Little Critter: Just a Special Thanksgiving by Mercer Mayer

Posted on

Written and Illustrated by Mercer Mayer
(Harper Festival$4.99, Ages 4-7)


One of the very first picture books I ever bought for my son was by Mercer Mayer. I love Little Critter’s character:  rambunctious, sweet, and fun-loving – someone who kids of all ages can relate to. Much like other series books I enjoy (The  Berenstain Bears and the Froggy series), Little Critter’s books give us an opportunity to see the central character in different snippets of life. In Just a Special Thanksgiving, we celebrate the holiday alongside Little Critter and learn that, though Thanksgiving activities and events may not go as planned, realizing the spirit of the holiday is what matters.

From the get-go we feel that exciting sense of “Thanksgiving is in the air.” In the classroom, Little Critter and his friends are drawing pilgrims and turkeys. When school is out, he must rush home to change into his turkey costume for the Thanksgiving play. While you can probably guess what his lines are, poor Little Critter forgets them and opts to sing a song.

At the “big Thanksgiving Day Parade” early next morning more surprises from Little Critter are in store for all participants.  Tired from marching, our hero hops on a float proudly waving to his parents who, along with law enforcement and other parade goers, have become quite irate by his actions.

I love how Little Critter’s innocence tugs on our heartstrings and how blissfully unaware he is of the commotion his actions cause. What’s even more touching is the way he tries to “right” his wrongs (particularly in the scenes at the grocery store) which lead to even more disaster. Kids will enjoy the humor implicit in Little Critter’s goof-ups. At the same time, parents will be reminded that, no matter how bad things may seem, our children’s intentions are good; their hearts are in the right place. Little Critter’s excitement with helping cook and serve the meal at the community center reminds us what’s at the heart of the Thanksgiving holiday.

A great book to curl up with your little one-perhaps while the turkey is roasting in the oven! (Includes 20 stickers).

  • Reviewed by Armineh Manookian

Shop Indie Bookstores

Good Reads With Ronna is proud to be an IndieBookstores Affiliate. Doing so provides a means for sites like ours to occasionally earn modest fees that help pay for our time, mailing expenses, giveaway costs and other blog related expenses. If you click on an IndieBound link in a post and buy anything, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Your purchase supports our efforts and tells us you like the service we’re providing with our reviews, and for that we sincerely thank you.

Best Thanksgiving Books

Posted on




Here’s a variety of our favorite Thanksgiving books this year, some that celebrate the food or beverages of the fall season and others that shed light on an aspect of Thanksgiving we may not have thought about recently. We hope you’ll take some time out of your busy holiday preparations to read with your child or share one of these books with them to read on their own. Wishing all of you a most joyous Thanksgiving 2015. Happy reading and eating!


Thanksgiving Parade with illustrations by Melanie Matthews,
(Price Stern Sloan; $5.99, Ages 3 and up):
In this cheerful, sturdy, 12 page rhyming board book, kids get a front row seat for the famed Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, a decades old NYC tradition chockablock with fabulous floats and brilliantly colored and shaped balloons, so many stories high. Of course no parade would be complete without marching bands and a visit from old St. Nick. This die cut board book is sure to set the countdown to Christmas in motion.


TimeforCranberriescvrTime for Cranberries Written by Lisl H. Detlefsen with illustrations by Jed Henry
(Roaring Brook Press; $17.99, Ages 3-7)
We’re treated to an insider’s look at growing and harvesting cranberries which, for fans of this fruit, is not just a Thanksgiving treat, but a year round treasure. Author Detlefsen “lives on a cranberry marsh in Wisconsin” and knows her stuff.  She tells the story from a young boy’s point of view. He’s finally old enough to participate in harvesttime rather than watching from the wings and takes joy in every aspect of the process. And it is a process, a time consuming one that involves booming, corralling, cleaning and a lot of other steps before the cranberries are ready for delivery at the receiving station. Henry’s illustrations perfectly complement Detlefsen’s prose and provide a good look at how involved being a cranberry grower can be. The author’s note helps readers get a good idea about the history of the industry and the back matter also includes two recipes and a handy glossary.

