skip to Main Content

Hats Off (or On) to Imagination!

ZingerThe title of this book is what made me so curious that I just had to delve in.

There’s just a nice ring to “Mr. Zinger’s Hat,” don’t you agree? Well, Mr. Zinger’s Hat ($17.95, Tundra books, Ages 4 and up), written by Cary Fagan, is a story about Leo, a boy whose ball knocks a hat off an old man’s head – Mr. Zinger’s head of course.

The hat blows around the school courtyard in the wind, as do the words on the page. When Leo gets hold of the hat, old man Zinger invites the boy to sit with him for a while. Mr. Zinger convinces Leo that there is a story inside that hat that needs to come out. So the old man starts to tell a story and cleverly gets the boy to use his imagination to add his own details and help shape the outcome. After Mr. Zinger leaves the boy to write a story of his own back in his office, Leo befriends a girl who happens by. You’ll have to read the story to find out how Leo shares with the girl what he learned from Mr. Zinger.

What’s nice about this book is that it inspires young children to use their imaginations. There’s also a subtle, yet valuable lesson to be learned in the story Leo creates with the old man.  You’ll enjoy the imaginative illustrations, too, by award-winning illustrator, Dusan Petricic, that truly enhance this unusual story.

Creativity is an essential part of childhood and of life. So if you are looking for a book to stir your child’s imagination, I suggest you look inside Mr. Zinger’s Hat.

– Reviewed by Debbie Glade

Share this:

You Better Watch Out!


I’m excited to share my review of  Santa is Coming to California, one title in a clever new series from Scotland based illustrator Robert Dunn and UK based author Steve Smallman published by Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky ($9.99, ages 4 and up).

Old Saint Nick is getting his Santa-nav ready by entering the correct coordinates for California and then off he will go! Imagine how much fun you’ll have reading this story to your children as you follow Santa’s sleigh and reindeer as they make tracks from the North Pole all the way to the Golden State! Not only will you love the spirited illustrations, but you’ll also love how the story subtly teaches a geography lesson.

9781402277757Santa and company get lost in fog, but when they get reoriented they are zooming over the Golden Gate Bridge and all of San Francisco’s notable sites. Eventually they make it to Hollywood plus other delightful points here and yonder despite some weary and hungry first-rate sleigh pullers.

If you’re not a California resident, you can take advantage of Santa is Coming To My House, virtually the same picture book with a different cover and without the specific city names and landmarks (hence some different illustrations) so any child anywhere can enjoy it!

So which list are you on?

-Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

Share this:

Of Polar Bears and Golden Flowers


Debbie Glade dreams of snow from her home in Miami as she reviews this wonderful, wintery picture book.

A Flower in the Snow ($16.99, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, Ages 4 and up) by Tracey Corderoy is a story about two unlikely friends, an Inuit girl named Luna and a polar bear named Bear who discover an unlikely occurrence – a flower growing in the snow. Bear picks the golden flower to give to Luna, but when the flower dies and Luna gets sad, Bear sets out to find her a replacement. His journey, taking him near and far and also far too long, makes Luna miss him terribly. When he finally returns, together they learn the true meaning of friendship.

A Flower in the Snow teaches kids the valuable message that material gifts are not what friendship is all about, rather it is companionship and time spent together. The lovely watercolor illustrations by Sophie Allsopp are charming and beautifully capture the emotions of the story. This book would make a perfect holiday gift for a young child. After all, what child wouldn’t want to be best friends with a big, white, fluffy polar bear?

Share this:

Limited Only By Your Imagination

Dog Loves Drawing by author/illustrator Louise Yates ($16.99, Knopf Books for Young Readers, Ages 4 and up) is a most imaginative book. It is a story about Dog who loves reading books so much he opens his own book store. One day his aunt sends him a blank book, which he finds to be refreshingly different than the books he’s used to reading. This one is a blank book – a sketch book with no words and no pictures.  So Dog sharpens his pencil and gathers his brushes and draws a stickman. Miraculously that stickman comes to life and together, with one drawing after another, they doodle their way into a glorious imaginative adventure.

I have no doubt that Dog Loves Drawing  will stir up creativity in your child in a most clever and original manner.  Dog teaches us that we are limited only by our own imaginations. What’s better than a dog who loves to read and owns a book store? The darling drawings are made to look like those a child might make, but only more advanced. And I love the fact that Dog writes his aunt a thank you note for the sketch book she gave him. I’m a major advocate of writing thank you notes!

