Snappsy The Alligator and His Best Friend Forever (Probably) by Julie Falatko

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Written by Julie Falatko
Illustrated by Tim Miller
(Viking BYR; $16.99, Ages 4-8)


cvr image Snappsy the Alligator and his Best Friend Forever (Probably)


Rarely, is a sequel to a fantastic picture book better than the first.

Don’t get all excited. Alright, it’s not necessarily BETTER, but by golly it sure is just as incredible as the first and every page enjoyable to the fullest.

Snappsy the Alligator and His Best Friend Forever (Probably) written by Julie Falatko and illustrated by Tim Miller is a picture book all kids can appreciate in terms of friendship woes. From as early as they can talk with friends, children are ready to define their friendships into categories––quickly going from “You’re my best friend!” to “You’re not invited to my party!” within the course of a day or even hours.

What’s so terrific about this book is the way you see two friends who are at odds find a way to share their joy. Sometimes friends need space, sometimes friends need a breather before they can play. And that’s okay.


Interior artwork Snappsy the Alligator and his Best Friend Forever (Probably)

Interior illustration from Snappsy the Alligator and his Best Friend Forever (Probably) by Julie Falatko with art by Tim Miller, Viking BYR ©2017.


Tim Miller’s comic style illustrations bring Snappsy and Bert’s (the narrator) struggle to find common ground to life with laugh out loud scenarios cleverly constructed by Julie Falatko.

At one point Bert exclaims, “Let’s play pinochle! Wear pizza hats! Braid my hair!” to an exasperated Snappsy who just wants time to himself and has no clue what pinochle is or how in the world to braid a chicken’s hair. As Snappsy spends time alone he realizes how much fun it is to be with his friend Bert, and invites him in to play.

Int image Snappsy the Alligator and his Best Friend Forever (Probably)

Interior illustration from Snappsy the Alligator and his Best Friend Forever (Probably) by Julie Falatko with art by Tim Miller, Viking BYR ©2017.


Don’t miss the chance to share Snappsy The Alligator and His Best Friend Forever (Probably), a new and entertaining read by the same team behind Snappsy the Alligator (Did Not Ask to be in This Book)My preschool kids request this book multiple times daily and I never tire of reading it aloud and hearing their giggles of sheer delight.

  • Reviewed by Ozma Bryant

I’m New Here by Anne Sibley O’Brien

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Written and illustrated by Anne Sibley O’Brien
(Charlesbridge; $16.95, Ages 5-8)

Starred Review – Kirkus Reviews

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Across America the back-to-school season is in full swing. Some kids are returning to school, others are first timers. Many are not just entering a new school, but starting again in a new city. I’m New Here by Anne Sibley O’Brien, introduces three students, Maria from Guatemala, Jin from South Korea, and Fatimah from Somalia, beginning their educational life in an entirely different country, our country, and facing perhaps the biggest challenge when many have come here under a variety of circumstances.

We easily get into the head of each character and learn their hopes and fears. There are new words to learn, sounds strange to their ears and memories of life back home that at first makes adjusting difficult at many levels. Who hasn’t been new at something, full of apprehension and self-doubt? Will I ever learn the new ways in this new land?

“Back home I knew the language.
My friends and I talked all day long.
Our voices flowed like water and flew between us like birds.”

I'm New Here Spread 1 300

Interior artwork from I’m New Here by Anne Sibley O’Brien, Charlesbridge Publishing, ©2015.

“Here I am alone.
Here I am confused.
Here I am sad.”

But when Maria uses some newly acquired English words in an attempt to join a soccer game, “someone understands.” The same for Jin when he discovers a fellow classmate also shares his love of super heroes and creating comics. Fatimah’s artistic talent attracts positive attention, too. Ultimately the story reinforces a positive message of acceptance, encouraging our kids to see life through someone else’s eyes and maybe make an interesting new friend at the same time.

O’Brien’s lyrical language gently moves the story forward and helps us walk in the main characters’ shoes. We understand they are not whining or complaining, just expressing real concerns that children in their situations are apt to feel. Often though, assisted by O’Brien’s evocative, muted watercolor illustrations, few to no words are required.


I'm New Here Spread 3 300

Interior artwork from I’m New Here by Anne Sibley O’Brien, Charlesbridge Publishing, ©2015.

In the end page’s A Note from the Author, O’Brien explains that children like Maria or Fatimah, “may have left home not by choice but by force, fleeing from political persecution, violence, or war.” Others, like Jin “may have left behind close family members.” Keeping this in mind when you read the story with your children, you’ll help build awareness and empathy that may encourage youngsters to reach out to children just like Maria, Fatimah or Jin in their schools and make them feel welcome and a part of the community.