FromAppleTreestoCiderPleaseFrom Apple Trees to Cider Please Written by Felicia Sanzari Chernesky with illustrations by Julia Patton
(Albert Whitman & Company; $16.99, Ages 4-8)
Chernesky takes us to an apple orchard where all kinds of apples are ripe for the plucking. There are Honeycrisp (my current fave), Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, and Fuji trees and an apple picking family is filling up baskets with a nice assortment. After the family’s done they head over to the cider mill where they’re shown how the apple cider press works to extract the juice. Patton’s artwork is scrumptious and whimsical while Chernesky’s rhyme never misses a beat. “Clean the apples. Check for worms. Wash and dry them. No more germs.” This picture book is an ideal read-aloud for fall and will have you salivating for a cup of hot mulled cider by the end, if not sooner!

TheBoyWhoFellOffTheMayflower The Boy Who Fell Off the Mayflower, or John Howland’s Good Fortune
Written and illustrated by P.J. Lynch
(Candlewick Press; $17.99, Ages 7-10)
This not-to-miss story brings to life the tale of the Mayflower’s voyage as seen through the eyes of an indentured servant to John Carver named John Howland.  I learned about the Pilgrims so long ago that it was not only refreshing to read this new perspective, but enlightening, too.

Lynch does a bravura job both with the execution of his evocative, muted artwork as well as with his economy of words. He embellishes little yet shares enough to put us right alongside Howland every step of the way. The story opens as Howland leaves London and heads off on the grueling journey across the Atlantic to help his master, John Carver, set up a colony in Virginia. But things don’t go quite as planned and the Mayflower ends up in New England, but not before a huge wave partway through the voyage sends Howland “flying over the side.” Fortune, as the book’s title says, seems to be with Howland everywhere on his trip as he was seen falling overboard and a rope was immediately thrown to rescue him. While half of the Pilgrims died either during the voyage or by the time the first winter had ended, Howland did not succumb to illness and survived to benefit from Squanto’s knowledge of the land. The descriptions of the three day Thanksgiving feast and Howland’s burgeoning relationship with one of the Pilgrims, Lizzy Tilley, add to the richness of this book and will no doubt spark interest in readers to dive even deeper into the history of the Pilgrims in the New World.

ThanksgivingActivityBookThanksgiving Activity Book
Written by Karl Jones with illustrations by Joey Chou
(Price Stern Sloan; $9.99, Ages 3 and up)
Keep kids busy this Thanksgiving holiday with an activity book that starts off with some interesting facts then includes a bunch of Thanksgiving themed activities such as a word find, a crossword puzzle before moving onto traditional Thanksgiving recipes (pumpkin soup and corn bread) to be done with adult supervision. Best of all, there are clever craft ideas from a fall-leaf placemat to corn-husk dolls. I really liked the press-out paper crafts, in fact, I plan to make the turkey centerpiece. If that’s not enough, there’s a slew of stickers to keep kids thoroughly occupied as they create their very own Thanksgiving mini-masterpieces.


Good Reads With Ronna is proud to be an IndieBookstores Affiliate. Doing so provides a means for sites like ours to occasionally earn modest fees that help pay for our time, mailing expenses, giveaway costs and other blog related expenses. If you click on an IndieBound link in a post and buy anything, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Your purchase supports our efforts and tells us you like the service we’re providing with our reviews, and for that we sincerely thank you.

Shop Indie Bookstores

– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

Other Recommended Thanksgiving books:

Turkey Time!TurkeyTime
with illustrations by Melanie Matthews
(Price Stern Sloan; $5.99, Ages 3 and up)



OvertheRiverThroughtheWoodOver the River & Through the Wood: A Holiday Adventure
Written by Linda Ashman with illustrations by Kim Smith
(Sterling Children’s Books; $14.95, Ages 3-7)




ThanksgivingTappletonsThanksgiving at the Tappletons’
Written by Eileen Spinelli with illustrations by Maryann Cocca-Leffler
(HarperCollins; $17.99, Ages 4-8)




CharlieBumpersPerfectTurkeyCharlie Bumpers vs. the Perfect Little Turkey
Written by Bill Harley & Illustrated by Adam Gustavson
(Peachtree Publishing; $13.95, Ages 7-10)