Before Dog Loves Drawing was written, Yates penned Dog Loves Books. Both of these titles would be a lovely addition to any child’s library. Consider making a holiday gift package with a set of colored pencils and a sketch book for the child in your life.

Reviewed by Debbie Glade.

Share this:

Enamored With Eyewear

Glamorous Glasses by Barbara Johansen Newman ($16.95, Boyds Mill Press, ages 4 and up) is reviewed by Rita Zobayan.

I started wearing glasses when I was seven years old. Back then in England, there weren’t many stylish options, especially as I wore National Health Service glasses. I remember both my mother and the optometrist talking to me about any potential teasing I might face and how to deal with being one of the first students in my grade to wear glasses. Many years later, more children are wearing glasses at an earlier age and have many shapes and colors to choose from. In fact, glasses have gone from a fashion fail to fashion fun, so much so that my oldest daughter wants to wear glasses even though she doesn’t need them!

Enter Bobbie from Glamorous Glasses by Barbara Johansen Newman. She is enamored with glasses and badly wants to wear a pair, especially as her favorite cousin, Joanie, has to start wearing them. However, Bobbie’s vision is just fine and Joanie isn’t thrilled about her prescription. It’s up to Bobbie to help Joanie come to terms with sporting specs.

“You are so lucky,” said Joanie. “Wearing glasses makes me feel different. I don’t like the way I look. I wish I didn’t have to wear them.”

                  I couldn’t believe my ears. I’d give anything to wear glasses like Joanie’s. That’s when I got another idea…

                  “Listen, Joanie,” I whispered. “While our moms are trying on dresses today, we can go get some candy. I’ll wear your new glasses, and you can carry my new pocketbook. We’ll both look very glamorous.”

                  We read along as the pair follows the plan. How will Joanie manage without glasses? Will Bobbie ever get a pair, especially as the eye doctor has already tested her for perfect vision?! In a fun and fashionable manner, the book provides plenty of discussion points to help youngsters deal with the process of accepting who they are and figuring out the importance of what they need.

The illustrations of the characters are exaggerated, almost between a caricature and a bobblehead, and cartoonish enough for children to enjoy. The colors are vivid, and Barbara Johansen Newman delights in patterns. Find polka dots, checkers, flowers, stripes, stars and hearts on the glasses, hair ribbons and clothes. She fills the pictures with outfits galore–boots, purses, dresses—that reflect the personalities of the characters.  Bobbie and Joanie’s world is filled with fun tchotchkes and spotting them in the pictures is part of the enjoyment. And, I don’t know for sure, but I suspect that the author’s French bulldog, Bitty, makes a cameo in one of the scenes.

Glamorous Glasses includes a spectacle of spectacles, and is a spectacular read!

Share this:

Oh, Poop!

Reviewer Debbie Glade got a real kick out of a witty and wonderful book about, well, eliminating so-to-speak.

Once a child sees the title of this book, Poopendous!: The Inside Scoop on Every Type and Use of Poop ($16.99, Blue Apple Books, Ages 4 and up) he or she will let out a big laugh and then won’t be able to wait to read it. Professor “Pip Poopdeck” presents readers with pages of useful (and hilarious) info about poop, be it from a bat, octopus, camel, monkey, aardvark, dog or human baby. The story is written by Artie Bennett, author of The Butt Book,  in clever rhyme and is wonderfully illustrated with vibrant colors and crisp images by Mike Moran.

Young readers will not only learn that it is natural for every living creature to poop, but also how poop can actually be helpful, be it fertilizer, for use in making structures or marking a trail. I absolutely love books that make kids laugh as they learn, and all the while entertain the parents who are reading with their kids. The illustrations are really cute and make the copy sing. Most little kids are intrigued by the subject of poop, and this book will certainly satisfy their interest, teach them a thing or two and make them howl with laughter. I promise you will love this book!

Share this:

The Power of Positive Thinking

Debbie Glade shares a book that helps children look on the bright side of life.

The Energy Bus for Kids: A Story About Staying Positive and Overcoming Challenges ($16.95, Wiley, Ages 4 and up) by Jon Gordon is an adaptation of the fable known as The Energy Bus. The story is about a boy named George who tells his bus driver about the bad day he’s had at school. The bus driver becomes George’s mentor and teaches him to believe in himself and to practice positive thinking to become stronger and happier. She tells him to:

  1. Create a positive vision
  2. Fuel your ride with positive energy
  3. No bullies allowed
  4. Love your passengers
  5. Enjoy the ride

George applies the rules to the best of his ability, but do they solve his problems? You’ll soon find out.