To learn about I’m Your Neighbor — a project cofounded by O’Brien promoting the use of children’s literature featuring “new arrival” cultures and groups — please head to

  • Reviewed by Ronna Mandel


Blackbird Fly by Erin Entrada Kelly

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Waiting For the Moment to Arrive:

Blackbird Fly by Erin Entrada Kelly
with illustrations by Betsy Peterschmidt
(HarperCollins Books for Young Readers, $16.99, Ages 8-12)

Starred Review – Kirkus
Junior Literary Guild Selection
The Independent Booksellers Association – Kids’ Next Pick for Spring 2015.

Blackbird-Fly-cvr.jpgI love the Beatles! I am a truly devoted fan, so when I came across Erin Entrada Kelly’s debut middle grade fiction novel, Blackbird Fly, I knew I was in for a treat. What I didn’t expect is that the book would address, with truthfulness and clarity, so many of the difficult issues of being in middle school.

After the death of her father when she was four-years-old, Apple Yengko and her mother immigrated to the United States from the Philippines. Apple’s one possession that belonged to her father is his tape of Abbey Road. Now that Apple is in middle school nothing is like what it was in elementary school. In middle school there are now mean girls who used to be Apple’s friends, new friends to make, and Apple is trying to discover who she really is meant to be when she is unexpectedly set apart from the crowd.

More than anything Apple wants to fit in at school, but maybe even equal to that longing is how much Apple really wants a guitar. When social pressures begin to mount up at school, Apple sees no way out of the veritable tornado of difficult times which include being placed on the “Dog Log” at school, a list that the boys make of the ugliest girls. Listening to The Beatles becomes Apple’s way of coping with the changing times she finds herself in. Luckily for Apple her new friends help her to find a way out of all the chaos. She learns that with music and a little help from her friends she can tackle this tough time.

This touching tribute to the power of music to transform a bad time into a better one and how much a true friend can help you had me nodding in agreement many times. I remember these middle school days very well. Who does not remember the days when you just didn’t seem to fit in anywhere, and when friends suddenly turned into popularity seekers? Blackbird Fly speaks right to the middle school student I was.

The message of the book is one that all middle school students should hear. Find out who your true friends are. Find out what you stand for and the kind of person you want to be. Find your passion in life. Follow the truth and be truthful with others. These are hard lessons to learn, but Erin Entrada Kelly presents a sympathetic heroine who is so easy to relate to. Apple is just learning to navigate the tricky waters of growing up. Kelly writes her character so well. Apple is not perfect, but she is trying her best to find her way. I was rooting for this character all the way through the book and the plot kept me so gripped that I read it in one sitting. It’s very seldom that I’ve read a book so perfectly pitched to the middle grade experience that I would hand it to a girl that age and say, “Here, take this book and you will learn so much about the time you are going through. Use this as a guide.” Blackbird Fly is that book.

References to the Beatles are sprinkled thoughout the book. Even though Apple’s favorite Beatle is George, I can still identify with this character. The best Beatle is of course Paul, but I’m open to debate. Still, you don’t have to be a Beatles fan to understand that sometimes you just want to fly away from difficult situations, but you need to learn how to, “Take these broken wings and learn to fly.” The moment you were waiting to arrive might come after a difficult time. However, if you can be strong like Apple is and stand for what you believe in then I promise you the moment you were waiting for will finally arrive. Blackbird Fly can be pre-ordered now and will be available on 3/24/15.

– Reviewed by Hilary Taber

The Secret Hum of a Daisy Blog Tour

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Good Reads With Ronna is delighted to join in The Secret Hum of a Daisy (G. P. Putnam’s Sons, $16.99, Ages 9-12) blog tour sharing insights into Tracy Holczer’s new middle grade novel.


Praise for The Secret Hum of a Daisy

“Tracy Holczer’s story is a lyric about love and loss and not being able to find your future until you’ve uncovered your past.”
— Richard Peck, author of Newbery winning A Year Down Yonder

Read it all!

As part of the tour, bloggers are posting Tracy Holczer’s answers to questions about her novel this week. After your appetite is whet, please scroll down to check out my review of  The Secret Hum of a Daisy.


The Guest Post by Tracy Holczer:

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Photo of Tracy Holczer by Lisa Williams Photography ©2012.

Is there a playlist for The Secret Hum of a Daisy? Any books, movies, or TV shows that inspired it? Tell us about them.