A Roundup of Counting Books

Posted on


One, Two, Buckle My Shoe


Number Circus: 1-10 and Back Again!
by Kveta Pacovská
(Minedition; $29.99, Ages 3 and up)

Counting Lions: Portraits from the Wild
Written by Katie Cotton
Illustrated by Stephen Walton
(Candlewick Press; $22.00, Ages 1 and up)

Counting Crows
Written by Kathi Appelt
Illustrated by Rob Dunlavey
(Atheneum Books for Young Readers; $17.99, Ages 4-8)

Helping teach little kids to count can be a fun though often repetitive task, but there are quite a few books out that can make the standard 123s more interesting.

Here are three very different approaches to the standard counting exercise.NumberCircuscvr

Number Circus: 1-10 and Back Again by Kveta Pacovská is a number activity book for little ones. On each page the number is given in many different formats, for example: 2, two, OO (2 circles to touch), (an illustration in the shape of 2), and often a flap with the number of objects as well. It has bright, bold colors and a play-with-me feel so that young children will enjoy running their little fingers over the numbers and counting the objects (not to mention opening the flap). It’s got 28 pages and is die cut throughout, definitely making this a great book for tactile learning of the number names and formation of writing each number digit.

Counting Lions: Portraits From the Wild CountingLionscvrby Katie Cotton is a beautiful book! It is worth every page turn just to see Stephen Walton’s gorgeous charcoal drawings of these majestic animals, but endangered animals. It takes a traditional approach of going through numbers 1-10, but the little bits of informative text along with the beautiful, realistic illustrations are wonderful. My almost three year-old loved the drawings as well as counting the various animals including lions, elephants, giraffes, pandas, tigers, chimpanzees, penguins, turtles, macaws, and zebras. I also found the extra back-matter about the animals and their extinction level very interesting. I highly recommend this book!

CountingCrowscvrCounting Crows by Kathi Appelt goes from 1-12. This picture book’s got a fun, rhythmic text that groups the crows into threes, making it a nice read and highly enjoyable for young ones. The dust jacket cover was also a hit because it has textures–fuzzy, soft stripes on the crows’ sweaters, a slightly raised and coarse feel for the tree, and a smooth and silky feel for the scarf and title letters. The black and white illustrations go well with the pop of red from the crows’ sweaters. Definitely worth several readings to teach counting!

It’s great to read so many neat approaches to teaching math and numeracy. I can’t wait to see what other math related books come out next!

  • Reviewed by Lucy Ravitch

Parenting is Easy by Sara Given Plus a Giveaway!

Posted on


Written by Sara Given
(Workman Publishing, $10.95)

A Review & Giveaway!

ParentingisEasycvr Parenting is Easy: You’re Probably Just Doing it Wrong is one of those books you need to keep on hand to lift your spirits when you feel you’ve been doing too much laundry, chauffeuring too many kids, or cleaning up too many messes. It’s certain to bring loads of smiles and laugh out loud moments this holiday season (and year round) to lots of people on your gift list. And, at a little over 6″ x 6″ in size, it’ll easily stuff into stockings or make a delightful diaper cake topper for any baby shower! That’s if you don’t throw it at someone looking a little too well-dressed, a little too composed or a little too, well, perfect, first!!


Interior image from PARENTING IS EASY by Sara Given, Workman Publishing ©2015.

If you know someone raising kids, whether those kids are bloomered little cruisers, or skinny jean sporting teens asking for the car keys, there’s something in Parenting is Easy they’ll be able to relate to. My two may already be 14 and 21 years old, but I still can’t get the grin off my face when reading about pregnancy or bringing the baby home as covered in chapters one and two!  In just five fab chapters (Perfecting Pregnancy, Bringing Home Baby, Enjoying Toddlerhood, Breezing Through the School-Aged Years, and Living the Good Life) plus a dynamite intro, Given takes us on a super satisfying, tongue-in-cheek journey through parenthood by using stock advertising photos of idealized families, new moms, new dads, couples and kids that resemble NOTHING like the families, new moms, new dads, couples and kids we know. In fact, that’s what prompted Given to post a picture with a sarcastic, spot on caption that went viral (see page 66). You may even already be familiar with Given from her popular Tumblr blog, “It’s Like They Know Us.”

To give you an idea of what to expect, here’s the blurb from the back of the book cover:

“Finally, a book that proves that pregnancy is glamorous, toddlers enjoy sitting patiently, teens love when their parents dance in public, and the best place to breast-feed is on a golf course.”

Right from the start you know you’re in for some side splitting entertainment beginning with the first chapter, Perfecting Pregnancy. We’re told by Given that “Pregnancy is the first of many opportunities you will have to be absolutely confident in every decision you make for your child!” Love that humor? I sure do so when I saw the picture of two stunning, sun-dressed pregnant women strolling and the caption read …

“I just peed a little when I laughed!”
“That’s okay, I just farted. Let’s keep walking.”

… I knew I had a winner in my hands. And the best part was sitting down alongside my husband seeing who could find THE picture that showed a parenting situation that could no way, shape or form ever occur on this planet. His pick – the one of a boy choosing to eat a healthy after school snack and hang out with his mom over playing Xbox with his buddy, Isaac. I mean, wouldn’t your child do the same?


Interior image from PARENTING IS EASY by Sara Given, Workman Publishing ©2015.

I also enjoyed how Given cleverly included one or two page guides for each chapter such as Chapter One’s Eating Healthily While Pregnant with kale being in both the Eat and Avoid columns!  In Chapter Two Given answers the age old question Why Isn’t Baby Sleeping?  We learn what could be keeping baby up at night is anxiety over the skyrocketing cost of college tuition. There’s also handy breast-feeding info, Dealing With Common Toddler Behaviors, advice on Mediating Conflicts With Your Teen and lots more.


Interior image from PARENTING IS EASY by Sara Given, Workman Publishing ©2015.

So if spending time hearing about everyone’s marvelous life on Facebook has got you pulling out hair, check out the smiley, happy people in Given’s book for a good, honest laugh because her captions are brilliant and her take on perfection includes countless references to white carpet, clothing and furniture which never failed to crack me up. Enter now for your chance to win a copy and buy extra books to give friends. See for yourself just how right Given gets it and then let me know which pictures and captions were your faves.

  • Reviewed by Ronna Mande

    ENTER OUR GIVEAWAY: WIN 1 COPY OF SARA GIVEN’S NEW BOOK!! Plus, if you follow us on Facebook and let us know in the comments below, we’ll give you an extra entry. Follow us on Instagram and get an additional entry, too. Good luck!

    a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tough Guys (Have Feelings Too) by Keith Negley

Posted on

Written and illustrated by Keith Negley
(Flying Eye Books; $17.95, Ages 3-5)


In less than 80 words, Tough Guys (Have Feelings Too) manages to convey the important message to children that everyone (except perhaps robots) experiences a wide range of emotions despite any appearances to the contrary. Negley, a well-known illustrator, opens with a wrestler in a locker room feeling nervous while young readers see his opponent waiting in the ring. Then an astronaut is floating in space clutching a photo of his family far, far away. “You might not think it, but tough guys have feelings too.”


Interior artwork from Tough Guys (Have Feelings Too) by Keith Negley, Flying Eye Books ©2015.

Ninja best friends can have a disagreement and feel sad or misunderstood. Superheroes, despite being on top of the world, can feel lonely, cowboys can get embarrassed, pirates searching for treasure can feel frustrated, strong, gallant knights don’t always succeed “No matter how strong.” These and  other examples of “tough guys” we may think never experience a “down” moment are all depicted showing their honest feelings. My favorite illustration, and perhaps one of the most powerful, has to be the big burly biker shedding tears over the squirrel in the road he likely has hit accidentally. The message, that it’s okay to get upset, may not be unique, but the way it’s conveyed to children is. The colorful artwork, coupled with the brief yet befitting narrative, allows parents to open a dialogue about feelings and emotions and the need to be authentic.


Interior artwork from Tough Guys (Have Feelings Too) by Keith Negley, Flying Eye Books ©2015.

Don’t miss pointing out to children the endpapers in the front of the book showing the young boy, who is ultimately seen reading together with his dad at the story’s end, pretending to be all the characters depicted in Tough Guys (Have Feelings Too), and the endpapers in the back of the book showing the same boy doing all that pretend play alongside his dad. Sharing this picture book with preschoolers is a wonderful way to reinforce the point that there is absolutely nothing wrong with having feelings, and that when they do indeed have a feeling of anger, fear, or embarrassment, they’re not alone.

  • Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

A Dog Wearing Shoes by Sangmi Ko

Posted on

Written and illustrated by Sangmi Ko
(Schwartz & Wade Books; $16.99, Ages 4-8)



Starred Review – Kirkus Reviews

In A Dog Wearing Shoes, a lovely picture book about being lost, found, lost and found again, we are first introduced to Mini and her mom stuck in bumper to bumper traffic. There is a wonderful sense of being in the midst of a big bustling city, yet through the warm and humorous dialogue and engaging illustrations of black and white (with a pop of color) we are given a more intimate view of Mini’s world. When a small dog with huge eyes, no collar and wearing shoes wanders into traffic, every car screeches to a halt. Mini begs to keep the lost dog. Mom agrees. “We’ll have to take him home for now.”


Interior artwork from A Dog Wearing Shoes by Sangmi Ko, Schwartz & Wade Books ©2015.

After a couple of days, Mom tries to convince Mini that the dog might be missing his owner. But Mini is certain that her new dog is happy. “He has no collar, he belongs to me.” All is well until the day the dog breaks loose from his leash and runs off. The once lost dog is lost again. After lots of tears and even more hugs from Mom, Mini and her mother go to the Pet Adoption Center, the best place to find lost pets. When the little dog with big eyes is found everyone is happy. Mini now knows that this dog wearing shoes was never really hers to keep. She realizes that someone else must love and miss this dog too. Soon after tacking up “found” posters throughout the city, the owner shows up. The illustrations of the happy reunion are joyous. Even Mini is happy.


Interior artwork from A Dog Wearing Shoes by Sangmi Ko, Schwartz & Wade Books ©2015.


This very satisfying story ends with Mini returning to the Pet Adoption Center to find a dog of her own. Sangmi Ko has created a highly enjoyable debut book based on a true story. From beginning to end, this humorous yet gentle fast paced story is filled with heart and soul. The consistent attention to active visual storytelling will engage readers, prompting them to want to examine and relive each page over and over again. The back matter holds an extra treat where readers can learn How to Adopt a Dog.

  • Reviewed by Lisa Saint


Today’s guest reviewer, Lisa Saint, has just completed writing and illustrating her first picture book and is now working on a middle grade historical fiction novel based on true events. Lisa is a painter and teaches writing, illustration and book making in South Pasadena, California.



Year of The Jungle: Memories From The Home Front by Suzanne Collins

Posted on

Memories From The Home Front

Written by Suzanne Collins
Illustrated by by James Proimos

Resharing a post of this special picture book and honoring all those who have served our country on Veteran’s Day.

– A New York Times Editor’s Choice.

Year of the Jungle by Suzanne Collins

Year of the Jungle: Memories From the Home Front written by Suzanne Collins with illustrations by James Proimos, Scholastic Press, 2013.

On the eve of Veteran’s Day 2013 (once known as Armistice Day) readers will appreciate having Suzanne Collins’ Year of The Jungle: Memories From The Home Front to share with youngsters. Finding an appropriate story that deals with war or a parent’s absence for any reason is not always easy to find. Collins’ picture book, based on her own childhood, is more than appropriate. It’s moving, meaningful and makes me so very thankful for the sacrifices of our military. Veteran’s Day isn’t about the shopping, or the sales, it’s about honoring all service men and women and supporting their families.

Year of The Jungle does just that. The Hunger Games author pulls from her past and uses little, red-headed Suzy as the narrator. Suzy says we’re all something special from Rascal the cat, Kathy the oldest sister, Drew the only boy, to sister Joanie, the only one with “brown eyes like my dad’s.” He’s gone off to a war she doesn’t understand and through her eyes we learn how frightening it is for a child when they don’t have all the details.  What really hit home for me is that Collins has written about the Viet Nam war, a war I grew up with and also did not completely understand. Suzy’s been told her father will be gone for a year, but wonders how long is that?
Continue reading »