What’s great about this book is that it encourages children from a young age to practice positive thinking. Thinking positively (aka ‘seeing the glass half full’) creates a productive energy that can help children solve their problems, be kinder to others and just be happier overall. The bottom line is that we all make a choice to have the attitude we possess, so why not make it a positive one?

In addition to the great message, readers will enjoy the bold, colorful cartoon-like illustrations by Korey Scott that complement the story nicely and make it easier for young children to follow along. I think all elementary schools should have books like this to teach kids something that in life is just as important as reading, writing and arithmetic – and that, of course, is the power of positive thinking.

Share this:

Mum’s the Word!

The secret is out. Reviewer Debbie Glade loves this book about keeping (or not keeping) secrets.

As a child, as soon as someone told me a secret and made me promise not to tell anyone, I would burst with the urge to tell someone. Well, in Olive and the Big Secret ($15.99, Templar Books, Ages 4 and up), readers learn one of the best life lessons. If you have a secret, keep it to yourself!

The characters in the book are all very cute animals of sorts. A rabbit named, Molly tells her cat friend, Olive, a very big secret. The problem is that Olive is just like I was as a kid and saw no harm in telling just one friend that same very big secret. Well you can imagine what happens after that. The way Tor Freeman tells the story and illustrates it is very clever and engaging. She was inspired to write this story by her own memory of the very first time she told a secret.

I love the colorful, playful pictures that pop against the crisp white background. I also love the fact that readers learn how betraying trust can hurt someone, all the while keeping the story light and witty and charming. You’ll love the way this story ends and so will your child.

And just for the record, I am much better at keeping secrets these days than when I was a child!

Share this:

When Insatiable Curiosity Meets Relentless Knowledge

Debbie Glade reviews today’s picture book.

Question Boy Meets Little Miss Know-It-All ($17.99, Antheum, Ages 4 and up) written and illustrated by Peter Catalanotto, will make parents and teachers smile even more than the kids who read it. We parents are used to being asked question after question, and the boy in this book does just that – to the point where it becomes unbearable. Question Boy exhausts everyone in his town with his insatiable curiosity. But then one day he meets Little Miss-Now-It-All, who is full of fact after fact that she can’t keep inside (some true, some not so true). To learn how she handles Question Boy’s relentless questions, you’ll have to read the story yourself.  I promise you’ll have a good laugh at the end of the book.

Kids are going to love the fact that Question Boy is essentially a Super Hero, as are the many people in town he questions.  Readers will enjoy the vibrant watercolor illustrations and the way the story and illustrations remind them of a comic book.

I like that the book features a challenge – the showdown between Question Boy and Little Miss Know-It-All and that the boy who is full of questions and incessant energy really meets his match. There’s a lesson in that story. Read it with the child in your life, and you’re sure to figure it all out, being thoroughly entertained all the while.

Share this:

Barking Up The Jealousy Tree

Percy and TumTum ($14.95, Running Press Kids, Ages 4 and up) is a book that teaches kids an important lesson, but in a very sweet and subtle way. Percy is a sausage dog who lives with a loving family. One day a fluffy, friendly dog, named TumTum, becomes the newest member of his family. Percy is not happy when he quickly realizes that all the attention he used to get is now going to TumTum.  Percy cannot get control of his jealousy, so he plots and schemes and plays unkind tricks on TumTum. Finally one of Percy’s pranks seems to go too far, however the outcome even surprises Percy himself, making him reevaluate what he’s been up to.

What made me want to dive into this book is that it’s a story about dogs, but what kept me reading is that it relates to people, too. The message is wonderful –  being jealous is normal but it doesn’t solve any problems. Author and illustrator Jen Hill does a perfect job matching the delightful and colorful illustrations to the story, and I really like the matte finish of the paper and just the whole look of the book.

There’s no doubt that everyone gets jealous at one time or another. The story of Percy and TumTum let’s youngsters know that there’s a wonderful way to turn that negative feeling into a positive one. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, and your kids will, too!

-Reviewed by Debbie Glade.

Share this:

Taking Care of Bees-ness

These Bees Count is reviewed by Rita Zobayan. 