I had a playlist ages ago that I don’t remember all that well. There was probably some Enya, some Sarah McLachlan, some Beethoven. Soothing. Mostly though, I don’t listen to music when I’m writing because there’s so much going on in my head, and lyrics compete. Weirdly, I don’t even listen to music in my car for the same reason. I’m not always in my chair with my laptop, typing a story. But I’m not sure my head ever stops. The characters are in there, the ideas for plot, memories that tie in to themes and how to navigate all that in a linear way so it makes sense to other people. Throw music on top of that and my head might just explode!

So while music wasn’t a big help in writing The Secret Hum of a Daisy, there is a book that inspired me – The Great Gilly Hopkins, by Katherine Paterson. I don’t know how many times I read that story before, during, and since I wrote about Grace. I just love Gilly. She is tough and smart. Smarter than anyone in the room, but doesn’t know how to use her big brain for good. It’s such a great example of a story that chips away at a character, smoothing their edges, and making them shine. Partly this inspired me because I wondered what might have happened if Gilly came to her grandmother before meeting Trotter. That idea was part of a jumble of ideas that brought Grace to life.

The other blog tour participants include:

6/23 – Nerdy Book Club
6/24 – Word Spelunking
6/26 – We Are Word Nerds
6/27 – Icey Books

Continue reading »

Churchill’s Tale of Tails by Anca Sandu

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Churchill’s Tale of Tails by Anca Sandu is reviewed by Rita Zobayan.


Churchill’s Tale of Tails written and illustrated by Anca Sandu, Peachtree Publishers, 2014.

In Churchill’s Tale of Tails, a new picture book by Anca Sandu (Peachtree Publishers, 2014; $16.95; ages 4-8) readers meet Churchill, a rather sophisticated pig. He likes to take tea, paint self portraits (lots of them,) and play classical music. He is also quite a proud pig, especially of his tail. It wasn’t a big tail. It wasn’t a fancy tail. It wasn’t even a very practical tail. But it was his tail, and it made him feel great.

So when Churchill loses his tail, he isn’t happy. His friends, Billy and Gruff, try to help by finding other tails for Churchill to try. There are so many tails—zebra, peacock, fish, and more—and they make him feel so different and wonderful that Churchill no longer has time for his friends. A tail from the fish made Churchill feel fantastic! He could do things he’d never done before. “Churchill never talks to us anymore. It’s all these fancy tails.” Will Churchill realize he’s being a bad friend? Will he find his own tail? Does he even want it back? This delightful tale will engage readers for the creativity of the story, the humorous artwork, and the moral. Does trying to be different  mean that you forget your true friends? Anca Sandu answers this question in a realistic and sweet manner that young children will enjoy and understand.

Disney Never Girls #5: Wedding Wings by Kiki Thorpe

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Today, reviewer MaryAnne Locher weighs in on Wedding Wings by Kiki Thorpe.


Disney Never Girls #5: Wedding Wings by Kiki Thorpe with illustrations by Jana Christy, Random House Books for Young Readers, 2014.

Believing in magic and fairies from the bottom of your heart can make extraordinary things happen. So, get out your fairy wings and fairy wands and get ready for an enchanting adventure!

The Never Girls are Gabby, Mia, Kate, and Lainey – four ordinary girls who have found their way into the magical realm of Never Land. In Disney Never Girls #5: Wedding Wings by Kiki Thorpe with illustrations by Jana Christy (Random House Books for Young Readers; paperback, 5.99; Ages 6-9) the fifth book in Disney’s Tinker Bell and Fairies series, Gabby has been asked to be the flower girl in her babysitter Julia’s wedding.

Gabby’s bubbling over with excitement so she puts on her dress-up fairy wings, breaks the pact she has with the other girls to never go alone into Never Land, and visits her fairy friends Tink, Prilla, Rosetta, Dulcie, and Bess to tell them her big news. The fairies are curious about what a flower girl does and what a wedding looks like. Gabby demonstrates how she’ll be throwing flower petals, but the fairies are less than impressed. Tink gives Gabby a thimble-full of fairy dust to take to the wedding so the petals will flutter and float to the ground. Gabby wants the fairies to come to the wedding so they can see her walk down the aisle, but the fairies haven’t been formally invited, so they decline. Bess can’t think of anything else she would rather do than go to the wedding. She sneaks out of Never Land and into Gabby’s room on the day of the big event. Gabby is delighted to see her, but knows she must hide her in her flower basket so no one else sees her.

What havoc can one little girl and one even tinier fairy create? Well…A LOT! Will they ruin Julia’s wedding day? Or will it be even more magical?

Although this chapter book is intended for early readers, even littler ones would enjoy the magic of having this read to them, too!

NOTE: Never Girls #6: The Woods Beyond (Disney: The Never Girls) and Never Girls #7: A Pinch of Magic (Disney: The Never Girls) will be released this April and July respectively.