddaughter Snowflake who assist Santa in delivering presents to children around the world, Caesar Saves Christmas by Les C. Newvine is an endearing story about helping one another. The story starts right before the Christmas holiday, when Santa’s workshop is extremely busy preparing the last toys to be delivered to little boys and girls. A bad snowstorm is predicted, so Santa decides to leave early on Christmas Eve. Regardless, the snow makes it hard for Santa’s reindeers to see, and they end up crashing. Caesar and his granddaughter Snowflake find Santa, and since Santa and his reindeer are injured and unable to make the journey, he enlists the two polar bears to be his replacement. Two extra reindeer come forward to help the two polar bears deliver the presents, and before long they are on their way, the rest of the entertaining narrative following the adventure Caesar and Snowflake have stopping at the homes of good little boys and girls who are anxiously awaiting the delivery of their gifts.

Everyone loves a good Christmas story, especially young children, and Caesar Saves Christmas by Les C. Newvine does not disappoint. This tale is full of fun, with cuddly characters and colorful illustrations that bring the book to life. The pacing is rather quick, so children will not be bored as they read the book to themselves, or follow along with a parent before bed time. By using Santa, his reindeer, and other known Christmas traditions, Newvine puts a new twist on the holiday by bringing his own new characters into the mix. This is a good story for any time of the year, but especially during the winter season.


What Would JeeMin Do: Anti-Bully Series by Lori and Matthew Brown

four stars

This collection of four illustrated children’s books focuses on a young girl named JeeMin and how she deals with bullying in school, at the park, and throughout her every day life. Written by two martial arts instructors who have taught self-defense and bully safety to people of all ages, What Would JeeMin Do: Anti-Bully Series offers practical advice on how to deal with bullies in any situation. The first story Words Do Hurt introduces us to the titular character, JeeMin, a third grader who meets up with her best friends Ashley and Kylee. When a new student named Rose starts at the school, some of the other kids are cruel to her and make fun of her appearance. JeeMin stands up for Rose and tells the other kids that their mean words are not nice. The next story focuses on bullies on the bus, where JeeMin once again has to step in, this time encouraging the boy bullied to report it to a teacher. The third story tells about an instance of bullying at the park, and the fourth and final story shows how cyber bullying through cell phones and the internet is also a reality for school-aged children in today’s modern world.

Each of these four stories have previously been published individually, but it makes sense as to why the authors wanted to combine them into one volume, as the stories all focus on dealing with bullying. It seems like nowadays bullying is an even bigger problem than ever, so the more resources kids have to learn about how to deal with it, the better. JeeMin is a strong and likable character, and young readers will be sure to connect with her perseverance. The bright colorful illustrations bring the narratives to life, and the stories move at just the right pace, keeping things interesting while also maintaining an informative tone that is able to provide a moral lesson. If you’re looking for a children’s book on stopping bullies in their tracks, look no further than What Would JeeMin Do: Anti-Bully Series.


Jonny Plumb and the Queen of Iceland by Kim Wheeler

four stars

kimThe fifth book in the Jonny Plumb series by author Kim Wheeler, Jonny Plumb and the Queen of Iceland is an engaging chapter book for young children. This story follows Jonny as he travels to Iceland with his trusted dogs Legion and Legend in order to seek out the mysterious eleven singing Runes. It is by no means an easy journey for Jonny and his pup friends, as they have to overcome a lot of natural obstacles on their journey, everything from crossing a raging river, to traversing a volcanic field, to climbing a glacier, and even finding a cave behind a raging waterfall. As they trudge on, aiming to find the Queen of Iceland, they find a snake who talks rather strangely, and other rather scary creatures like the Angkas, the Hairy Growlers, and the Greedy Gobblers. If those names aren’t enough to frighten you, just wait until you read about what they look like. By the time Jonny and the dogs finally find the Queen of Iceland, his mission seems to become even more complicated, as everything is not entirely what it may appear to be.

This is a great series for children who love fantasy and enjoy stories that are full of a number of interesting creatures and characters. It’s the perfect length for young readers who are ready to tackle longer stories, and the fact that it is a series allows them to continue along with each epic tale Wheeler has devised about her hero, Jonny Plum. There are a handful of colorful illustrations scattered throughout the book, which is a nice touch that aids children’s imaginations when thinking about the story’s settings and characters. A lot of the book is written in dialogue, which at times can bog the story down and take away from the magical world, but overall this is an entertaining book and we look forward to the final tale in the series.


What Did You Learn at School Today? by Rhonda Twiner

four stars

socksA children’s picture book full of valuable lessons, What Did You Learn at School Today? written by Rhonda Twiner and illustrated by Stephanie Birdwell follows two young socks named Tommy and Tammy Toesock. The story begins when the two young socks get off the bus at their home after a day at school. Their mother, Mrs. Toesock, asks them what they learned today, and the two young socks quickly say nothing. Mrs. Toesock finds this hard to believe, so she inquires further, and before long both Tommy and Tammy have stories to share. Tammy made a new friend on the bus named Tracy Lacysock, and also was able to help a new student named Toby Tubesock. Tommy was selected by the teacher to perform a math problem on the board and show his skills to the other students. While the young socks eat their cookies and milk and recount these stories to their mother, she reminds them of the important lessons they learned at school today.

This is an entertaining story full of important morals for young children. The fact that the characters are all fashioned after different kinds of socks with humorous names makes the book all the more fun. The illustrations are colorful and well done, bringing the story to vibrant life. The layout of the book could be improved upon however, as the illustrations do not fill up the entire page, instead bordered by a very thick yellow border on every page. We would have liked to have seen the illustrations as full pages. The story does seem to end rather abruptly, but the vocabulary and guiding questions at the end of the story are nice interactive touches that help let the book’s story linger on. Since this is a set to be a planned series, we look forward to seeing what all the socks will learn next.


Chatur and the Enchanted Jungle by Subhash Kommuru

four stars

chaturChatur and the Enchanted Jungle by Subhash Kommuru is an illustrated children’s book that follow Chatur and his donkey Gadhu as they travel through a jungle on their way to town to look for work. They quickly lose their way in the jungle, and decide to take a rest under a big tree. Chatur says how thirsty he is, and suddenly a pot of water magically appears. He then exclaims how hungry he is, and then food arrives out of thin air. When Chatur mentions being sleepy, a bed appears, quickly realizing this jungle has powers unlike anything else he’s ever experienced. Gadhu warns Chatur not to be greedy with his wishes, but Chatur ignores his trusted donkey, instead wishing for a pot of gold, a horse, a house, and a great view. Chatur’s luck eventually runs out when thieves arrive in the jungle, and his wishes are no longer being fulfilled. Luckily, his donkey Gadhu is still on his side to help him in his time of need.

This is an entertaining and well-illustrated book that teaches children an important lesson, while also sharing an old Hindi saying which is a nice message to give to young readers. The two main characters of Chatur and Gadhu balance the story well, as Chatur gets over-confident in the powers of the jungle, while Gadhu tries to keep him grounded and prevent him from being too greedy. The book shows kids that you should try and be happy with what you have, and that when you do come across good fortune, to not take it for granted.


Treasure Dog Takes a Nap by F. Doodle


dogTreasure Dog Takes a Nap is an illustrated children’s book that chronicles the many times and places that the dog Treasure tries to take a nap around his family’s home. The book follows a pattern where Treasure talks about being tired, so he lays down to take a nap, only to be interrupted by something loud, disrupting his slumber. Whether it’s an alarm clock going off in the bedroom, the dishwasher running in the kitchen, the paperboy throwing newspaper against the window, or  the hairdryer in the bathroom, Treasure just can’t seem to catch any quality sleep. This pattern of Treasure getting woken up from his nap repeats until his owner comes home and he gets some nice love, affection, and most importantly, pets.

While the idea for this children’s book is fun, it is a rather simple concept that doesn’t offer anything terribly exciting. It is best suited for very young children who will enjoy the simple plot, repetition, and call outs of different rooms and household appliances that prevent Treasure from falling into a deep slumber. The illustrations are fun and engaging, but could use a bit of refining, as they do not appear to be entirely professional. The passion and heart to this story is present, it just needs a bit of fine tuning to make it truly shine and pop out from the pages it’s written on.


The Scary Hair of Sarah O’Shea by Sharon Feldt


scaryThe Scary Hair of Sarah O’Shea is a charming and entertaining children’s picture book written by Sharon Feldt and illustrated by Heather Karstens. The story follows a young girl named Sarah O’Shea who has an unruly and wild head of tangled red hair. While Sarah is a well-behaved girl herself, her hair has a mind of its own, often causing trouble and refusing to cooperate. Every morning Sarah wakes up with her hair arranged in some ridiculous fashion, whether it’s in the shape of a triangle or a palm tree. Sarah’s classmates are especially distraught over her hair, as it shifts its shape during the most inconvenient of times, whether its during the class photo, or in the middle of a lesson. No matter how Sarah tries to contain her hair, whether its with hats, headbands, or even rubber bands, the hair breaks free, causing havoc for anyone who is around. After trying nearly everything to maintain her rambunctious locks, a new student recommends that Sarah visit her aunt, an experienced and professional hairdresser, who may just be able to tame Sarah’s ridiculous hairdo. When her mane is tamed with a fresh new cut, Sarah is finally able to stop worrying about her hair, and start focusing on just being herself.

This is an excellent and original children’s story that is both inventive and hilarious. Author Sharon Feldt has dreamt up a fun narrative that will be a joy for children and parents alike to read. The pacing and length is ideal for a before bedtime story, and the way that Sarah’s hair is constantly acting in farfetched ways provides nonstop entertainment throughout the story. Heather Karstens beautiful illustrations are what really take this book to the next level. The artwork brings the tale to life on the page in the most perfect way, bringing energy and exuberance to the book. With a creative story paired with fantastic illustrations, this is the kind of children’s book we hope to see more of. Pick up a copy for any young reader you know, this is a great one to add to their collection.


Suzie Slither’s Woods by Wanda Birchler

four stars

Screen Shot 2017-06-12 at 12.42.29 PMA collection of four short stories about animals in the woods of Missouri that mostly focuses on a snake named Suzie, Suzie Slither’s Woods by Wanda Birchler is an entertaining book for young readers. In the first story, Suzie Slither’s Silly Supper, we are introduced to the young snaked named Suzie, who is green with orange and brown stripes. Suzie wakes up from a nap very hungry, and decides to head down to a nearby barn to try and find something to eat. It’s not long before Suzie finds herself in trouble as big flying birds see her as food for them. The second story, Suzie Slither’s Super Summer introduces us to other animal characters like Tammy Turtle and Ronny Raccoon. The last adventure with Suzie involves a slippery slide down the hill in the snow with the children who live nearby. The final story focuses on a different animal named Henry the Hedgehog.

This book is perfect for young readers who are ready to start tackling longer material. While there are still colorful illustrations to go along with the stories here, the text takes up the majority of the pages, allowing children to practice their literacy as they follow Suzie and friends on her adventures. The book shares important lessons of friendship, working together, and accepting others who are different from you. Having the main character of the book be a snake is an interesting and fun choice, as there are not many books out there to feature this animal as the main protagonist.


The Furry Alarm Clock by Jeanne Lintner


Screen Shot 2017-06-11 at 11.20.17 AMAn illustrated children’s book about an elementary class sharing stories of their pets, The Furry Alarm Clock written by Jeanne Lintner and illustrated by Kathy Adamek follows a young girl named Kate. When her fellow classmates begin to tell tales of their special pets, Kate starts to feel self-conscious that her pet will not live up to the hype of the others. We hear stories about a fluffy bunny named Hopper who old people love to pet at the care center because he is so soft, a colorful fish that looks like a beautiful rainbow named Splash who won an award at the county fair, and a pig named Ziggy who helped notify his family about a dangerous fire. When it’s Kate’s turn, she tells the class about her cat Cindy, who she warmly refers to as her furry alarm clock since the cat always wakes her up each morning. Even though she doesn’t feel like she has such a special pet in comparison to her classmates, her fellow students tell her that all animals are special in their own ways.

The overall story and illustrations in the book are entertaining, and young readers are sure to enjoy hearing tales about fun pets, but there are some issues in the book that could be improved upon. The story is told in a rhyming scheme, and although it is fun to read, there are many times when the phrasing is a bit awkward, as words are moved around in strange orders to ensure that there is a rhyme at the end of each line. This causes a bit of confusion that you don’t want present in a children’s book. The book’s cover is also a bit misleading, as it only shows pictures of alarm clocks, and with the title, many readers will be led to believe it is a book that is actually about a furry alarm clock, which is certainly not the case. The overall message and story presented here is a fun and important one, and with further editing and refining, the book could shine to its full potential.


Gus the Garden Dragon by J. Steven Young

four stars

gusGus the Garden Dragon is a rhyming picture book for children that focuses on a beautiful garden tended to be a collection of fairies and gnomes. The story follows a fairy named Opal who fails at performing her duty of providing seeds to a young gnome named Felix who is meant to plant the seeds into the garden to foster the growth of more beautiful plants and flowers. Without seeds, Felix decides to take it upon himself to go into the garden to find seeds to plant, convincing Opal to join him since it is her fault they are in this predicament in the first place. It’s not long before the two run into the garden dragon, who is surprised to see them there. Opal quickly flees, leaving Felix to be left in the dragon’s clutches. It turns out that the dragon is actually a rather nice creature who doesn’t care to hurt Felix, so when the fairies and gnomes come to rescue Felix later on, they realize he doesn’t really need rescuing at all.

This book offers important lessons to children, making them realize that assumptions are not always correct, and sometimes even if something or someone appears to be dangerous and scary, it might actually be a kind and gentle creature, just like Gus the Garden Dragon. Friends can come in all different shapes and sizes, and the friendship that develops between Felix and Gus as they work together to plant seeds in the garden is a touching and cute part of the story that children will surely enjoy. The illustrations are vibrant, almost feeling as if they come from stills from a television show, as the characters appear as 3-D like animations. The narrative moves quickly and has a nice rhyming scheme, although it is on the longer side for a picture book, and could maybe have been shortened in parts. Nevertheless, this is a charming tale that children and parents alike will have fun reading.


Scragpie by Chris Shelton and Grant Schofield

four stars

scragThe children’s picture book Scragpie is a rhyming narrative about a young magpie who never gives up, written by Christ Shelton and illustrated by Grant Schofield. The story opens with the baby bird wet, cold, and scared after falling out of its nest. The unnamed human narrator finds the bird and brings it back home, sheltering it from the cold and providing it with a makeshift nest out of household items. The bird gets its name since it’s such a scraggly little thing, often losing feathers and clumsily walking across the kitchen floors with no grace. Eventually the bird is able to more easily walk and run, but then the real challenge of flying comes. Scragpie really wants to fly, but she has to put a lot of effort into it, practicing again and again, and eventually even leaving the ground, but just for a little while before crashing back down. Scragpie may like being outside to try her wings at flying, but she also enjoys being inside with her family and the other pets as is explained as the story comes to an end.

This is a well-crafted illustrated story that shows young children that it is important to persist and never give up on something you really want, no matter how hard it may seem. It shows that persistence and practice are important qualities to have. The rhyming narration flows well and creates a nice bounce to the plot as you flip from one page to the next. Schofield’s illustrations are well done and bring the story of Scragpie to colorful life. Since the narrator is clearly the person who found the bird, it would have been nice to bring them more directly into the story and get a sense of their identity, but this is left a mystery, the sole focus of the story on the bird, which is perhaps the author’s intent. Although the back of the book explains that the story of Scragpie is based on a true story, some readers may miss this fact since it is not directly incorporated into the story. Nevertheless, they will be sure to enjoy the entertaining tale Shelton tells them.


Fiona Finn by Bridget McGowan

four stars

fionaFiona O’Malley was born with a fin on her back. Horrified, her parents wait for it to fall off. When it doesn’t fall off they opt to have it removed, but the fin keeps growing back. They resolve to keep it wrapped tight against her body in an attempt to hide it from the world. As she grows, Fiona makes many friends and discovers a passion and unique aptitude for swimming. She is happy until a slumber party mishap leads to the discovery of her fin. Rumors spread like wildfire around the school. The children don’t know what to believe, but Fiona is bullied and called names, most notably Fiona Finn. Most of her friends abandon her, except for two loyal girls, one of whom was born with one hand and knows what it is like to be different. Fiona continues to be bullied and her parents decide she must transfer to another school the following year, until one summer day at the beach when Fiona’s fin comes to the rescue and makes Fiona a local hero. Her parents are finally proud of their daughter and unashamed of her fin.

This book is intended for an elementary school audience. Fiona’s mysterious appendage gives the story a pleasant element of whimsy which prevents it from reading as too moralistic. However, at times the story is perhaps a bit harsh. For instance, Fiona’s mother is incredibly ashamed of her daughter and at one point Fiona receives a note that reads, “you’re dead.” It’s difficult to imagine a threat like this not being taken more seriously. Ultimately, Fiona Finn could be a useful tool for opening up discussions about bullying.


Beautifully Different by Dana Salim

four stars

beautifullyThe second children’s book in the Yousuf’s Everyday Adventures series, Beautifully Different tells the story of Yousuf discussing with his father what it means to be different from others around you. He tells his dad that some of the kids in his school are made fun of because they look different or have different interests. He wonders aloud if it would be better if everyone was the same. To dig deeper into this question, his father asks him to use his imagination to find his answer. Yousuf does just that, using his imagination to travel to an island to which he is guided by a captain baboon and then two colorful birds. Once he is on the island he discovers an abundance of beautiful flowers, all of them different and vibrant in their own unique ways. Before long, some ugly and angry weeds threaten to overpower and kill the flowers, but Yousuf gives them the courage to fight off the weeds. The flowers use their individuality and special beauty to stay strong and thrive on the island. Yousuf then comes to realize that being different is powerful.

With gorgeous illustrations and a plot with an important moral, Dana Salim’s Beautifully Different teaches children a crucial lesson while also being entertaining. Mostly suited for younger children under the age of 10, this picture book teaches kids that sometimes its okay to answer a question by using your imagination. While the book mostly succeeds at its message, the story does feel somewhat disjointed at times, and could have used further transitions between scenes to better connect the overall story together. Nevertheless, it is a fun ride to follow Yousuf on his journey to a faraway island as he comes to understand that being different from others is more than okay as long as you have confidence in yourself and who you are.


Mything Children Adventures: Without A Trace by Jim Fraiser

four starstrace

In the first novel of the Mything Children Adventures series, we follow three preteens named Paul, Rivers, and Chris who embark on a camping escapade with Paul’s dad off the Natchez Trace in the thick forests of Mississippi. Without A Trace takes young readers on quite the wild ride as they follow along with these three friends who explore the old 19th century roadway that connects Choctaw and Chickasaw country. As they hear stories of wayward travelers, renegades, and pirates, they’re shocked to discover magical and fearsome creatures in the flesh. These beasts come straight out of Native American folklore, including everything from a spider god to a massive horned owl. Complete with well done black-and-white illustrations by Phyllis Schwabacher, this is a great chapter book for younger readers who are ready to start tackling larger books.

Without A Trace moves at a fast pace that is sure to keep children’s interest as they follow along the astounding and unbelievable camping adventure that Paul, Rivers, and Chris find themselves on. The reader will be able to learn about some of the mythical creatures the preteens come to meet, as well as discover stories of real Native American history and the layout of the countryside in rural Mississippi. Overall, this is an exciting start to a promising new series that kids are sure to enjoy.


#BabyLove: My Toddler Life by Corine Dehghanpisheh

four stars

Screen Shot 2017-01-20 at 11.54.49 AM

My Toddler Life is the newest illustrated children’s book in the #BabyLove series from author and illustrator Corine Dehghanpisheh. It tells the story of a little boy who loves paint, play with toys, learn new words, and make a lot of noise. The narrator tells us how the little boy loves to have his mother take his photograph to share with all of their family and friends via social media. A smart phone is featured throughout the story, depicting the child and his mother as they capture all of his fun activities. The story then moves on to a point where the little boy is alone, and decides to take his mother’s phone without permission. He plays with the device and snaps selfies when no one is looking, but it’s not long before his mother finds him and realizes what he is doing. She tells him that the phone is not for him to play with, but instead shows him all of the fun things they have captured on the device, as they flip through photos and videos they’ve taken previously. The mother tells the little boy how much these special moments mean to her, and how much she loves him, before putting down the phone so they can play together.

In an age where social media and smart phones seem to constantly be a part of our daily lives, this beautifully illustrated children’s book succeeds at creating a realistic picture of how toddlers are captured in today’s world. The way the images of the little boy are filtered through the camera’s screen makes the illustrations really stand out, and the story tackles the content in a fun and imaginative way. While the narrative itself is well organized and written in witty prose, the author perhaps could have gone even farther with the moral, suggesting that at times it’s important to not let the phone overtake our lives. This is hinted at in the end, but a stronger emphasis could have shown children that sometimes it’s important just to have fun, regardless of whether or not your activities are being captured. Nevertheless, this is a very special book that parents of today are sure to get a kick out of, just as the children who read it are bound to enjoy it too. We hope that the author continues writing books for this fantastic series.


Not Just A Dream by Carolyn Ramsey-Williams


Not Just A Dream is a children’s story about a fifth grader named Madison who is introduced to a new student named Lisa. Her teacher Ms. Feemster makes it Madison’s job to make sure that Lisa feels welcome at her new school. However, this proves to be a bit of a challenge for Madison, as Lisa seems even more shy and uncomfortable than most new students would be. We eventually learn that Lisa recently moved to the United States from Mexico. While Madison and Lisa come from different places, eventually the two young girls realize that they have a lot in common, and become fast friends.

While the ideas presented in the story are commendable, and the use of Spanish in a way that introduces new phrases and words to English speakers, the overall structure of the story is a bit confusing. While the title of the book makes it pretty clear that Madison both dreams of meeting Lisa, and also meets her in real life, the distinction between the two is not entirely clear. The addition of illustrations will likely make things more apparent, but the narrative could use a bit more streamlining so that young reader’s are not confused as to which parts of the book are reality, and which are dreams. Scenes quickly shift from the classroom, to the lunchroom, to Madison’s home, with little transition, creating a someone jarring effect. The over-arching ideas and themes needed to make a good children’s story are present here, they just need a bit more refining to truly make them shine.


Jorie and the Magic Stones by A. H. Richardson

four stars

jorieThe first book in a new fantasy children’s book series, Jorie and the Magic Stones, is a fantastical quest that follows one heroic nine-year-old girl on an unforgettable adventure. The story begins when we meet redheaded Marjorie, or Jorie as she likes to be called. She has just moved in with her aunt, and befriended the shy neighbor boy named Rufus. The two quickly forge a friendship, and discover a dust-covered old book about dragons, that soon leads them on a quest through a magical world unlike anything either of them have ever experienced. Suddenly immersed in the mystical world of Cabrynthius, they meet a good dragon by the name of  the Great Grootmonya. It’s not long before the two children are urged to find the three Stones of Maalog, which are known to hold great power. It’s their job to find the stones and return them to their rightful place in Cabrynthius. Along their expedition they face many triumphs and tribulations, including run-ins with everything from an evil black half-dragon, to a wicked professor, to caves of fire, and a deadly poisonous butterfly.

An easy to read chapter book that can be enjoyed by children of all ages, Jorie and the Magic Stones succeeds at creating an extraordinary world full of memorable characters and dangerous villains. In Jorie and Rufus, the narrative follows the blossoming of a friendship, while exploring the strengths of each of these two main protagonists. Weaving in morales about important ideals like loyalty, bravery, and what it means to be a good friend, the story shows younger readers how important it is to do the right thing, no matter the costs. With rich descriptions, realistic dialogue, and settings you feel as if you are truly immersed within, this is the start to a promising new fantasy series for kids.

Wild Beast Cat by Zach Bliss

four stars

wildA tale of friendship, exploration, and how curiosity can lead to both adventure and danger, Zach Bliss’ Wild Beast Cat is an enchanting narrative that is sure to excite young readers. The story begins when we meet Chris, who is told a startling story by his older brother about a a six-toed cat that grew into a wild beast and devoured a girl’s pet rabbit. Shortly after hearing this scary tale, Chris learns that his family is buying a cottage at Lake Frio, which just happens to be the place where it is said the Wild Beast Cat roams. Even though he’s scared, Chris can’t help but to seek out this creature once at Lake Frio, befriending a neighbor girl named Jesse to join him on his quest to uncover whatever truth their may be to his brother’s far-fetched story. Along their way, Jesse introduces Chris to Old Man Stick, who tells them more about the local legend, and warns them of a crooked animal control worker named Rodney, who happens to have terrible intentions. Will Chris and Jesse find the Wild Beast Cat, or will something terrible stop them along their way?

Zach Bliss does a good job of creating an entertaining story that is sure to pique young reader’s interest, while also teaching them important lessons along the way. We see how Chris’ relationship with his older brother and family changes throughout the story, while he also becomes close to Jesse, forging an important friendship. Wild Beast Cat displays how it is important for kids to be adventurous and curious, but to also be sure to protect one’s self from danger all the while. By pacing the story just right, and crafting a story that is not too difficult for younger readers to follow, this is the kind of book that is perfect for those kids who are eager to read longer stories, fully immersing themselves in a world that is both realistic and whimsical.


Spin the Globe: Mysteries of Marrakech by Edward Moldenhauer

four stars

marrakechIn another adventure following Frederick von Wigglebottom’s travels around the world, we visit the city of Marrakech in Morocco. In each one of these engaging’s children’s books, young readers are exposed to a new city or country, learning about the local culture, customs, and history as they follow along the colorful pages. In Marrakech, Frederick meets a young girl named Yasmine, who takes him to the souk, a local market bustling with vendors selling all sorts of vibrant crafts and goods. Yasmine teaches readers about her traditional dress, and the delicious kinds of food and tea that are popular in the city. We learn the history of Marrakech, and how it was originally founded as a stopping point for traders traveling from Europe to Africa past the Sahara Desert. The two travel to Yasmine’s father’s shop, where we learn more about the kinds of products that are regularly made in the area. They meet up with another boy named Azerwal and continue to tour the city, stopping by a beautiful mosque, and the large square at Djemaa el Fna, where more souks with handmade carpets line the walls.

The best thing about this children’s series is that it pairs a fun, informative narrative with great illustrations that depict the story in a way that brings everything to life. There is a lot of information here, but the author has written it in a way that is easy to digest. You could read the entire book in one evening, or split up the chapters so that kids can enjoy the book over a few nights. By picking cities that are unique and not overly traveled to, the author is able to teach young readers about places they are likely to have never heard of, let alone visited. Yet, after reading a Spin the Globe story, it will feel as if they really have traveled the world, having gained a better understanding of the place they just traveled to through the pages of the book.


Spin the Globe: Where the Earth Meets the Sky by Edward Moldenhauer


spinAnother fantastic adventure with Frederick von Wigglebottom takes children to the land of Nepal, where the highest mountain in the world, Mount Everest is located. Here Frederick explores the Himalaya mountain range, informing the readers about the country along the way. When arriving to the country Frederick befriends a young man named Maila at the market. Maila becomes his guide and teaches him a lot about the people of Nepal, the religions of Buddhism and Hinduism, as well as their culture and practices. The people who live in Nepal are generally very spiritual, and this comes across through their architecture and monuments. Learning about the mountains and the brave people who climb them is a highlight of the book. Frederick also learns about the indigenous wild life like yaks, snow leopards, and exotic brightly colored birds.

Just like the other books in the Spin the Globe series, this book is highly informative and well researched. The story holds a lot of content, and will most likely be a book that will be read over the course of an entire week, not merely just one night. The illustrations add depth and context to the narrative. What is so special about this series is that most of the books depict countries that are very unique, and are not often covered in other publications for kids. Moldenhauer is succeeding in bringing awareness to diverse nations that children are bound to find enthralling. Readers will enjoy going on this adventure with Frederick, all the way up to the Himalayas!


Humphrey and the Seven Golden Rings by JB Heart


humpIn JB Heart’s Humphrey and the Seven Golden Rings, readers follow Humphrey, a caterpillar with many brothers and the outcast of a royal family. Often during his lifetime, Humphrey’s brothers would make fun of him, telling him that he came from the forest nearby, that he was not the child of their parents, that he was ugly, and that nobody liked him. With his head full of the lies and his heart believing them, Humphrey finally ran away to the forest, eventually finding himself in a glade with mysterious magical powers. Humphrey eats and drinks from the glade, and sleeps through the night – all whilst having nightmares about his family back home. When Humphrey awakes, he finds that he has turned into a beautiful, white caterpillar, complete with seven golden rings along his body. Not stopping to ponder the change, Humphrey continues on into a town, hopeful of finding a place to stay. When Humphrey arrives at an inn, he is permitted to stay by the owner, who is so enamored by Humphrey’s appearance. Humphrey stays at the inn free of charge, eventually falling in love with the daughter of the owner. As the story continues, Humphrey is challenged by enemies, friends, and frenemies, and must partake in battles and wars along his journey to find himself, discover the meaning of the mysterious golden rings, and to save the forest from destruction.

JB Heart creates a story of mystery, action, romance, and heartfelt repentance, all packed into 40 pages. While this can be beneficial to this type of tale, it can also be harmful in the storytelling aspect of such an adventure. Though there were many elements to this story and the plot line developed quickly, it led to a lack of explanation of, for example, character backgrounds, details of surroundings, or extensive descriptions of the action taking place. This led to a fast-paced story, but one that could have benefitted from additional details input into the writing. Additionally, throughout the story, it was often difficult to determine the audience for which it was being written. Though the elements of storytelling were often geared towards children, such as the morals of the story, the settings and the characters themselves, or the undeveloped backgrounds of the characters (perhaps this was on purpose, if written for children), there was often advanced language and syntax used, and vocabulary that children might not be able to fully understand. Another issue that arose as a reader was the behavior of Humphrey throughout the story. Towards the beginning, readers may view Humphrey as young and naïve, and as someone who would be impressionable enough to believe that he was adopted, simply as a result of the tormenting of his brothers. However, the end of the story suggests that Humphrey is much older, as he commands troops and leads wars, has become King of the forest, and has taken Esmeralda to be his wife. Though Humphrey does undergo his change to a butterfly during the course of the story, there seems to be little time that has passed between the beginning and the end of the novel, and no attention drawn towards the character changes that Humphrey may have undergone as a result of his transformation. Overall, however, the story is entertaining as it stands, and would be recommended for readers of younger ages. The story of Humphrey and of the challenges he endures is enjoyable, action-packed, and full of ethics and morals that can be absorbed by younger readers.


Ten, Bloomsbury Square by Gardner McKay


tenTen, Bloomsbury Square joins the ranks of many retellings, re-imaginations, and reiterations of the classic J.M. Barrie tale, Peter Pan. Ninety years after the original story takes place, Ten, Bloomsbury Square picks up in modern-day London, where Peter Pan has become Lord Peter Isling—completely unaware of his own fantastical history, having flown into the Eiffel Tower in the midst of World War I causing him to experience amnesia. One night, after a bit too much champagne, Lord Peter stumbles into a very familiar room at Ten, Bloomsbury Square, a room once occupied by Wendy, John, and Michael Darling. The room’s new occupants are three American children. Hilarity and adventure ensue when Peter Pan begins to remember who he is and decides to take one of the American children, a young boy called Giles, on a quick flight to Neverland. Upon arriving in Neverland, Peter realizes that he has made a horrible mistake by leaving the Lost Boys stranded on the island over ninety years ago. Peter must tackle a number of obstacles now in order to rectify his mistake and bring the Lost Boys back home to London.

Despite the dialogue’s being a bit problematic—it’s at times stilted and unnatural, oscillating between highly formal diction and odd colloquialisms—this is an exciting new twist on the Peter Pan story and a thoroughly enjoyable read overall. It’s light and playful, never taking itself too seriously. Ten, Bloomsbury Square is definitely worth a read if re-imaginations of fairytales are your cup of tea!


The Love Lions by Corey S. McCormick


love lionThe Love Lions written and illustrated by Corey S. McCormick is a colorful children’s book that follows the adventures of three young lion cubs named Happy, Love, and Peace. The book starts off by introducing these three characters and explaining how their names directly apply to their personalities. Happy is always striving to cheer everyone up, Love helps people out with kindness and generosity whenever possible, and Peace works through problems calmly and assists others to make things right. The love lions live among the stars on a place called Roar Island. The narrative explains all of the fun things the trio does together, like riding roller coasters, collecting candy from the sky, watching 3D movies, and playing games outdoors like space basketball. The story then shifts to Peace’s house, as his dad teachers the young kids how to make homemade ice cream.

This book is both interactive and engaging, offering a page to be colored, and asking kids to join along in the story and ROAR! whenever the word is mentioned as part of the narrative. The illustrations are brightly colored and will surely catch children’s attention. The three lions are all very cute and memorable in their own right. The rhymes presented are catchy and fun to read out loud. While the book almost seems as if it is two stories in one, the introduction to the love lions, and the second part about making homemade ice cream, it still reads well as a singular picture book that children of all ages are sure to love.


I Heard Santa by Kelly Ford


santaA creative re-imagining of the story of Santa Claus and how he became such a big part of Christmas, Kelly Ford’s I Heard Santa is a delightful children’s picture book that is sure to become a favorite for young readers. The story starts with a young boy and girl asking their mother questions about who Santa is and how he is able to deliver presents around the world in one night. The mother decides the kids are old enough to know the truth about Santa, so she tells them about how he was once a man named Nicholas who loved to give gifts to people and make them happy. As Nicholas grew older, he passed along the gift giving spirit to everyone he came in contact with. She explains how Santa got his name, and that when he became very old, his heart became a beautiful glowing light that spread the Christmas tradition of gift giving to all. The spirit of Santa is now with us every year, showing us that the best part of Christmas is to do what makes us happy, and giving love and gratitude to one another.

There are so many children’s books about Christmas out there. This one in particular is special because it brings so many elements of the Christmas spirit together, explaining the history of Santa Claus, as well as teaching children the most important parts of the holiday. The illustrations included are beautifully drawn, offering a classic vibe that makes them timeless. This book could be read before bed by a parent, or a child could read it on their own. Since it explains the truth about Santa and alludes to the fact that the “mythical” version of Santa that we tell our kids about is not entirely real, its best suited for older children. All in all, it’s a great book, a shining light amongst a sea of other Christmas picture books.


Creepy Shorts by Lisa M. Griffiths


creepyLisa M. Griffiths sets out to bring the goosebumps to her readers’ arms with her collection of short stories appropriately entitled Creepy Shorts. Creepy Shorts features seven short stories, written in the first person point of view, that depict extraordinary events occurring in ordinary lives. Each story offers a young female protagonist as the lead (although in one case, it is both the young girl and her mother) who encounters strange dangers ranging from teddy bears with haunted pasts to bus drivers with strangely mythological undertones. Griffiths’ short stories mesh evocatively disturbing images with identifiably moral endings, giving her readers a quick life lesson amidst the chaos and horror her characters bravely face.

The brevity of Griffiths’ short stories will appeal to both children and adult readers alike, but the content appears primarily to be geared towards a younger audience. The thrills and chills that Creepy Shorts provokes may only be really relevant to an age group that she frequently writes from the perspective of- that being of children around age ten. In the case of an audience of this nature, these short stories are admirable in that they successfully fuse humor, horror, and humility together to create tales that demonstrate how courageous young children can be, even through their faults or mistakes. However, the stories, while cleanly written and crisp in their delivery, do leave something to be desired. Certain thematic elements and plot points in Creepy Shorts have already been explored, and thoroughly so, by other written works, leaving readers potentially finding the ideas behind some of the shorts to be familiar and unsurprising. However, Creepy Shorts remains a charming collection of gentle horror, suitable for young children looking to be a little scared and adults looking to teach those children a little morality.


The Snow Unicorn by Bridget McGowan


snowBridget McGowan takes young teen and tween readers on a magical fantasy in The Snow Unicorn. As a little girl, Caitlyn loves to play and explore with her creative mind. One beautiful snowy day, her imagination helps her open a doorway to a magical world in which she is highly respected Lady Caitlyn. A special unicorn, Storm, takes her all over the land and even to meet the king and queen. Yet, just as suddenly as she found herself in the magical world she is thrust back into her real world. Naturally, no one believes her tale of magic and other worlds, but Caitlyn clings to the hope she will once again return to the special world of “magic and dream.” She finally gets an opportunity to return twice more before she grows up and turns eighteen, but she has to make a huge decision as to whether she will stay in the magical realm with her beloved friends and Storm or if she will return to her real world with her family, friends, and dreams of being an author.

The Snow Unicorn is a simple, easy-to-read story that will warm the hearts of young girls everywhere. Bridget McGowan does a very nice job of pouring imagination into every page of the narrative. The story moves along very quickly as it is only a few chapters long; therefore, there may be times that one is left to wonder what else happened. For example, whatever happened to the teacher who believed Caitlyn’s tale of a magical world? Did Caitlyn ever tell the teacher about visiting there again? There is no doubt that Bridget McGowan could write a sequel to The Snow Unicorn that would have young fans galloping to the bookstore to get a copy. Fun, magical and filled with hopes and dreams, The Snow Unicorn is sure to fulfill the wishes and desires of young girls across the globe.


Snooze by Brandi Russell


snoozeA bright and colorful children’s picture book that will help kids fall to sleep, Brandi Russell’s Snooze follows a playful sheep as he informs readers how important getting a good night’s rest is. The narrative follows the titular Snooze E. Sheep, who tells the reader he believes they are not getting enough sleep. By informing the young reader that they need to catch up and catch more of those z’s, he explains that getting the right amount of rest will help you to feel your best. By including ways to make getting sleep fun, with board games, helpful phrases to say out loud, and hiding Snooze clues around the house while the child is sleeping, the author has created many ways to encourage kids to get their rest. The book is both interactive and engaging, creating the perfect balance to intrigue young readers, while also convincing them that Snooze E. Sheep’s message is a very important one.

By including actual snooze clues at the back of the book that parents can cut out to use so their children can follow the trail to find a surprise once they’ve gotten some sleep, Brandi Russell makes this more than just a book to read before bed, she makes it an exercise that can actually help families. By using a sheep as the main character, the author ties in the ageless idea of counting sheep in order to help you fall asleep. The illustrations are crisp and perfectly fit alongside the simple text. This book is best suited for the K-2nd grade age range, but older children will find it entertaining as well. Hopefully, they’ll also find it making them very sleepy!


Billy Bear Cub by Chad Leisse


billyA children’s picture book about using your manners whenever possible, Billy Bear Cub: The Well Mannered Cub tells the story of a young cub named Billy and how his mother teaches him to be on his best behavior. Billy’s mother explains to him that being well mannered is very important, not only for the time being, but so that Billy grows to be a strong adult bear that is courteous and respected by all. To make things interesting, Billy’s mother makes a game out of the exercise in being well mannered, offering to give him a gold star every time he does something that shows how well behaved he is. Billy’s mother tells him to not let others get him down, saying it’s best to be bright and positive in his attitude whenever possible. The story takes Billy through a typical day and explains all of the ways he can show his mother his best, well mannered behavior. From getting ready in the morning, to going grocery shopping with his mother, to playing outside and following the rules that the family has established for him, this little bear cub shows kids how to behave every day. The story ends with Billy getting sleepy and heading upstairs for bed, ready to get some rest so he can have another well mannered day ahead.

The morals and lessons offered in Billy Bear Cub: The Well Mannered Cub are important ones, and Leisse does a good job of making the story fun. Since he chooses to make Billy a little bear cub instead of a little boy, children who love animals are sure to enjoy the character. The rhymes offered throughout also make the narrative memorable, as it begs to be read out loud. While the illustrations are bright and colorful and do a good job of highlighting the text alongside them, they are a little bit rough around the edges at times, and could use further polishing. There are also a few instances where the word choices and phrases are a bit awkward, which may cause young readers to stumble. Nevertheless, this a cute and creative story that will both entertain and inform young children to be on their best behavior.


The Wish Fairy by Sandra Reilly


Layout 1A short children’s chapter book The Wish Fairy: The Cottage Down the Lane with the Dragon Out Back by Sandra Reilly is another captivating story in The Wish Fairy series. Through the adventures of the titular character, Misty the Wish Fairy, children will be exposed to a magical message of how important friendships and family are, as well as being taught moral lessons that will help them grow. Misty is often getting into trouble, but she still always does her best to grant wishes to those who deserve their dreams to come true. Her best friend Hope is her partner in crime, helping Misty whenever she has trouble granting a certain wish. While Misty lives in the fairy kingdom below the wildflower field, Hope lives above it, joining their magic together and combining their two worlds into one. In this adventure we meet a young boy named Jonah who has lost the ability to walk due to a horrible horseback riding accident. Jonah befriends Hope and calls upon his wish fairy for help. As we follow along and watch as Misty tries to grant Jonah’s wish, we come across Jonah’s mother, a troll, and even a dragon! Follow along with Jonah, Hope, and Misty to see if his wish will be granted!

At right around sixty pages, this is the perfect kind of chapter book for young readers who are just growing confident enough to start reading longer works by themselves. The magic, positive messages, surprises, and memorable characters will make this an engaging and enjoyable read for the children who pick it up. The struggle to grant wishes, even for a fairy with magical powers, goes to show how sometimes it can be difficult to achieve what we really want. Nevertheless, Reilly shows how important it is to strive for your dreams, no matter how hard they may be to achieve. These kinds of messages are the kinds that our children should be focusing on more than anything else.


You Are Loved by Cynthia James


lovedA simple yet positive and uplifting children’s picture book, You Are Loved by Cynthia James and illustrated by Nadine Cox serves as a reminder to children that they are nurtured by love. The story goes from the parents of the child coming together to create a beautiful new life, that results in a young girl who we follow throughout the book. Her parents care for her deeply, as does her extended family, the chorus of “You are loved, you are held, you are guided, you are safe, we are here in every moment, you are loved” is repeated many times throughout the story, the penultimate line often changing depending on the adjacent anecdote that is being told. We watch as the baby grows up into a young girl, goes to her first day of school, and moves forward in life. Through mishaps and other missteps, the child is continuously reminded how important she is, and how she is loved so very much.

The illustrations of this book are very well done and help bring the words of the story, especially the main message of love, to life. Since the main character is a little girl, this story will most likely appeal to young girls more than boys, just because they will be able to better relate to the main character and the images that depict everything that is going on. While the narrative itself is simple, it still packs a strong emotional punch. This book would be a good read for children before bedtime, especially if they are having a rough day at home, or at school, like the girl is that is depicted in the book. You Are Loved is reminiscent in tone and content to the classic children’s book I’ll Love You Forever by Robert Munsch.


Clarence, the Littlest Stork by Edward Roh


storkA tale about a young stork named Clarence who is never chosen to perform the task of delivering babies due to his slight deformities, Clarence the Littles Stork, written by Edward Roh and illustrated by Lyle John Jakosalem is a children’s picture book that will keep you guessing. The story starts off by introducing us to Clarence who is on the smaller side for a stork. He has an overbite, a short left wing that causes him to fly to the left uncontrollably, and a short right leg that causes him to limp. Clarence dreams to deliver babies to happy couples like all of the other storks, but he is never called to perform this task due to his physical misgivings. On a cold winter night when all of the other storks have been called to duty, Clarence is the only stork left. The head stork calls him to deliver a baby, and Clarence cannot believe it! This will be his chance to prove himself. The baby boy looks lovingly at Clarence, as the stork realizes how perfect the baby appears to be. With the baby in tow, Clarence takes off, and while the flight is a bit hectic at first, he eventually makes his way to a manger where the baby is to be delivered. At first Clarence thinks that he has made a mistake, but as an angel appears after the delivery, it is clear that Clarence delivered the baby to the right place. It just so happens that this baby is the ‘Christmas Child,’ a gift from God, the Christ child to be exact. Even though Clarence hadn’t made any deliveries before this one, he ended up making the most important delivery of all.

This book is very well illustrated and the story moves along nicely. Some of the pages seem to have a large amount of text to get through for young readers, while other pages are on the shorter side. The story remains interesting from beginning to end, as the reveal at the end of Clarence delivering Jesus comes as a surprise. Tying in the idea of storks delivering babies to the deliverance of Jesus Christ is certainly a unique idea and one that is sure to make this book stand out. It can be read to children any time of the year, but will mostly appeal around the Christmas holiday. A twist on the traditional Christmas story, with tinges of elements from Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer, Clarence the Littlest Stork is a story that is sure to entertain.


Chickadees, Bumbelbeez, Pussy Willow Trees, and Two-and-a-Half! by Jeffrey M. Politsky


A vibrantly illustrated children’s book, Chickadees, Bumbelbeez, Pussy Willow Trees, and Two-and-a-Half! by Jeffrey M. Politsky seeks to encourage the intuitively exploratory traits in children through eye-popping illustrations and charming animal characters. Chickadees follows three different animal friends from three different regions in the world who find themselves coming together on Chickadee Island through their mutual desire for traveling and encountering new situations. The story begins with a young monkey and quickly comes to encompass a gray cat and a white pelican who unite in friendship on the island and, together, seek to discover the mystery of the chickadees in the pussy willow trees who speak the language “Bumbelbeez.” The unlikely trio roams freely in the beautiful landscapes that Chickadee Island has to offer, subtly presenting lessons on the importance of nature, friendship, and curiosity throughout.

Politsky’s children’s book is considerably longer than most texts in its genre, the fact of which may stimulate some young readers up for the challenge, but which may also cause it to drag on for others. The illustrations are an entertaining mixture of soft, brilliantly colored strokes and cartoonish accents. Throughout the story the mystery behind the chickadees is rife, but when the end of the book is reached, there is no satisfyingly juicy solution to that mystery, potentially leaving readers feeling robbed of a more complex and intriguing narrative. There seems to be a thematic element of respect and understanding for nature as well as for the diversity of others, which is commendable and useful for educating young children in important virtues early on. However, these themes could be much stronger and more appropriately melded into the primary storyline. Regardless, Chickadees, Bumbelbeez, Pussy Willow Trees, and Two-and-a-Half! is a sweetly imagined adventure of friends with memorable pictures sure to delight any young child.


#BabyLove: My Social Life by Corine Dehghanpisheh


#BabyLove: My Social Life by Corine Dehghanpisheh is an original and adorable children’s book that follows a young baby boy throughout the day as his family chronicles his every move. The baby boy, who remains unnamed throughout the story, discusses how his parents constantly take pictures and videos of him on their devices, so that they can post, tag, and share to their social media profiles. They also text pictures of him to their family and friends, basically sharing him digitally in whatever way they can. While at times the baby doesn’t seem to mind all of the attention, after a while the constant capturing of his life starts to take a toll. And while everyone who sees the pictures and videos, wherever they are posted, seems to truly love them, the baby points out that he will really have no way to know about everyone else’s reactions, as he can’t read. By the end of the day, the baby is exhausted, and ready to simply relax with his parents without having to worry about being recorded.

This is a perfect children’s book for today’s day and age, when at times it feels as if people are having babies simply so they can share pictures of them on their Facebook and Instagram pages. While it’s normal to want to share your baby with the world, this book goes to show that sometimes oversharing can detract from just simply enjoying the time you spend with your child. The illustrations and witty dialogue fit well together, creating a narrative that easily flows and entertains. While some of the content may go over the heads of young children, this book is sure to delight all of the parents who are fortunate enough to read it.


The Hippity Dippity Witch by Lorraine O’Byrne


witchThis children’s chapter book tells the story of two girls, one an average girl named Jenny, and the other, a witch with magical powers named Marigold. The plot kicks off with Jenny deciding to skip school in fear of doing badly on a spelling test that is set to take place that day. She decides instead to enter into the woods, which just so happen to be enchanted, and is horrified to find that the area has been completed devastated. The creatures in the forest cower in terror at the dark magic that has been used here. It’s not long until the reader finds out that this magic has been created by the hands of Marigold Dimple, a ten year old witch from Elderwood. Marigold, like Jenny, is also having problems at school, as she is not doing very well at the Magic Academy at which she is enrolled. Thus why she has been lashing out on the forest, as she makes her way to visit her Aunt Griselda. The paths of the two girls collides, and from their first meeting, it is clear that nothing will ever be the same for either of them again.

The first book in a planned series, this is the perfect kind of book for young children to tackle if they are ready to start reading longer pieces of fiction. O’Byrne writes in a way that is both easily accessible for young readers, entertaining them with her multi-layered, yet not overly complicated story. Coupled with lovely illustrations by Laura Martin, the book is a well put together story that will appeal to many. By offering every day lessons that can apply to all children, the author succeeds at teaching morals while also entertaining the reader, which is the best any children’s book can offer. We look forward to seeing where Marigold and Jenny end up next in the upcoming sequels.


Gertie the Goose by Kelly Scott McWilliams


Gertie the Goose is a rhyming children’s book by Kelly Scott McWilliams that follows a flustered goose named Gertie who is frustrated with the terrible weather conditions on Chesapeake Bay during the fall and winter months. As Gertie discusses this with her friends, included a swan, a duck, and some hens, they tell her to not forget about the beautiful conditions in the spring and summer. Gertie is too perturbed to remember the good times, as her mind is set on escaping the frigid temperatures. As she flies away, Gertie’s friends remind her that all places are special, even if at times they seem to lose their glow. Gertie finds a nice lake on her flight south, and decides to stay for a while, enjoying the warmer weather and the scrumptious bugs. After a while though Gertie grows bored, and feels she deserves something more. At her next destination Gertie meets a colorful flamingo named Claude, and although this spot seems very nice, Gertie is still not satisfied. Since every place has been nicer than the last, she decides to keep going, convinced that the next place will only be better than before. In the end, Gertie returns back to Chesapeake, where she realizes she had it good in the first place!

The rhyming narration of this story makes it fun and easy to read. The edition we reviewed did not have illustrations, but we can imagine with added artwork the entire book will truly shine. The story goes to show that sometimes your home may not seem all that special, but when you travel and experience new places, no matter how good they may seem, there is nothing quite like the place you come from. McWilliams has done a good job creating a story that easily flows and teaches children a lesson, while entertaining them with Gertie’s adventures at the same time.


Remember to Love You! By Melanie Northway


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Remember to Love You! is a short picture book for young children that emphasizes the importance of having a positive attitude and loving yourself. It follows a young brother and sister through their day as the author tells them from the very beginning when they wake up to remember that they and their family are wonderful. The story follows the children as they venture outside, using all of their senses to appreciate the world around them. The author asks questions along the way, such as what is the reader’s favorite food when discussing healthy options to eat, which makes the book interactive and fun. The book also has a multicultural aspect to it, as it explains that people look different, and it is not what is on the outside that matters, but what is on the inside that counts. The book then teaches and displays different countries’ flags, as well as different ways to say hello in various languages. Overall, the positive message of the book runs from beginning to end, as the story concludes with the children going to bed, and the author asking them to go to sleep with a smile on their faces, so that they can dream big and reach for the stars.

The message of this book is a very important one, and author Melanie Northway has done a splendid job offering a lot of different examples of how to be a happy and healthy person throughout daily activities and experiences. The interactive elements are also great, as they not only teach children new things, they make them feel special, as the book is asking their opinion and what they already know. The colorful illustrations by Dean Cinquini are the perfect fit for the text, as they are lively and inventive, but not overall complicated for such a young reading audience. While this message and story will mostly appear to young children, it really is important that we all follow along its guidelines.


The Mystery of Dead Fish Reef by Meaghan Arundell


The Mystery of Dead Fish Reef is an adorable rhyming book for children written by Meaghan Arundell that chronicles the adventures of a jellyfish named Jim and his other seafaring friends. Jim is part of a group known as the Jelly Troupe that is led by Captain Blunderbuss. These jellyfish feel it is their duty to explore the ocean. One day the Jelly Troupe decides to venture to a place called Dead Fish Reef where fish often go missing. Once they arrive near the spot, the jellyfish are attacked by a giant lobster, but luckily they escape. Soon a shark swarms upon them, and even though the jellyfish are terrified, the Shark, whose name is Flake, actually wants to become their friend. Right from the beginning Flake and Jim have a special bond, and together they discover what is happening to cause all of the fish to disappear at Dead Fish Reef. You’ll have to read the story to find out the answer to the mystery for yourself!

While the copy of The Mystery of Dead Fish Reef that we reviewed did not have any illustrations, the story itself shined on its own, the rhyming couplets inventive and fun to read. Arundell has created memorable characters in an underwater world where jellyfish and sharks get along. The pace of the story moves smoothly, and there are many excitements along the way that will keep children’s interest. The story is the perfect length for a before bedtime book. With the addition of illustrations that depict the colorful characters the author has created, this already illustrative tale will become even brighter!


Fiona the Flamingo: Princess for the Day by JB Heart

fionaFiona the Flamingo: Princess for the Day written by JB Heart and illustrated by Higgenbotham is a short children’s novel that pairs together a fun story with important ideas, like what it means to believe in yourself. Our main character Fiona decides to enter the Princess for the Day competition, and gets a little more than she bargained for. Fiona is not just your average flamingo, as she is a rodeo barrel-riding cowgirl who travels around the country with her horse Misty to wherever rodeos are held. She loves adventure, and also seems to have a love-interest in another flamingo named Fitz, who she recently met at a rodeo in Texas. With this backstory and being introduced to Fitz and his family at the beginning of the book, we quickly move into the tale at hand, as the pageant begins and Fiona has to prove her worth. Is she special enough to stand out from the other girls, and will her talent impress the judges? You will have to read to find out!

This is a very entertaining book, for obvious reasons, as it is unlikely you have ever read about a flamingo who likes to go to rodeos entering a beauty contest before. JB Heart’s vivid imagination has created a fun and engaging book for young readers to dive into. While this is the first flamingo book that focuses on Fiona, Fitz has appeared in many of his own titles that have come before this one. The entire series seems to be one that young readers would be excited to read. Fiona the Flamingo is perfect for those kids who are over picture books and ready for a longer, more challenging read.


The Complete Adventures of Shelby F. Squirrel and Friends: Shelby’s Flying Lesson
by Eleanor Lawrie

shelbyThe Complete Adventures of Shelby F. Squirrel and Friends: Shelby’s Flying Lesson tells the story of a young male squirrel named Shelby who has finally reached the age where he and his twin sister Darby are old enough to leave their tree and explore the ground below. As their mother prepares them for this escapade, she informs them that the F. in their name stands for Flying, as they are special squirrels who have the ability to take flight. This very idea frightens Shelby, as he doesn’t believe he would ever be able to fly as his mother claims. He races out of the tree, ignoring his mother’s plea that he never go down to the ground alone, and soon enough he is in a big heap of trouble. A menacing dog backs Shelby in a corner so that he has to run away, he ends up accidentally getting trapped inside of a large building with lots of people walking around. Before he knows it he’s in an elevator riding it up to a higher floor. All Shelby wants to do is return to his family. When he sees an open window and a tree below, without even thinking he takes his chance, flying out of the building by using his natural abilities, returning to his mother and sister and telling them that he will listen to the rules from this point forward.

This is a very fast paced children’s story that is full of excitement and tension, as Shelby finds himself going from one problem to the next on his adventure out of the tree that he grew up in. While we don’t learn too much about Shelby himself or his family, the author does a great job of moving the story along from one scene to the next in a way that children will find very entertaining. This is just one of the stories in the collection that Eleanor Lawrie has written about this spunky little squirrel.


Creepy Crawly Pets by Mackenzie McGrath

Creepy Crawly Pets is a children’s book written and illustrated by Mackenzie McGrath that follows a child named Sammy who learns about bugs and insects from their older brother and sister who have them as pets. In the introduction of the book we find out that the book was written as a way to expose children to bugs and to teach them about them so that they would be familiar with the creatures, thereby hopefully reducing the amount of fear usually associated with these kinds of living beings. The character of Sammy is purposely not identified as one gender or the other so that both boys and girls can relate to the narrator. The colorful illustrations pair well with the text that is simple, insightful, and also fun to read along with. The narrative teaches the reader about parts of the insect’s body, and what some of these certain bugs can do. By the end, Sammy feels much less afraid of the critters.

While the main textual part of the story is not entirely long, there is still enough factual information provided for children to learn about bugs and insects. The end of the book even has real-life photos of some of the bugs that were mentioned in the story, offering information about their habitat, diet, size, and life-span. There is also a glossary that covers common insect terms. This is the perfect kind of book to read to a child who likes bugs or insects, or for a young person who is interested in learning more about them. While the narrative itself could be expanded, and the illustrations further polished, overall this is a cute and well-organized book that children will enjoy, whether they love bugs or not.


Bobby Wright Was Wrong by Daniel Craig

A charming story with a fun-paced rhyming scheme, Bobby Wright Was Wrong is a children’s book written by Daniel Craig that follows Bobby Wright as he decides to run away from home. The book opens with Bobby finding his younger brother Evan trashing his room, which makes him very upset. When his parents do not side with Bobby he becomes angry and decides to run away since they don’t seem to appreciate him. Once Bobby is out of the house he realizes that he hasn’t thought this whole running away thing through very much, as it’s December and it’s very cold. He contemplates all of the different places he could go to like the school, museum, or even a tree house, and while they seem like exciting options at first, he quickly realizes why none of them would work. Bobby then comes across a homeless man who offers him some words of wisdom, and explains how important it is to have a family and a safe place to stay. Bobby comes to accept that it was a mistake to leave home and decides to return to his family to admit his wrongdoing.

This book offers the important lesson to not take your family for granted, even at the times when they may upset you. Having parents and siblings who love you is not something that all people are lucky enough to have, so if you do have it, try your best to cherish them. The pace of the book moves along quickly, with a rhyming scheme that is both playful and inventive. There are a lot of children out there who are stubborn like Bobby, so it was nice to see him admit that he was wrong at the end of the story, like the title suggests. He is happy when his family accepts him back. With illustrations added to the story, we know this book could be even better. No matter what though, the narrative shines on its own.


Daisy by Sharon Reyne


daisyDaisy follows the story of a young loving horse, written by Sharon Reyne. In the beginning, Daisy lives in the city behind a big warehouse, where no one comes to visit her or spend time with her. Before long Daisy is loaded up into a big trailer behind a blue truck that smells so much better than her earlier home. Daisy is excited about where she might be going to. Daisy is taken away from the city and watches in awe as her surroundings grow more and more beautiful. She’s taken to a nice open field that is lined with a white fence and lovely trees. Daisy is so happy she runs and runs, feeling free in her new home. However, once night falls there are certain things about the city that Daisy misses. She meets an owl who she befriends and talks to about the differences from her old home in the city. She soon befriends a cricket, a spider, and even a raccoon. Before long, Daisy also meets a young girl named Amy who becomes one of her best friends.

With colorful illustrations and a well-paced plot that will keep children and young adults entertained, Daisy, by Sharon Reyne is a lovely children’s story that horse lovers and animal lovers of all kinds will enjoy. Coming in at over forty pages it is a nice lengthy picture book that would work well as a bedtime story. It could even be split up into sections as parents read the different parts of the narrative to children as Daisy meets all of the various animals that she comes across in her new home.


The Barney Wyrm by Lee Knapton


At the beginning of The Barney Wyrm which is written by Lee Knapton and illustrated by Brant David, we are introduced to an ordinary young boy named Billy Peters who loves sports and hates kisses from his aunties. When Billy hears something coming from his wardrobe he goes to investigate, only to find a terrifying dragon-like creature named Barney hiding there who smells like cat poo. We are then given a quick history of the different kinds of dragons, of which The Barney Wyrm is the last remaining. There were the grand dragons, the kind of ancient folklore, the middle dragons who were smaller and more wary of humans, and then the wyrms, who were smelly and about the size of a car. We then return to the scene between Billy and Barney in his room, after Barney decides he may eat Billy, Billy faints, only to wake up and notice that Barney is gone. He wonders if it was all just a dream…

This is a well organized and beautifully illustrated children’s book that has an original fun text to go with the colorful artwork that brings Billy, Barney, and all of the other characters to life. If you have a young son or daughter who is a fan of dragons, this book would be perfect for them, as it adds a new spin on the famous mythical creature. This book has a little bit of a funky kick to it, as it discusses weird smells, and strange looking beasts, all of which is sure to delight and entertain children in a humorous way. All in all, this is an exceptional children’s book that dragon-lovers and everyone else is sure to enjoy.


Missy’s Big Adventure by Cassandra Ricks


A children’s story about a little kitten who wanders away from home, Missy’s Big Adventure written by Cassandra Ricks teaches children the importance of listening to their parents. Missy is just a curious young kitten who loves adventure, and through her naivety and cluelessness about the dangers of the world around her, she disobeys her mother’s warning to stay in the yard. At first Missy just claims she will only go a little ways away, getting back in time before her mother even notices, but it’s not long before she wanders a great distance. Through interacting with ducks in the water, waking up a sleeping Mr. Owl, playing with Ralph the Raccoon and Peter the Possum, Missy is having a great time exploring her neighborhood and learning more about the other animals and herself. Unfortunately, the good times end there, as on her way back to her mother she is confronted by an enormous bear who isn’t as friendly as the other animals she’s met along her adventure.

While this story shows that going for an adventure can be fun, it also displays to children how important it is to listen to a rule that your mother or father gives you. Missy is lucky enough to escape the clutches of the bear, but she wouldn’t have even been in such danger if she just would have listened to her mother in the first place. The story has a nice pace to it, and Ricks has created a fun and easy to follow tale, but we didn’t find anything too terribly original about the narrative. Missy is a fun, adventurous, outgoing kitten, but there is nothing that truly sets her apart from any other children’s book character. The copy we reviewed was without illustrations, so we cannot comment on any artwork, but we are sure that the addition of some colorful drawings would surely help the book shine even further.


The Legend of Wild Horse Beach by Bronwen Webb


Bronwen Webb’s The Legend of Wild Horse Beach begins with a brief glimpse into the past, as two dragons from opposing clans, Zebedia, and Ice Clan prince, and Sciathie, a Fire Clan princess, desperately try to escape the bounty hunters hired by Zebedia’s father, sent to kill the two young lovers. They flee to Serennis, a “mythical island of sanctuary” through the magic gateway, and seem to have escaped those who would do them harm. Zebedia is elated, but Sciathie seems less sure that they are safe. The story quickly shifts to the present day, where Millie, Kate, and Tom are chasing Millie’s sister, Lucinda, who has mischievously stolen Kate’s backpack. When they finally catch up to Lucinda, they are astounded to see her with what appears to be a unicorn. The unicorn says something to Lucinda, who seems to agree, then mounts the unicorn and flies away, despite Millie’s increasingly urgent cries to stop. Millie, Kate, and Tom begin a dangerous mission to get Lucinda back, while Lucinda is on a mission of her own: protecting a herd of unicorns from Merradagh the witch. Eventually, the children will work together in a frantic attempt to free the unicorns and themselves from Merradagh’s clutches. Along the way, they meet Zebedia, who has also been hurt by Merradagh and will also need the children’s help.

Webb’s story will have readers on the edge of their seats with this action-packed, well-written tale. Webb’s descriptive prose is beautifully structured but easy to follow. The ending of this story will leave the reader wanting more and, luckily, it seems there are yet more stories to be told.


A Simple Idea to Empower Kids by Kathleen Boucher


Kathleen Boucher has written a positive and self-affirmative children’s book called A Simple Idea to Empower Kids that focuses on the power of love and how every child is special. Before you even open this book, you are offered an all-inclusive vision of the world, as the cover image shows smiling children hand in hand from different places across the globe surrounding the world in happiness. The narrator explains that love is the greatest power on earth, and that with it, children can accomplish anything they wish to. They have the power to choose, and be themselves, no matter what happens. As the narrator tells the reader, they are unique and special, there will only ever be one of them on this earth. With belief and faith in the positivity that is bursting out of this book, the children who read, or are read this story will feel happy and celebrated.

The tone of this children’s book is extremely positive, and would be sure to delight any child, especially if they are feeling down on themselves for any reason. The colorful illustrations are intriguing and fit well with the text, offering depictions of all different kinds of children, showing that everyone is capable of happiness if they focus on the love, and the power to choose their own destiny. Although the message of this book may seem a bit profound and philosophical, Kathleen Boucher has made the message simple and easy for children to understand. Not only is this book offering a great message for children to digest, it is also fun and playful too!


Spin the Globe: Turtles of the Reef by Edward Moldenhauer


Spin the Globe: The Incredible Adventures of Frederick von Wigglebottom: Turtles of the Reef written by Edward Moldenhauer and illustrated by Ken Yapsangco is another book in the informative children’s book series, where this time we follow Frederick to the tropical land of Belize. This time, Frederick finds himself on a beautiful beach covered with turtles, as he looks at his map, he finds out that this country is home to Maya ruins, rainforests, and the second largest coral reef in the world. Frederick soon meets a boy named K’ayab who is a native of Belize with Mayan ancestry. He tells Frederick of the endangered turtles that his family is studying. K’ayab informs Frederick of the history of the country of Belize, revealing a very colorfully layered culture. Throughout the book Frederick goes on many adventures in Belize, including snorkeling, exploring the rainforest and ruins, and much more.

This is a great book series to teach kids about geography, history, and culture of different countries around the world. Moldenhauer has created an engaging and entertaining character with Frederick von Wigglebottom who children will be eager to follow as he explores the world. The book is well organized and packed with facts for kids to latch on to. The colorful illustrations are great and help add to the text. Since the book has chapters and is probably a little to long to read before bed in one sitting, parents could read this book over the course of one week. The glossary at the back of the book is also helpful to further clarify new unfamiliar terms. We love this book series and we think you will too!


The Tale of Tango by Paul E. Hohmann

four stars

The Tale of Tango by Paul E. Hohmann and illustrated by Ivan Earl Aguilar is an endearing children’s book about an airplane named Tango that is learning to fly for the first time. When Tango goes into the air he sees everything up high from above, a beautiful view stretching beneath him for miles in all directions. Tango gets used to the man in the suit who flies him around the same route, but after a while Tango is placed for sale, and another pilot comes to test-fly him. Tango is surprised to be going in a whole new direction in the sky, which causes him a bit of anxiety. This pilot likes to fly Tango for long periods of time, and Tango really enjoys being in the sky for such extended hours. Eventually Tango is sold again and purchased by a woman pilot, and not long after that, he started to have mechanical issues which damaged his body and forced him to stay grounded. In the end, Tango is taken to be repaired and is made as good as new. He is then put on display at a museum for plane lovers to come and admire him.

The illustrations in this book are quite wonderful, the artist’s paintings come to life in full page color on every page. The border that is featured on the text pages is also a nice touch, with a small image of Tango there to help the reader along. This book would be great for any child who loves planes, as it will teach them about the kinds of things that can happen throughout a plane’s life. While the story itself is on the longer side for a children’s book, and there is a lot of text featured on the story pages, the overall narrative flows in a nice manner, and is still a relatively quick read. All in all, this is a well-constructed book that helps showcase the wonder of planes.


The Chicken Street Gang and the Day Gran Dug Up the Park by Hilary Hawkes

four stars

In the second book in the series, The Chicken Street Gang and the Day Gran Dug Up the Park by Hilary Hawkes, the five children who band together on Chicken Street to solve mysteries find themselves trying to help an old folks home that is in trouble of losing its funding. Tom’s Gran lives in the old people’s home along with a bunch of her fun and entertaining friends. Since the home has run out of money, it will soon be closed and sold to the menacing Mr. Snarling. The five kids in the Chicken Street Gang try to come up with a plan so that they can save the home from closing, which leads them to try and discover a long lost treasure that was buried years ago. Perhaps this is the very reason that Gran takes matters into her own hands and starts digging in the park? You’ll have to read to find out.

This novel for children shows great examples of both friendship and family, and people working together to solve a common problem. Hilary Hawkes has written a great number of books about children with disabilities, and they all bring something new to the table. This book is no exception. The way the kids try to fix problems and solve mysteries is similar in a way to the Scooby Doo gang, although these are younger kids, not teenagers, and they have more personal issues than the famous group. Nevertheless, their stories are just as engaging to read.


The Chicken Street Gang and the Day Dad Borrowed an Elephant by Hilary Hawkes

four stars

In the first book of The Chicken Street Gang series, we follow Luke, Poppy, Lucy, Tom, and Billie as they aim to solve a mystery. The Chicken Street Gang and the Day Dad Borrowed an Elephant by Hilary Hawkes sets up the framework for the future books in the series, but it works well as a standalone children’s novel as well. As we previously discussed in our review of the third book in this series, some of the children have health issues or disabilities, but that doesn’t stop them from having fun and setting out on adventure. In this story, Poppy’s dad’s job is jeopardized. He must find a way to sleep in the daytime so that he can stay up all night. Nothing works for him though, until he accidentally borrows an elephant from the nearby wildlife park. The elephant’s name is Wilma, and soon the children in The Chicken Street Gang realize that Wilma has a magical power that might help Poppy’s dad keep his job after all!

The title of this book alone should be enough to catch children’s attention, and even if it doesn’t, the engaging story that Hawkes has written will be sure to pull them in. A group of children banding together to solve mysteries is a cute premise, and the weight of it is seen as even more important due to the fact that some of the children are living with disabilities. While those setbacks are not the center of the story, Hawkes does make sure that the reader is aware of the afflictions that cause her characters hardship.


Strawberry Surprise by Hilary Hawkes

four stars

Strawberry Surprise is a short children’s novel written by Hilary Hawkes that tells the story of a young boy named Alfie who has dyslexia. His parents own the Cuckoo Lane Restaurant, where his big sister Lily works as a waitress, and is considered to be the best worker there. Alfie’s Grandad is an inventor, and has invented wonderful gadgets, and even robots! Alfie feels like everyone is succeeding around him, everyone has talents and passions, and he feels lost in the world, and overshadowed by his family’s accomplishments. Alfie decides to change this by entering the Yummy Pudding Contest, so that he can gain some recognition for himself. He also tries his best to help out when the restaurant inspector visits Cuckoo Lane, but things go terribly wrong in a rather comical manner. Through all of the chaos, Alfie finds out he has a wonderful and impressive talent of his own, causing him to feel as if he matters, and that he belongs.

All children want to feel as if they are special, and if one is surrounded by others who are talented and are succeeding in life, it makes them feel as if they need to try even harder to shine. Alfie suffers from dyslexia, but that does not stop his urge to make a difference in the world. Hawkes has written another interesting tale that shows children that differences do not have to set you back if you search for something that will help you stand out. Her writing encourages kids to never give up, even if hard times come around.


Time’s Up, Harry Lark! By Hilary Hawkes

four stars

Imagine a computer game that can show you startlingly accurate predictions about events that have yet to occur. If you found a game like this, would you use it to try and stop bad things from happening? This is the premise for Hilary Hawkes’ children’s novel Time’s Up, Harry Lark! The story follows a boy named Harry, who suffers from dyslexia. He loves playing tricks on people, especially his older sister, Clara. The real action and adventure starts when Harry and his friend Jake find the computer game that has these mysterious time-traveling like powers. Even though the boys try to change the future, the game outsmarts them, and their interventions don’t end up working out the way they plan. After a while, the game reveals the most serious prediction of all, and the boys have to try to outsmart the program to stop a terrible event from occurring.

As the title suggests, this novel for children and young adults plays with time in an interesting and thought-provoking way. Hilary Hawkes has succeeded again at creating realistic characters that children can both identify with and learn from. As the reader follows along Harry and Jake’s adventures, they begin to understand that the future is an unruly place, an unknown that cannot be tamed. The pages will pass them by quickly, as they race towards the conclusion, hoping that the young boys can figure out a way to get to a future that is better off than the one the computer game predicts.


The Chicken Street Gang and The Day at Bizkit Biscuits by Hilary Hawkes

four stars

The Chicken Street Gang and The Day at Bizkit Biscuits is a short novel for children written by Hilary Hawkes. The story follow a group of children named Luke, Poppy, Lucy, Tom, and Billie who call themselves the Chicken Street Gang, as they all live on Chicken Street and also go to the Chicken Street School which is of course, on Chicken Street! They are all in the same class in Year Five. Some of the children have health issues, as Billie has a hearing problem, Poppy has brittle bones disease and Tom has Autism. These three don’t let their disabilities stop them from exploring Chicken Street and just being your average kid however. They band together with Luke and Lucy and love to solve mysteries around the neighborhood. This is the third book in the trilogy, which follows the children on an adventure to the BizKit Biscuits factory, which Billie’s dad owns. The kids find that the new vegetable flavored biscuits are a great way to trap burglars! With this knowledge, many hijinks ensue!

This is a great book for children who are starting to read longer books on their own, as it is much longer than a normal picture book, but short enough to keep children’s attention throughout the entire story. The simple black and white illustrations contained within are a nice touch to help push the child aged reader along. Hilary Hawkes does a great job of banding children with disabilities together to love and support one another, and best of all, go on adventures that other kids will enjoy reading about!


Friends and Heroes by Hilary Hawkes

four stars

A story about four children who all have their own family issues, Friends and Heroes, is a short novel for young children written by Hilary Hawkes. The narrative follows Al, Lauren, Gary and Josh, who group together to find their way in the world. Al’s mother is disabled, Lauren’s mom is suffering from a crippling bout of depression, Gary longs for a normal family, while Josh just wants to belong. Through their time together, they end up becoming witnesses to a crime, that leads them towards the kinds of situations they never though they would have to face. Making the hard decisions together, the four kids realize that being friends with one another is what matters the most. Through the support they give one another, Al, Lauren, Gary and Josh realize how important friendship really is.

Hilary Hawkes has written an impressive number of books that deal with mental illnesses and how they affect the lives of children, and Friends and Heroes can be considered another beneficial addition to her collection of work. She paints a realistic picture of four very different children and weaves their lives together in a poetic and entertaining way. Young readers will enjoy the suspense and surprises that this story has to offer them. With four main protagonists to follow, there is someone for everyone to relate with, even if the children reading do not have the same problems with the characters on the page. This novel shows that even in times of hardship, it is possible to get by and be happy with the help of your friends.


Why Not a Rhino Too? by Hilary Hawkes

four stars

A children’s book about a rhinoceros named Rumble Why Not a Rhino Too? written by Hilary Hawkes and illustrated by Richard Hawkes tells the story of this lovable animal trying to find his place. He sees an ad for wanted dancers, and decides to audition, because he figures if people can be dancers, he, a rhino, surely can be a dancer too. The people in charge of the auditions laugh at Rumble when he suggests he wants to be a dancer, but they let him try out nevertheless. The result of his dancing with the other people ends up to be a bit of a catastrophe, as his big size and lack of grace does not add well to the troupe. The instructor feels bad for Rumble so he lets him keep the dancing costume, but does not ask him to return. Once leaving the audition, Rumble sees a sign for entertainers wanted at a children’s hospital. After many of the other entertainers fail to make the sick kids happy, Rumble’s dancing perfectly delights them, and the manager asks him to return again in the future so that he can continue dancing.

The moral of this story is that just because people think you can’t be good at something, that doesn’t mean you should believe them. If you have a passion for something, then you should try it out, even if no one else thinks you can do it. Rumble is not taken seriously as a dancer, and even though he doesn’t fit in with the other dancers on stage, he finds his play dancing as an entertainer in an even better way, bringing joy to sick children through his various moves. This story will appeal to both boys and girls, and any child who enjoys dancing or animals.


Merry Christmas, Little Owl by Hilary Hawkes

four stars

Merry Christmas, Little Owl! written by Hilary Hawkes and illustrated by Richard Hawkes tells the story of Little Owl and another owl named Ollie. Little Owl is confused and frustrated about the fact that owls sleep during the day, and are awake at night, when everyone else is asleep. Ollie explains to him the benefits of owl’s routine on a regular basis, and goes even further by telling Little Owl about the benefits it has this time of the year, as it is Christmas Eve. Ollie tells Little Owl about the stars, and how owls would have been the first ones to see the angels come down to the shepherds to tell them about the arrival of baby Jesus on Christmas. Owls would have been able to witness baby Jesus being born in the manger and all the joy that it brought. Furthermore, Owls might even be able to see Father Christmas fly through the sky and deliver presents around the world to the children who’ve been good. After finding out all of this information, Little Owl is happy owls are awake in the night, as he wonders if he too will receive a Christmas present.

This story does a nice job bringing in the story of Christmas in an unexpected way, by having an older owl explain it to a younger owl, and how they can see certain things unfold that you would not expect them to be paying attention to. The narrative is engaging, and just the right length to read to a child before bedtime, especially during the Christmas season. The book is very colorful and the illustrations are nice, although some of them do appear a little rough around the edges, but that may just be a stylistic choice that the author and illustrated were going for.


Button Nose the Sad Little Bear by Gina LoBiondo

four stars

Button Nose the Sad Little Bear is a children’s book written by Gina LoBiondo and illustrated by Brittany Wilder that tells the story of one girl’s love for her teddy bear that she grew up with. Once Button Nose is bought from the store by the little girl’s mother, he finds a loving home with the girl who carries him everywhere and gives him all of her attention. He enjoys the time with the girl and the family, and even though his face still holds an expression of sadness, he is actually very content. After some time passes the girl’s mother decides she is too old to still be playing with Button Nose, so she sells him at a yard sale. The new girl who buys him doesn’t play with him much, and this makes Button Nose sad. After passing hands a few more times, he ends up with a toy collector. Eventually the collector sells him, and Button Nose is shipped away in a dark box, with no idea where he is going. When the box is opened, Button Nose is elated to find that it was the little girl who has purchased him, but now she is all grown up. She was looking for him for quite some time, and is so happy to be reunited with him again.

This is a nice book that takes inspiration from a true story, as the photographs at the back of the book reveal, Button Nose is a real bear, and the author Gina had him as a little girl, only to be separated from him, and eventually reunited once again. The illustrations are well done and have a sort of retro feel to them, with the oval like shape they are all drawn in. This is a nice touch for the book, since the story is meant to take place in the distant past, as the opening lines suggest. While there could be more color included on the white spaces of the interior pages, and the cover could use some improving, overall this is a touching story that is sure to mean even more to readers since it is based on the author’s own life.


Ettie Explores Earth

four stars

An interactive story about a little alien who is visiting Earth for the first time, Ettie Explores Earth, written and designed by Lynn Holland is an endearing children’s book that kids are sure to enjoy. At the beginning of the story, we are introduced to Ettie, who comes from a faraway planet called Green Cheeze. She begins by teaching us about Earth and our solar system, as we learn about the various planets and the fact that astronauts have traveled to our moon. As we move forward, we also get closer to Earth to learn more about the planet and those that inhabit it. We understand that the blue is the ocean, and the green/brown we see is the land where people live in cities, towns, and villages. From this point forward the book becomes even more interactive as Ettie asks children to describe the other kinds of creatures that live on our planet. We learn about dogs, cats, cows, bears, and even snakes, as Ettie tells us what similar creatures on her home planet are called.

This is a fun book for children to read, as the way Ettie asks questions of them will make the child feel as if they are helping the little green alien learn about our planet, as they too are learning things themselves. The book is designed in bright colors, and includes a lot of great images to go along with the text. We like the way that the book starts with a broad focus on the solar system and then zooms in on the planet itself as we talk about the different kinds of animals that live here. However, it could also be argued that the book lacks a little bit of focus since so many topics are covered. We also would have liked to have seen more variety in the way Ettie is pictured, as she is pretty much shown in the exact same position on every page with the same facial expression, just at different sizes. Nevertheless, this is a charming children’s story that kids who like science fiction and animals will consider a favorite.


Merry Christmas in the Sea by Lucy Herman


merryA beautifully illustrated story that is perfect to read to children before bedtime, especially during the holiday season, Merry Christmas in the Sea, written by Lucy Herman and illustrated by David Anderson is a delightful and colorful book. The story starts off with a frog leading some children into the realm underwater, a place he calls the land of melted snow. Under the sea we are taken on a journey where we quickly realize that the fish, sea turtles, dophins, octopi, and many other sea creatures also celebrate Christmas in a festive way. There are coral Christmas trees that the fish adorn with seashells and starfish shining bright like the stars in the sky. The little fish are anxious for Santa to arrive, just as young children are, but instead of his sled being pulled by reindeer, underwater his sleigh is driven by a band of seahorses. This tale reminds us that so many different people (and perhaps even animals) take joy in celebrating the festive time that is Christmas.

The rhyming narrative of this story is easy enough for children to read on their own, or for a parent to read aloud to them. The illustrations are very well done and fit in perfectly with the text on each page. Every aspect of this book fits together perfectly. We commend Lucy Herman for coming up with an original Christmas story that hasn’t been seen before, and for David Anderson’s wonderful illustrations that add such vibrancy. If you’re looking for a Christmas gift for a young child you know that loves sea life, Merry Christmas in the Sea would a great option, as it is a book they’re sure to love.


Birdy Bird by Ginny Boyd

four stars

Birdy Bird is a children’s story written by Ginny Boyd and illustrated by Brian D. Lightfoot that tells the story of a young bird who falls from his nest while waiting for his mother and father to return back home with some food. Shortly after his fall, Birdy Bird is rescued by two strange looking birds, who he refers to as Grandma and Grandpa. It isn’t long before Birdy Bird realizes that Grandma and Grandpa actually aren’t birds at all, but people who are going to take care of him. Birdy Bird enjoys his time with the humans as they watch over him and help him grow by feeding him delicious scrambled eggs and apricots. When Birdy Bird is big enough, Grandma and Grandpa decide to let him venture outside to see if he’d like to test out his wings. At first Birdy Bird is confused, and thinks Grandma and Grandpa are going to fly with him too, but it’s not long before he concludes that he is the only one who is capable of soaring into the sky.

This is an endearing story about the kind of situation all of us have heard about: a little bird falls from his nest, people come across him, take him in, nurse him back to health, and then are sad when the day comes when they have to see him go. The tone of the narrative is fun and playful and will be sure to entertain children. The black and white illustrations add a classic touch to the story itself. Since this is a little on the long side for a picture book, it would be best for middle grade readers, or read by parents to younger children right before bed time.


Big Hippo by Kevin Murmur

Circle of Life: Big Hippo, written and illustrated by Kevin Murmur, begins with a vegetarian hyena on the search for food in the savannah, an area known as Stone Peak where animals are free and safe to roam. Farther on from the hyena is a hippo laying along the shores of a large lake, where he is contemplating the argument he got in with his brother. The hippo’s brother has left and is nowhere to be found. The hippo asks an egret to help him search for his brother. Although the egret cannot find the hippo’s brother, after seeing the hyena from the beginning of the story he comes to the conclusion that the brother has been eaten by the hyena. The big hippo decides he is going to go and beat up the hyena to get revenge for killing his brother. As the big hippo runs after the hyena, his little brother comes out from the shadows and follows after him, as he was not eaten by the hyena after all.

The illustrations included in this book are very well done, painted in a calming manner that elicits a nice aura around a story that is meant to be told before bedtime. While the narrative is inventive and original, and seems to offer up a moral of not judging a person based off of preconceived notions, the structure of the story does seem somewhat disjointed. Beginning with the hyena and then switching to the hippo may be somewhat confusing for the reader, until they come to the end of the story and realize why the hyena was chronicled in the first place. The ending is also more of a cliffhanger than an actual ending, because the big hippo is not even made aware that his little brother is perfectly fine. We like the idea of the book, and the illustrations are great, we just wish the story line was organized differently, in a more linear and straightforward way.


Frizzy the S.A.D. Elf by Dorothea Jensen

First Prize Winner – The 2014 Red City Review Book Awards – Young Adult/Children’s

Frizzy the S.A.D. Elf, written by Dorothea Jensen and illustrated by Shayne Hood tells the story of a young female elf named Frizzy who works for Santa at the North Pole. At the beginning of the story we find her depressed on Christmas morning, as she is sad that all of the dolls she has made for the children are now gone, as they have been delivered as presents. Frizzy goes to the Elfgym to blow off some steam as she hopes that Santa can find a new job for her. In the gym, she runs into her friend Dizzy who explains to her that she is feeling so low due to S.A.D. which stands for Seasonal Affective Distress, a malady that comes along as Christmas occurs and then passes. With Santa’s permission Frizzy decides to start making monster trucks, as she feels she won’t become attached to them and then be depressed when she has to see them go. After starting working on making monster trucks, Frizzy soon decides she wants to help the other elves to beautify them, by giving them makeovers to improve their appearances. Even though Frizzy is pleased with the makeovers she performs, the other elves are not satisfied with their new looks. She thus has to stop dolling up her friends, and decides to make her monster trucks pretty instead. It’s not long before little boys everywhere start receiving monster trucks that are too beautiful for them to handle. Boys no longer want monster trucks, but little girls start requesting them more and more. In the end, Frizzy finds happiness in her new job, causing her to no longer be S.A.D.

This is a highly original and wonderfully developed children’s book that is sure to be a big hit around the holidays. Including elements that will appeal to young girls and boys alike, Jensen’s narrative rhymes the whole way through, creating a plot the paces itself while creating playful sentences that move it along. The rhymes do not seem forced and fit into the story perfectly. The illustrations are also a highlight, as the large full color images are superbly done, with depth and details that lets us see Frizzy and her other elf friends displayed upon the page. By coming up with a creative and engaging story, Jensen has succeeded at crafting a memorable Christmas story for children that is so good it’s possible it will be enjoyed year round.


Jinx and the Tale of Lanky the Lemur by Steven Narleski

A story of a young dog named Jinx and her friend Lanky the Lemur, Jinx and the Tale of Lanky the Lemur is a rhyming picture book for children. Written by Steven Narleski and illustrated by him and Leanne Tursi, the story begins by explaining all of the fun that the two titular characters have together, as they play various sports, and perform other entertaining activities side by side. Even though the pair is inseparable and they always have a good time together, the other dogs notice how different Lanky is from the rest of them, and it’s not long before trouble starts to brew. Billy the bulldog, who lives up to his name, begins to bully Jinx and Lanky both, calling out Lanky’s differences and questioning why Jinx would want to hang out with him in the first place. Billy’s taunting starts to get to Jinx and she begins to wonder what she should do. It doesn’t take her long to realize that it doesn’t matter what Billy says, Lanky is her best friend and she is going to stand up for him no matter what it takes. And she does just that, she tells Billy she doesn’t care what he thinks, and continues to be Lanky’s friend, the other dogs realize that Jinx is right and leave Billy and his ignorant pact to become friends with the two best buds.

The narrative moves along quickly from setup, to conflict, to the resolution, at a pace children will find enjoyable. The rhyming of some of the sentences will also be sure to bring a smile to the young readers’ faces as they follow Jinx and Lanky through this tale. The illustrations are colorful and fit the story perfectly, and it’s obvious that the illustrators have artistic talent, we just wish they were polished a little bit more, as it is appears that they were created using color pencils. That being said, if that is all the illustrators had to work with, we offer them kudos for creating nice illustrations with limited materials. This is a nice story to use as an example of how to face bullying head on, by believing in yourself and your friends, and refusing to change just because others might not agree with you.


My Big Tow: The Adventures of Captain Recovery by Kyle Chirgwin

A perfect book for young boys who love playing with trucks and cars, My Big Tow: The Adventures of Captain Recovery written by Kyle Chirgwin and illustrated by Joshua Otero tells the story of a giant tow truck that saves an airplane that has accidentally driven off the tarmac. Darren is a young boy playing with his trucks in the sandbox, and his imagination takes over, turning him into Captain Recovery. He gets a call that there is plane that needs help, so he takes his big blue truck to the airport, with his trusted dog Kody riding along in the front cab with him. Once at the airport, Captain Recovery assesses the situation with Fire Chief Hoffy, and in no time they have the plane rigged up and are able to pull it back onto the tarmac with Captain Recovery’s big blue truck. When the mission is over, Darren’s Aunt Lisa calls him in for lunch, bringing him back to reality as the adventures of Captain Recovery fade away. However, as Darren eats his lunch, he is already excited about the other escapades he will dream up for Captain Recovery and his truck, Big Blue.

A straightforward adventure book, My Big Tow: The Adventures of Captain Recovery is beautifully illustrated, and the narrative is simple enough for kids to really latch onto. The big blue truck, the playful dog Kody, and the fact that the entire story is just an imagination of the young boy Darren help kids to dream up their own quests when they may otherwise become bored with the reality they are living in. Chirgwin has experience in the towing industry, and his passion is evident from this well constructed book. So many young boys love playing with trucks and cars, so this is the perfect book to use to get them to want to read!


The Vision of Malaika by Rodney Jacobs

A children’s book focusing on a serious issue filtered through the lens of faith and religion The Vision of Malaika, written by Rodney Jacobs offers a lot for children and their parents to contemplate. The story begins by introducing the title character, and then explains how she has had a dream in which an angel visits her and tells her to become a messenger of God. The angel explains to her that the suicide rate among young people is currently very high, and the Lord wants Malaika to make the people aware of this, and for her to spread a message of a loving God, to therefore help the sadness that many young people are feeling. Malaika goes out and speaks to people, quoting the Bible along the way to help the situation at hand improve. Towards the end of the book, the angel tells Malaika that Jesus is very pleased with her, as the young people she has spoken to are found singing and praying outside of her window.

While the book has a positive message and colorful illustrations to pair with every page of text, it would be remiss if we did not mention the somewhat dark nature of the narrative. The author is aiming to make young people aware of the real problem of youth suicide, but it appears as if Malaika is a rather young character to be talking about something like this, as in real life she probably wouldn’t understand the topic. If Malaika was depicted as a teenager herself, then the book would hold more sway. Highly religious in tone, the story is not for everyone, but if you are a parent who likes teaching your child the tough life lessons, then this book could work for you. Jacobs has certainly put a lot into this book, and his passion for the project is evident, we just wish the source material and the story itself fit better together.


Ricky the Rambunctious Raccoon by Janice Spina

Ricky the Rambunctious Raccoon written by Janice Spina and illustrated by John Spina is the story of a young troublesome raccoon named Ricky who often gets in to trouble during the dark of night. He decides to adventure off away from his mother, and as he goes along his way, he finds a skunk trotting about underneath the moonlight. He aims to befriend the skunk, but it isn’t long before the creature blasts him with a fowl smelling stench, thereby chasing Ricky away. Ricky begins to wonder if leaving the safety of his home was a good idea after all. Soon after his run in with the skunk, an owl tries to attack him, and he barely escapes, jumping into a pool beneath a waterfall for safety. After this second run in, Ricky decides its best for him to return home to his mother.

The rhyming scheme of this narrative is sure to be a hit with children, as the words flow into one another, creating a tale that is easy and fun to read. Ricky’s adventures, although they are brief, offer up a memorable story that kids are bound to enjoy. As the book suggests, it is not always safe out there in the world, but that doesn’t mean it’s not okay to try your luck at having an adventure. The dark pages with white text are a nice touch for a story that is told from the perspective of romping about in the night, and the illustrations help to accentuate the narrative. All in all, this is a pleasant short tale that children are sure to like.


Snowflake’s Adventures on Mount Lifelong: Snowflake and the Seven Sacred Movements by Dan Fallon

Following the adventures of Snowflake the white gorilla, Snowflake’s Adventures on Mount Lifelong: Snowflake and the Seven Sacred Movements is the beginning of what is sure to be an engaging and charming book series for children. This book introduces us to Snowflake, who is a unique white gorilla born in the Green Bingo Jungle, the only one of his kind. He comes across Charlie, a wise old silverback gorilla who tells Snowflake that he is the chosen one, who is meant to climb Mount Lifelong and discover the true meaning of life. Charlie informs Snowflake that before he begins his journey, he must learn the seven sacred movements, which had been passed down for generations for this very occurrence. Charlie explains that the movements have magical properties, and will keep Snowflake safe and strong on his adventure. The seven sacred movements are then outlined and Snowflake performs them, so that he will be prepared to climb Mount Lifelong.

Written by Dan Fallon and illustrated by Paul Winward, this book continues the message of using the physical form to move and stay active in order to bring peace and harmony to one’s being. As in Dan Fallon’s other book Lifelong Movements for Kids that we previously reviewed, this book helps encourage young people to think about their physical activities. The sacred movements Snowflake performs will be sure to convince kids to try them alongside this lovable white gorilla, without even having to ask them outright. The illustrations are fantastic, and the text flows from page to page. The end of the story does end rather abruptly, but since it is clear this is the start of a series, it only begs the reader to want to read even more!


Lifelong Movements for Kids by Daniel Fallon 

Lifelong Movements for Kids written by Daniel Fallon and illustrated by Paul Winward is a truly engaging book for children of all ages to enjoy. As the subtitle ‘21 Simple Exercises in 21 Minutes – with Snowflake the Fitness Guru’ suggests, this book explains why exercise is so important for us, and offers up twenty-one different every day exercises that children can do throughout the day. The author pairs these exercises with common daily activities, so that the children are exercising without even having to change their usual routine. Some examples include ‘Getting out of Bed – Sit Up,’ ‘Passing Mum and Dad the Pots and Pans – Lunge’ and Time to Put the Duvet Cover Back On Ready for Camping in the Great Outdoors – Lateral Raises’ just to name a few. Each exercise is paired with helpful illustrations and tips to instruct on how to perform each activity. Reps and sets are also recommended for different skill sets.

Throughout this book there are playful and informative illustrations of Snowflake the gorilla, who demonstrates the exercises. As the introduction informs, Snowflake is based off of a real gorilla who once lived in the Barcelona Zoo. This book is wonderful from beginning to end, as it is highly organized and very helpful. There is a great deal of content included within its pages, so to receive the most from reading, we suggest parents share the book with their younger children and help them along the way. Older children will most likely be able to use the book on their own to benefit their health and exercise routines. With obesity becoming a major problem in many countries around the world, a book like this that encourages young people to both exercise and read, in a safe, fun, and easy to follow way, is a true treasure that we cannot speak of highly enough.


Simon Loses His Tummy by Judith Wurtman

A story about an adorable overweight dachshund, Simon Loses His Tummy written by Judith Wurtman and illustrated by Kathryn Selbert is a children’s book that is sure to entertain. Simon is a dog that loves to eat cheese, but when he becomes too fat for his own good, his owners have to feed him healthy dog food. Simon hates the dog food, and refuses to eat it. He is lazy, and doesn’t like to go for walks either. He tries as best as he can to hide his gross dog food and beg for cheese, but his owners won’t give in. Eventually they take him to the vet to try and solve the problem once and for all. The veterinarian prescribes Simon a special kind of dog food that is not only healthy, but also tastes like crunchy cheese. With this new dog food, the best of both worlds are combined, and Simon and his owners can be satisfied. Thus, in conclusion, we are happy that Simon is content and will start to shed some of those extra puppy pounds!

This is a fun little book that children and dog lovers alike will get a kick out of. The illustrations are colorful and engaging. There is a lot of text on many pages of the book, but short action words highlighted in bold are bound to create a playful atmosphere when reading the book aloud. Although the moral of the story is not as forward as some other books, there is still a lesson here to be offered, as Simon’s situation shows us it is never good to overindulge ourselves. Wurtman based this story off of her own dachshund, Simon, thus bringing a real life encounter to the page, sharing the tale for others to enjoy.


A Snail Named Slick by Frank Reed and Aleta Reed

A colorful and delightful story about a young green snail, A Snail Named Slick by Frank and Aleta Reed is a charming book about insects and where they belong in the world. Slick is a snail who is separated from his family and finds himself in the garden of an older man named Frank. He has to hide from Frank in fear of being discarded, so he munches on the plants in the garden in the dark of night. Frank’s daughter Lee often visits the balcony where Slick lives, and the snail enjoys hearing the stories that daughter and father share together. Eventually, Frank finds Slick and throws him over the edge of his balcony, since the snail has been eating his plants. Slick survives the fall, and befriends a lovely ladybug by the name of Lollie. It’s not long before Slick is reunited with other members of his snail family, and he sees Frank and Lee off in the distance. Thus, everyone finds a certain sense of harmony at the conclusion of this cute tale.

The inspiration for this story comes from the real life scenario between father and daughter that mirrors Slick’s dilemma between the characters of Frank and Lee. The illustrations in the book are beautiful and eye-catching, and they accentuate the narrative perfectly. The story flows in an enjoyable and entertaining way, never offering a dull moment for the children who are sure to love this tale. The story ends in a happy way, but it is open ended, so there could even be a sequel depicting more of Slick’s adventures. This is a straightforward and entertaining book for young children to read with their parents.


Can You and Mommy…? by Cara Maloney and illustrated by Meghan Maloney

Can You and Mommy…? written by Cara Maloney and illustrated by Meghan Maloney is a young children’s book that explores twenty-six fun activities that a mother and her child can perform together. The activities start with a task beginning with the letter A, then the letter B, followed by C, and so on and so forth, going through the alphabet so that the mother and child can do things like applaud, bounce, and count. The illustrations help accentuate the text, as animals whose names start with the same letter as the task at hand are shown performing the activity that the book is asking about. There are dogs dancing, elephants exercising, and frogs feeling.

The best kinds of children’s books are the ones that are interactive, and this book certainly is. While reading, it is sure to be a special bonding time for mother and child. Kids are sure to get a kick out of all of the different activities the book asks them to perform, just as they are bound to enjoy the colorful illustrations of the animals who are doing the same tasks that the book asks of them. There does seem to be a great deal of alphabet books out there on the market for children, so it’s hard to make any book in this specific genre stick out, but Maloney and Maloney have created a cute book that is sure to the delight young readers who are lucky enough to find it.


Around the World with Littlest Cat: Across the Great Pond by Suki R. Kaplan

Around the World with Littlest Cat: Across the Great Pond is an endearing and informative children’s book written by Suki R. Kaplan. The story follows Littlest Cat, a playful, brave, and curious cat, as she travels from Connecticut to London, England. Through her adventures, Littlest Cat teaches the children who read the story about the different sites in England, which lies across the pond from the United States. On her journey Littlest Cat even gets to visit the Queen! Her owner, Shelley follows a trail of kibble to find Littlest Cat and bring her back home. Even though she finds her, eventually Shelley has to return home, and Littlest Cat disappears again before she can be taken back to the US. When Shelley is back in the States, she receives correspondence, and finds out that Littlest Cat is exploring further, traveling to Ireland and Scotland too. In the end, Shelley wonders if Littlest Cat will soon come home, or travel to a whole new country next.

This book succeeds in a variety of ways, the foremost being that it teaches children about geography, culture, and history in an engaging and instructive way. The book is full of interactive pages, ranging from mazes, word searches, and places to draw. The illustrations are well done and help to accentuate the story telling. The only way the artwork could be strengthened is if it were in color, but since it is so well done, the black and white does not subtract much from the overall appearance of the book. The book is left open-ended and we hope that Kaplan decides to write more books in the series, as this is truly a great idea for a book, and children are sure to enjoy Littlest Cat’s adventures and all of the fun activities included inside of the book that accompany her journeys.


Let Your Light Shine by Kristen Delay

Let Your Light Shine is a children’s story about a young firefly who has lost his ability to shine. Written by Kristen Delay, the narrative starts off with Flash losing his ability to glow, for unknown reasons to him and all of the other fireflies. After speaking with his mother and father, Flash follows their advice to try and find the things that make him happy and explore his natural talents, as his parents believe that this will help Flash find his light again. Flash leaves the magical garden he lives within and ventures out into the world, stopping along the way to go on various exciting escapades with the different animal friends he finds. Along the way he swims with a beautiful fish, flies high in the sky with a bird, hops along with a frog, and explores the darkness of the night while playing with a rollie pollie. In the end, Flash not only finds his light, but he also comes to understand that happiness comes from doing the things you love, and just being yourself.

This is an endearing story that children of all ages will enjoy. Not only does it come with a message, but it includes fun and playful animal characters that kids will find cute and entertaining. Although the version of the story we had the pleasure to read and review did not contain illustrations, the characters that Kristen Delay has created came to life on the page. Once artwork is added to the book, it is sure to shine to its fullest potential, just as little Flash shines again at the end of the story.


No School For Ben by Daphne Pang

No School For Ben: What Will Happen? by Daphne Pang is a story of a six year old boy named Ben who decides one day that he doesn’t want to go to school. The story starts off explaining how Ben usually gets ready for school each day with his parents. They eat breakfast together, and then Ben goes to wait at the bus stop with the other children so that he can ride the yellow bus to school. Once at school, his teacher Christine leads the class in learning exercises. Once Ben’s daily school ritual is introduced, the story then takes a different turn, as one day Ben wakes up and decides he doesn’t want to go to school anymore. He is not sick; rather, he just decides that school is no longer necessary for him, as he already knows his numbers and ABCs. He feels that he is not needed at school, or so he tells his mom. His mom then explains to him what would happen if Ben decided to not go to school, the other children might join him, leaving an empty bus, and an empty classroom. All of the parents would have to stay home to watch their kids, and no one would go to work. Ben then realizes that he is an important part of his school, and happily agrees, after his mother’s convincing, that each day at school can be a good one.

This is a cute children’s book that teaches an important lesson to children who may want to skip school for no real reason at all. The story Pang has written is an entertaining one, and the illustrations by Dwain Esper are of a high quality that match the written descriptions perfectly. This book would be a great story for any child, as its bright colors and well written tale both delight, and offer a moral at the end. Everyone is needed, everyone is special.


Odie the Stray Kitten by Kristen Mott

Odie the Stray Kitten is a cute little book about a young orange kitten named Odie who loses his way from his mother and ends up alone outside in the cold during the middle of winter.  Eventually, he makes his way to a nearby barn where he finds two horses. Odie quickly falls asleep in the warm barn and when he awakes, he finds a nice girl who has another cat with her who is named Bandit. The girl gives Odie some food and takes him to the veterinarian to make sure that he is healthy. Odie is happy now that he is comfortable and in the care of someone who loves him. The girl decides to keep Odie and give him a forever home with her, her horses, and her cat Bandit. Odie and Bandit quickly become good friends as Odie grows into a bigger cat. Odie and Bandit stay in the warm garage during the winter, but once spring comes they venture outside to play in the grass. Odie is so happy that he found a loving home.

Kristen Mott tells the story of Odie in a straightforward and endearing way. Odie, as well as the other animal friends that are included within the book are based off of her own animals, and the affection the author has for them is evident from the story that she has written. Children who love cats will enjoy this story, as the text is paired with beautiful full colored illustrations by Lowell Hilderbrandt that fit perfectly with the narrative on the page. The small images of Odie and Bandit that are included on each page of text are a nice touch that adds to the high quality of this children’s book. All in all, this is an excellent little book that any child will love.


Dear Diary: My Brother Died Today by Suzanne Courtney

Dear Diary: My Brother Died Today by Suzanne Courtney is a children’s book written from the perspective of a young girl whose brother has just died. The young girl narrates the story in the form of diary entries, in which she informs the reader of how she is still able to see and communicate with her brother Robbie, even though he has died. The young girl learns about many things from her brother, such as the angel Daniel helping guide him to heaven, that people who have passed away leave pennies for their loved ones on the street, and that Robbie is fishing with his grandpa in heaven. Although his parents cannot see him the young girl knows that Robbie is watching over them all, and he helps them in their sleep. The young girl often dreams of Robbie, as his spirit provides a light for her in the dark.

This is a well-executed children’s book that would be helpful for any young child who has recently lost a sibling or another loved one. The message is hopeful and uplifting, and although the story could possibly confuse children about the reality that they won’t really be able to see their loved ones once they have died, it is written in such a way that the magic of the young girl being able to see her brother Robbie is understood as a temporary and wonderful exception. Courtney has picked a great format to showcase her story, with the handwritten diary entries paired by cute little illustrations to compliment the narrative. All in all, this is a great short story to help children of all ages cope with the death of someone they love.