These Bees Count written by Alison Formento with art by Sarah Snow ($16.99, Albert Whitman & Co., ages 4 and up) is a delightful and informative read that teaches children about the lives of bees and how they are important to plants and people. It’s also a counting book.  (Notice the clever double meaning of the title.)

                  We join Mr. Tate’s multicultural elementary school class as they go on a field trip to the Busy Bee Farm, where Farmer Ellen teaches students the ins and outs of a bee’s world. The typical concerns and questions that children have regarding bees are cleverly interwoven into the narrative of the book.

                  Eli held onto Mr. Tate. “Bees sting.”/“Only when they’re afraid or angry,” said Farmer Ellen. “And beekeepers always dress for safety before visiting the hives.”

                  Amy knelt to watch a bee on a clover blossom. “Bees sure are busy.”/”Yes,” said Farmer Ellen. “And without bee pollen, crops wouldn’t grow, and we wouldn’t have food to eat.”

                  The middle section of this 32-page book focuses on the bees as they buzz around the meadow, describing their activities and counting their day away.

                  One by one, we zip up high, buzzing through the bright blue sky. We fly over two waving dandelions, inviting us in. We find three wild strawberries bursting with sweetness.

                  The students (and the readers) learn many things during their visit, including how pollination works, how nectar becomes honey, and how honey is extracted from the honeycombs. The information is written clearly and simply so that young children can grasp the concepts.

The book ends with “the buzz on bees,” which is essentially factual information. This section covers the role of bees in crop growth, the different “dances” bees perform, facts about hives and their inhabitants, different types of bees, and Colony Collapse Disorder.                 

                  Sarah Snow’s artwork is bright and detailed. It catches the reader’s eye and conveys the colors and images of a productive farm. By using the two-dimensional collage technique, Ms. Snow did a wonderful job of capturing the viewer’s attention and complementing the text.

                  These Bees Count is a great addition to a home or school library.  Click here for a helpful link to a teacher’s guide.

Share this:

A Vacation Journal Giveaway for Kids

The Perfect Giveaway for This Summer’s Getaway!

The Victoria Chart Company and Good Reads With Ronna want your children to have a wonderful summer vacation and what better way to do that than with a giveaway?! 

We’ve got My Vacation Journal  ($6.99, ages 4 and up) to send to one lucky winner. Here’s a chance for your child to record all those special, once-in-a-lifetime moments in print and maybe start a new family tradition. 

Just send us an email to with your name and address, then write a comment below about what your child loves about taking vacations to complete your entry. Be sure to write Vacation Journal Giveaway in the email subject line. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for more entries to the giveaway. Contest ends at midnight on Monday, July 30th. Contest rules can be found by clicking here. Good luck!

If you’re not familiar with The Victoria Chart Company, a leading UK developer of children’s reward charts and other products for positive child development (and available here in the U.S.), you really should be. The products are as affordable as they are practical. The My Vacation Journal prize in particular, billed as “A fun activity book for your time away from school!” can credit its creation to company founder Victoria Ballard. “As a child I would often write daily accounts of my family vacations” says the Company’s Founder, Victoria Ballard, “and it is wonderful that I can now share them with my children. I want other families to benefit from these wonderful keepsakes that hold such memories.”

Head over to Facebook and like this company at to be eligible for a 15% product discount and other offers, freebies and news.  They’ve also got a neat app, “Go Rewards” suitable for iPhone, iPodTouch, iPad and Android.

I wish I had had this 7 day journal as a kid whose parents frequently took my brother and I on mini-jaunts now long forgotten. I tended to write down impressions on napkins, postcards, place mats and other scraps that got lost, tossed or ruined by spilled water. There would be so much more meaning if I could see a receipt, a drawing or ticket stub to understand what I was feeling at the time, who I was with and what made the trip so terrific. Now these connections are at your child’s fingertips. Another plus, there’s an opening page with tips for parents on how to best utilize the journal and make the most of vacation time.

Children are also encouraged to take their Vacation Journal to school to show teachers and friends. What a great way to relive all the summer fun!

Share this:

Jon Klassen Steals Our Hearts Not Our Hats!

This Little Fishy Should Have Stayed Home!

Ronna Mandel, today’s reviewer, is hooked on Jon Klassen.

THIS IS NOT MY HAT. Copyright © 2012 by Jon Klassen. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

If you loved the subtle hilarity of author-illustrator (and L.A. local) Jon Klassen’s multi-award-winning 2011 picture book,  I Want My Hat Back, prepare yourself for yet more fun and understated humor with This Is Not My Hat ($15.99, Candlewick, ages 4 and up).  In his new book, on sale this coming October 2012,  Klassen has swimmingly cornered the market on black humor and hat thieves while still keeping things suitable for children since (spoiler alert!) the culprit once again gets caught or as I like to put it, beaten and eaten!

In his first book Klassen introduced readers to a big bear in search of his stolen red hat. Now with his latest title, one that is certain to secure an even bigger fan base, Klassen lures us in ever so easily. Meet one small, overly confident fish wearing a blue bowler he has just nicked from a rather large sleeping fish who
“probably won’t notice that it’s gone.” It may suit him and he may convince himself he deserves it more than its owner, but it’s just not his.

What works so well in this story is that rather than sharing the story from the perspective of the victim (the bear in This Is Not My Hat), Klasssen switches narrators and this time chooses to give the thief’s point of view. Will this little crook manage to outsmart the big fish by keeping several strokes ahead and hiding in a place where the plants are big and tall and close together?  Or will he get his just deserts? 

THIS IS NOT MY HAT. Copyright © 2012 by Jon Klassen. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

I’ll admit I may have initially found myself rooting for the small underdog of a hat thief, but it did not take long to get Klassen’s message loud and clear; hat swiping will not get you ahead. Undeniably funny and fab fodder for a storybook, but for young readers what’s also important is that the big fish gets his bowler back and will achieve that end one delicious way or another. I raise my hat to Klassen’s fab follow-up work, an irresistible easy-to-read or be-read-to picture book that has left me with bated breath as to what thefts are in the works.

THIS IS NOT MY HAT. Copyright © 2012 by Jon Klassen. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

Share this:

Food, Fabulous Food!

The work of food landscape photographer, Carl Warner, is so remarkable that reviewer, Debbie Glade, remembers being unable to tear herself away from a documentary about his work on TV some years ago.

Just when you thought there couldn’t possibly be anything new in the world of ultra creative children’s books, along comes Carl Warner and A World of Food: Discover Magical Lands Made of Things You Can Eat ($17.95, Abrams Books, ages 4 and up). Trust me, you’ve never seen anything like this before, and every member of your family, young or old, will be mesmerized by the photos in this book.

Mr. Warner works with food stylists to painstakingly arrange food into ridiculously spectacular landscapes, categorized by color. He uses a triangular table-top in his studio to photograph his scenes in layers, from the front to the back and then puts it all together into one cohesive unit in post-production. One of his greatest challenges is working faster than the rate at which the food wilts.  It can take several days to get just one of these landscapes set up and photographed.

Inside this book, you’ll find a green forest, red mountains, a pink candy land, a yellow desert and much more. Every single object in each picture is made from edibles, and you will love studying the pictures to identify every food in each picture – from mushrooms, bacon bits and pasta to broccoli, chocolate and lobsters. If you find yourselves stumped, you can look in the back of the book at a key, revealing all the details. Carl’s expertise with lighting and photography really make his images extraordinary.

You and your children will be thoroughly entertained and inspired by the sheer creativity of this most imaginative book. Be warned, you will find yourself getting hungry as you read the book. And just in case you are wondering, yes, some of the food is unavoidably wasted due to spoiling, and the rest is happily eaten by those involved in the landscape process.

Share this:

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Debbie Glade shares her views on this original story.

The Hill and the Rock, (paperback, $8.99, Trafalgar Square, ages 4 and up) written and illustrated by David McKee, will surely entertain you. It’s a story about Mr. and Mrs. Quest, who live high on a hill. People come from near and far to see the lovely view from the hill. Everything is perfect – except for one thing; there’s a giant rock blocking the view from their kitchen window. Hmm. What do you suppose they did about it? And what happened after that?

The story line of The Hill and the Rock is very imaginative, and the ultra colorful illustrations add an extra creative layer to satisfy readers.  The book teaches children to be appreciative of what they already have and to use their imaginations to solve their problems. The moral of this story may not be unique, but the book certainly is! I highly recommend it.

Author/illustrator David McKee is well known for his best-selling Elmer Books, (the colorful patchwork elephant) which I also highly recommend.

Share this:
Back To Top
%d bloggers like this: