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Picture Book Review by Ronda Einbinder – The Smallest Snowflake

 

 

THE SMALLEST SNOWFLAKE

Written and illustrated by Bernadette Watts

(NorthSouth Books; $17.95, Ages 4-8)

 

 

 

English author and illustrator Bernadette Watts brings her inspiration for nature into The Smallest Snowflake, a heartfelt story about a little snowflake who journeys to earth with the other snowflakes while holding her dreams quietly in her heart.

Watts’ writing brings life to the small pieces of ice each sharing their excitement about their winter voyage. Flowing from the clouds, they see “fields and the orchards, the red roofs of farms, and the lovely city standing at the end of the glacial lake.” The verses read as human characters with each snowflake declaring where they wish to travel. The snowflakes feel relatable as if they are people sharing their dreams.

 

The Smallest Snowflake int1 looking up at snowflakes
Interior spread from The Smallest Snowflake written and illustrated by Bernadette Watts, NorthSouth Books ©2022.

 

Watts empowers the snowflakes with personalities that flow through the story like beloved friends. We meet a snowflake who chooses to travel to a different land and settle on a tree branch, and another snowflake wishing to “watch the caribou and bear, the lynx and raccoon, and even the red squirrel who sleeps in that very tree.” The soft palette of brown, green, and orange are spread across two pages with a bear gazing at the tiny animals gathered on the tree. A blue sky covers another page overlooking the sea. It’s beautifully sprinkled with white snow flowing over the battlement of castle walls.

Each page turn takes the reader to a new location. The snowflakes flow from jeweled domes to the golden pinnacles of St. Basil’s Cathedral, while people are huddled together in the streets trying to stay warm from the frost. Many of the snowflakes keep traveling on.

“The littlest snowflake did not have such a wide education as the others and knew very little about the world.” Watts’ white mountains are topped with snowflakes and birds flying through the pages. “I just want to be warm.”

 

The Smallest Snowflake int2 snowflakes less in number
Interior illustrations from The Smallest Snowflake written and illustrated by Bernadette Watts, NorthSouth Books ©2022.

 

It isn’t often that you think of a snowflake as wanting to be warm, but this earnest piece of snow is determined to find its place. When most of the snowflakes come to rest, the littlest snowflake continues to travel. She eventually lands on a windowsill and finds a home in a window box filled with earth outside a tiny cottage. It was here the little snowflake took her place.

The little snowflake sees the burning logs and a kettle standing on the hearth. The home is warm and friendly. Watts’ words and drawings fill this story with joy and comfort, whether reading beside a crackling fireplace or tucked warmly in a bed. The yellow sun and blue sky are drawn on the final page as spring nears. The closing words read, “loved filled her heart with such warmth that she melted away with joy.” A perfect sentence to end with. This is a lovely read teaching kids to follow their destiny, even if their destiny is different from others.

  • Reviewed by Ronda Einbinder

 

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A Welcome New Look at Thanksgiving – Keepunumuk

 

 

KEEPUNUMUK:
Weeâchumun’s Thanksgiving Story

Written by Danielle Greendeer, Anthony Perry, and Alexis Bunten

Illustrated by Garry Meeches Sr.

(Charlesbridge; $16.99, Ages 3-7)

 

 

 Keepunumuk cover ancestors corn squash fox

 

Starred Reviews – Booklist, Foreward Reviews, Kirkus

A 2022 New England Book Award winner

 

 

From the publisher:

Four Native American creators weave together the story of Keepunumuk, the time of harvest.
In this Wampanoag story told in a Native tradition, two kids from the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe learn the
story of Weeâchumun (corn) and the first Thanksgiving.

The Thanksgiving story that most Americans know celebrates the Pilgrims. But without members of the
Wampanoag tribe who already lived on the land where the Pilgrims settled, the Pilgrims would never have
made it through their first winter. And without Weeâchumun (corn), the Native people wouldn’t have helped.
An important picture book honoring both the history and tradition that surrounds the story of the first
Thanksgiving.

 

Review:

This is the book I’ve been waiting for. This is the Thanksgiving story I’ve needed to read and I hope you’ll feel the same way I do. It’s a book to return to every year so the important perspective shared can become as ingrained in our culture as other holidays whose origin stories were incomplete. What I loved best was how the four authors and illustrator, all First Peoples, conveyed this fresh, honest look at Thanksgiving using the same storytelling tradition that has passed from generation to generation for thousands of years. This meaningful tale is presented from the point of view of the vital corn (Weeâchumun) and will pull readers into following along to learn how the first Thanksgiving came to be.

 

Keepunumuk int1 new people are coming on boats
Interior spread from Keepunumuk: Weeâchumun’s Thanksgiving Story written by Danielle Greendeer, Anthony Perry, and Alexis Bunten and illustrated by Garry Meeches Sr., Charlesbridge ©2022.

 

Keepunumuk begins with young Maple and Quill enjoying being outdoors in the garden. They are from the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe of Massachusetts. The rich colors hint at the time of year, one not only of a seasonal change but of a time long ago when the Pilgrims arrived. The children ask their grandmother (N8hkumuhs in the Wôpanâak language) about what vegetables to pick. She thinks corn, beans, and squash, also known to Native Americans as the Three Sisters, are a good choice. She also shares a story about what some call the first Thanksgiving but to the First Peoples it’s always been known as harvest time or Keepunumuk.

 

Keepunumuk int2 sprouts pushing through soil
Interior spread from Keepunumuk: Weeâchumun’s Thanksgiving Story written by Danielle Greendeer, Anthony Perry, and Alexis Bunten and illustrated by Garry Meeches Sr., Charlesbridge ©2022.

 

Corn’s voice came alive as it described how soon word went round that the Pilgrims planned to stay but were unprepared for the harsh winter. They suffered from a lack of food too. The corn, beans, and squash as well as animal friends including fox and rabbit, duck, and turkey grew concerned.

Over the next few nights, Weeâchumun sent
dreams to the First Peoples with a message:
Bring me and my sisters to the newcomers.
They are hungry and need help.

 

Keepunumuk int3 spring turned into summer
Interior spread from Keepunumuk: Weeâchumun’s Thanksgiving Story written by Danielle Greendeer, Anthony Perry, and Alexis Bunten and illustrated by Garry Meeches Sr., Charlesbridge ©2022.

 

The First Peoples sent their leader to meet with the newcomers (see illustration above). Then he asked Tisquantum, also known as Squanto, to teach the Pilgrims how to plant and grow their native vegetables, the Three Sisters corn, squash, and beans. This was instrumental in their survival and also where the Pilgrim’s take on the three-day celebration of Thanksgiving arose. Readers also learn that to the Wampanoag it was a time of mourning, not one of giving thanks.

It’s explained that while there could not have been a Thanksgiving without the help and guidance of the Wampanoag people, it came at a great cost to them. Many caught illnesses brought over by the Pilgrims and died. And of course, there were wars with settlers as they moved onto and claimed more and more of Native American land. The landscape of America was forever changed after this. At the beginning of the book there is a helpful glossary. Back matter explains how the story of Thanksgiving has been passed on, how the Wampanoag celebrate more than one harvest feast, and how they honor nature and those who have passed into the spirit world by offering Spirit Plates of food in gratitude. I am grateful this book is in the world and can become a part of home, school, and public library collections. Like its gorgeous atmospheric art throughout, this book will add warmth and a greater understanding and appreciation to any Thanksgiving celebration. Having the Wôpanâak language included grounds the story as does the photo of the real-life Maple and Quill.

Click here for an activity guide. Find other downloadables on the publisher’s website.

Check out the Keepunumuk site at https://keepunumuk.com/.

  • Reviewed by Ronna Mandel 

 

 

Learn More About the Authors and Illustrator:

Danielle Greendeer – Charlesbridge

Keepunumuk – Anthony Perry (anthonyperryauthor.com)

Alexis Bunten – Charlesbridge

Garry Meeches Sr. – Charlesbridge

 

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Picture Book Review and Interview for The Great Caper Caper ‘Great Virtual Virtual Tour’

 

 

THE GREAT CAPER CAPER

Written by Josh Funk

Illustrated by Brendan Kearney

(Union Square Kids; $17.99, Ages 4-8)

 

 

The Great Caper Caper Virtual Tour Image

 

 

REVIEW:

Welcome back to the fridge, home of the popular food pair, Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast. It’s an honor to be part of this virtual tour packed with passionate kidlit people helping to promote Josh Funk and Brendan Kearney’s latest picture book, The Great Caper Caper, #5 in the Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast series!

 

The Great Caper Caper int1 bedtime ladypancake sirfrenchtoast
Interior art from The Great Caper Caper written by Josh Funk and illustrated by Brendan Kearney, Union Square Kids ©2022.

 

When the story opens (see above illustrations), Sir French Toast awakens during the night only to discover everywhere is draped in darkness. But we’re not talking about ordinary nighttime darkness. No this was the dreaded fridge light darkness.

A glowing light leads the curious characters to Las Veggies where Lady P and Sir FT try to enter Las Veggies Tower but are initially held back by security. Soon they confront tower owner, Count Caper. “‘I haven’t stolen a thing,’ he lied.”

 

 The Great Caper Caper int2 Las Veggies
Interior art from The Great Caper Caper written by Josh Funk and illustrated by Brendan Kearney, Union Square Kids ©2022.

 

Adding to the urgency to recover the light, readers learn that Sir FT is scared of the dark. This convinces Lady P, in a nod to Ocean’s 11, that she must assemble a crew including Baron von Waffle, Miss Brie, Tofu, Professor Biscotti, the Fruitcake, the Beets, and Inspector Croissant. No crummy collection of pros here.

 

The Great Caper Caper int3 LadyPancake shares plan
Interior spread from The Great Caper Caper written by Josh Funk and illustrated by Brendan Kearney, Union Square Kids ©2022.

 

A plan is hatched, disguises are donned, and solving the great caper caper is underway! Zero hour is scheduled to take place during the Tower show. The team, tasked with distractions, and more amusing antics involving Animal Crackers, and an asparagus accomplice, recover the stolen light. But, while celebrating their success, the food friends learn Count Caper’s M-O was a relatable one, and it all boiled down to friendship. With a little introspection, the briny bud “sees the light” so to speak, and can now count Lady Pancake, Sir French Toast, and the whole crew as pals.

Yet again, Funk and Kearney have delivered a readable, rhyming picture book that will entertain parents as much as the kids due to witty wordplay, careful plotting, and of course, the movie inspiration. From the minute I saw Las Veggies was the destination in this story, I was hooked, eager to see how the heist was handled. Multiple readings will be requested to study the whimsical spreads that Kearney clearly enjoyed designing. The Great Caper Caper is a fast-paced, funny, action-packed tale that children will love adding to their bookshelves.

 

Q + A:

GoodReadsWithRonna: I asked Josh a few fun questions that popped into my head as I was reading The Great Caper Caper.

Josh Funk:  Thanks so much for inviting me to chat! I’m a huge fan of Good Reads with Ronna!

GRWR: Aww, thanks, Josh! You’ve described The Great Caper Caper as Ocean’s 11 in the fridge. It’s got the Las Veggies location, the crew of 11, the hotel vault to break into, and huge stakes. In this case, there’s a fridge light to recover not millions of dollars or an ex-wife to win back. Were there other elements of the film you wanted to recreate but just couldn’t fit into a rhyming picture book format?

JF: Actually, I was able to get pretty much everything in that I wanted – even more than I originally planned – especially the final page at the fountain! Brendan Kearney’s art is sooooo perfect for this series and this book – it’s brilliant.

GRWR: Can we talk Julia Roberts as Lady Pancake and George Clooney as Sir French Toast?

JF: If we’re gonna go with a Julia Roberts film, I think Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast’s relationship is more like Julia and Rupert Everett from My Best Friend’s Wedding. They’re truly just friends – they might find romance elsewhere, though.

And if you happen to know anyone in Hollywood that might have interest, please do let me know. The film rights are available!

GRWR: Was this the hardest plot to pull off?

JF: This is a great question, one that I haven’t really thought about in full until answering it right now.

I always like changing up the genres in each book. Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast is a race. The Case of the Stinky Stench is a mystery. Mission Defrostable is an action-adventure spy-thriller. Short & Sweet is a sci-fi comedy / magical body-swap (think Honey, I Shrunk the Kids meets Big or Freaky Friday).

And when brainstorming new ideas, my wife threw out the title The Great Caper Caper – which everyone immediately fell in love with. The title gave us the villain (a caper) and the genre (a heist). And the hardest thing about a heist is that the protagonists must have an altruistic reason to steal something. In Ocean’s 11, the reasons for the heist are revenge and greed – and those wouldn’t work all that well in a children’s book.

I figured the best reason would be if they were stealing something back from someone who stole it first. And in order to get others on board with the plan (in lieu of greed) was if the thing that was stolen also affected them. And the missing light bulb leaving the fridge in the dark was a perfect (and tangible) item to be the object of the heist.

But why is it up to Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast to solve this problem for all of the denizens of the fridge (other than the fact that this is their series and they seem to always find themselves in the center of every adventure)? Because Sir French Toast is afraid of the dark, of course!

So I guess it was a pretty hard plot to pull off, now that you mention it. Was it harder than book #6, though? No. That one was harder. You can ask me about that more in the fall of 2024.

GRWR: You’re one of the busiest, hardest-working children’s book authors I know. What feeds your soul and keeps you keeping on?

JF: Vanity.

I’m kidding (mostly). I genuinely like cracking myself up with silly things and sometimes those things also make other people laugh or entertained.

That, and reading so many amazing picture books that others create and release on a weekly basis. There are so many fantastic authors and illustrators out there that continue to inspire me daily.

GRWR: Any clues for us as to the duo’s next adventure?

JF: Clues … hmmmm…. I already gave you one (book 6 will be fall 2024). And I sort of gave you another (it will be a different genre than each of the previous 5).

How about this for a clue? There’s something/someone in book #1 (Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast) that doesn’t belong in the fridge which sets off a series of events leading to book 6… And that’s all I’ll say for now.

GRWR: I really appreciate that you took the time to answer these burning questions, Josh. I’m heading back to the fridge to see if I can figure out book 6 from your clues!

JF: Thank you, Ronna!

 

 

 

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Thanksgiving Board Book – Thankful Thanksgiving

THANKFUL THANKSGIVING

Written by Deb Adamson

Illustrated by Benedetta Capriotti

(Cottage Door Press; $8.99, Ages: 1-4)

 

Thankful Thanksgiving cover with mice

 

 

 

REVIEW:

There’s much to be grateful for this holiday season, including the appropriately titled book THANKFUL THANKSGIVING. This board book for young readers sets the mood with autumn colors and a family of cheery mice carrying baked goods on the cover. You can expect to read along to Deb Adamson’s delicious rhyme and experience the comfort of positive vibes in this sixteen-page read-aloud.

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Thankful Thanksgiving int1 mice celebration
Interior spread from Thankful Thanksgiving written by Deb Adamson and illustrated by Benedetta Capriotti, Cottage Door Press ©2022.

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Family, friends, laughter, food, and music fill the pages providing a reliable message for this celebrated tradition. A young mouse delivers one final note of gratitude for a colorful end spread. Illustrator Benedetta Capriotti captures the spirit of childhood with friendly colors, cozy settings, and inviting characters. Invite your kids to reflect on this day of giving by picking up a copy today.

  •  Reviewed by Moni Ritchie Hadley
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BUY THE BOOK:

The board book is available directly from Cottage Door Press here.

FOLLOW THE AUTHOR:

FOLLOW THE REVIEWER:

Website: https://www.moniritchie.com/

Books: THE STAR FESTIVAL, ANZU AND THE ART OF FRIENDSHIP

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Picture Book Review – Keeper of the Light

 

KEEPER OF THE LIGHT:
JULIET FISH NICHOLS FIGHTS THE SAN FRANCISCO FOG

Written by Caroline Arnold

Illustrated by Rachell Sumpter

(Cameron Kids; $18.99, Ages 4-8)

 

 

Keeper of the Light cover with bell machine

 

 

 

Keeper of the Light written by Caroline Arnold and illustrated by Rachell Sumpter is a fascinating, “fictionalized account based on true events and historical documents about Juliet Fish Nichols …” I love learning about historical figures, especially women who had non-traditional careers, whose stories might never be told were it not for an inquisitive picture book author.

 

Keeper of the Light int1 climbing 151 steps
Interior spread from Keeper of the Light written by Caroline Arnold and illustrated by Rachell Sumpter, Cameron Kids ©2022.

 

A widow at 42 and in need of a steady income, Juliet Fish Nichols worked for over a decade as Keeper of Angel Island Light Station in San Francisco Bay. Author Arnold presents an engaging interpretation of several years of Nichols’ life there—Point Knox to be precise—in log format so that readers can gain insight into the important responsibilities she was tasked with. This not only involved making sure the lamp (visible for up to 13 miles) was filled with oil, clean, and in working order but when needed, operating the fog bell machine.

Life may have been simple and calm most of the time but it could suddenly change when the weather grew foggy as it was wont to do. When that happened, Nichols had one thing in mind: Keep the boats safe. Then, on April 18, 1906, a horrendous earthquake rocked San Francisco. Buildings tumbled to the ground and deadly fires broke out all over the city. Nichols helped by hanging her lamp to guide the way for ferries transporting people to safety.

 

Keeper of the Light int2 San Fran earthquake
Interior spread from Keeper of the Light written by Caroline Arnold and illustrated by Rachell Sumpter, Cameron Kids ©2022.

 

On July 2 of that same year, as early as midday, fog began rolling in …

 

Keeper of the Light int3 thick fog
Interior spread from Keeper of the Light written by Caroline Arnold and illustrated by Rachell Sumpter, Cameron Kids ©2022.

 

When the fog’s vast thickness rendered the fog light useless to keep boats from crashing into the rocks the clang, clang of the bell could be heard. But it soon stopped. Nichols realized the bell machine was broken but there was no time to get help or repairs. The keeper had no choice but to grab a mallet and strike the bell herself … every fifteen seconds, throughout the night … for over 20 long hours … until the fog lifted. Nichols’ selfless efforts likely saved hundreds of lives that day when people were still recovering from April’s tragedy.

 

 

Keeper of the Light int4 ringing bell
Interior spread from Keeper of the Light written by Caroline Arnold and illustrated by Rachell Sumpter, Cameron Kids ©2022.

 

Sumpter’s warm-toned illustrations with a watercolor style perhaps mixed with pastels took me back in time to the turn of the twentieth-century San Francisco Bay area. They add atmosphere and tension in all the right places and, together with Arnold’s text, make this such an interesting read. We learn from the Author’s Note in the back matter that Nichols’ logs do exist but this fictionalized version makes them accessible to children by focusing on a few significant events during her 12-year tenure as keeper. I now want to visit Angel Island like Arnold did to see where this amazing woman lived and worked and to see firsthand the giant bell that, with Nichols’ help, saved so many from perishing.

  • Reviewed by Ronna Mandel
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Halloween Picture Book Review – So Not Ghoul

 

SO NOT GHOUL

Written by Karen Yin

Illustrated by Bonnie Lui

(Page Street Kids; $18.99, Ages 4-8)

 

 

So Not Ghoul cover

 

 

Rod Stewart’s “You Wear It Well” is the song that crossed my mind as I read So Not Ghoul, the multi-layered picture book written by Karen Yin and illustrated by Bonnie Lui where the main character Mimi learns to embrace her uniqueness and cultural identity.

 

So Not Ghoul int1 school ghoul girls gang
Interior spread from So Not Ghoul written by Karen Yin and illustrated by Bonnie Lui, Page Street Kids ©2022.

 

Mimi is a Chinese American ghost who haunts a school but feels constrained by the outdated demands of her ancestors. “Good Chinese girl ghosts must cover their faces with their hair,” says Baba, her father. Her other ancestors say, “They must stick out their tongues,” and the list goes on, much to Mimi’s dismay. She knows she must abide by their restrictions but …

 

So Not Ghoul int2 ancestor rules
Interior spread from So Not Ghoul written by Karen Yin and illustrated by Bonnie Lui, Page Street Kids ©2022.

 

what they all add up to is one “So not ghoul” ghost girl. Her ghoulmates seem to have what it takes to scare school kids. Mimi, on the other hand, dressed in an old Chinese gown from her great-great-great-great-great-ghost grandmother is told by the others she “couldn’t scare a scaredy-cat.” In an attempt to fit in, Mimi’s idea for a new look fails miserably. At school, she is bullied by the ghoul gang and the outfit also offends her ancestors.

The next day, the biggest ghoul bully, Lisette, appropriates Mimi’s original antique gown look, hoping she’ll be told she wears it better. Readers will cheer when the bully’s plan backfires. Not only does Mimi call Lisette out, but her ancestors “glow with pride” after she speaks up. She’s found more than her voice.

A happy ending ensues when at last Lisette looks inward (is that possible for a ghost?) and apologizes for her ghoulish behavior. Mimi and Lisette call a truce and now the new friends can focus their attention on the school’s open haunted house. Yin has filled the story with engaging wordplay and with conversation starters at many different levels. So Not Ghoul can be approached for bullying and prejudice, culture appropriation, diversity and bicultural pride as well as multigenerational families or simply a rewarding girl-power ghost story. Lui’s jewel-toned and textured art colorfully conveys Mimi’s moods, ideal for this spirited story!

  • Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

 

 

 

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Halloween Books Roundup by Christine Van Zandt

 

CHILDREN’S HALLOWEEN BOOKS ROUNDUP 2022

 

Halloween Clip Art of witch full moon and pumpkins

 

 

 

Creepy Crayon coverCREEPY CRAYON! (Creepy Tales! series)
Written by Aaron Reynolds
Illustrated by Peter Brown
(Simon & Schuster BYR; $18.99, Ages 4-8 )

Starred Review – Kirkus

Aaron Reynolds delights us with book three of the Creepy Tales! series featuring his beloved Jasper Rabbit. In Creepy Crayon! Jasper’s not-great day gets a boost when he finds a bright purple crayon—with a crazy grin on its face! Soon, the crayon is helping Jasper zoom his grades up to straight As. Cool, right? Maybe . . . until the crayon takes BFF to the next level.

As in the first two books, Peter Brown’s art is a perfect blend of funny and spooky: Crayon’s glowing antics contrast with the lurking shadows. Kids will love the hilarious expressions on Jasper’s face.

Flawless interplay between text and high-contrast art make this author and illustrator duo New York Times best-sellers. Fans will appreciate the can-you-spot-them references to Creepy Carrots! and Creepy Pair of Underwear! We own this outstanding three-book series and do not tire of them; they’re a fit for Halloween or any day you need some funny bunny in your life.

 

Crimson Twill Witch in the City coverCRIMSON TWILL: Witch in the City (book one, series)
Written by Kallie George
Illustrated by Birgitta Sif
(Candlewick Press; $14.99, Ages 7-9)

The chapter-book series opener, Crimson Twill: Witch in the City, by Kallie George will bewitch you with its main character, spunky little Crimson Twill. True to her name, Crimson rocks a big bow on her red witch’s hat—no standard black for this girl! Her clothes and actions also set her apart. But, the various ways she’s different from others don’t bother her at first.

With Mom just a wave of her wand away, Crimson sets off to explore the big Broomingdale’s department store where the elevator’s buttons are shaped like what’s sold on that floor. Crimson hopes to get a glimpse of those things called puppies. Instead, she immediately encounters disdain for her unique attire, creating a crack of doubt in her self-assurance.

The clever puns, humor, and heart make this book a standout. Illustrations by Birgitta Sif add an array of fun, diverse witches. Kids new to reading will appreciate the short, simple chapters that are engaging and fast-paced. For this age audience, navigating a large store truly is an adventure. And any place with a cat floor is alright by me! Crimson ultimately finds that Broomingdale’s does have “everything a witch could itch for” but what she end up with may surprise you!

 

The Lost Coast paperback coverTHE LOST COAST
Written by A. R. Capetta
(Candlewick Press; Paperback $10.99, Ages 14 and up)

The beautifully written YA, The Lost Coast, by A. R. Capetta grabbed hold of me with its opening lines describing Danny’s first glimpse of ancient redwoods. She and her mom move to this specific coastal northern California town because Danny has been mysteriously drawn there. Danny quickly finds herself in deep with a group of queer high school witches who call themselves the Grays. They’re awesome, but their most powerful member is missing and they expect Danny to find her.

Nonlinear narration and alternating viewpoint chapters heighten the suspense as we try to understand what’s really going on. The foggy forest gives nature a presence on the page and sets the mood for magic, secrets, and discovery. This book is an A+ for me because of its realistically complex and interwoven friendships and love, plus the group’s frank discussions about identity. Ideal for fans of The Graces novels. I highly recommend The Lost Coast to YA readers who enjoy clever, twisted tales that are atmospheric gorgeously crafted. Available in hardcover, paperback and Ebook.

 

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Picture Book Review by Roxanne Troup – Old Friends

OLD FRIENDS

Written by Margaret Aitken

Illustrated by Lenny Wen

(Feiwel and Friends; $18.99; Ages 4-8)

 

 

Old Friends cover

 

 

This sweet, intergenerational picture book, Old Friends, from debut author, Margaret Aitken, and illustrator, Lenny Wen, will have readers longing for their own group of “old friends.”

 

Old Friends int1 girl on rug
Interior spread from Old Friends written by Margaret Aitken and illustrated by Lenny Wen, Feiwel & Friends ©2022.

 

Marjorie’s “old soul” refuses to be bound by the conventions of “child’s play.” She longs for someone who understands her love of baking, crafting, and gardening. Taking cues from her late grandmother’s indomitable spirit, Marjorie goes undercover …

 

 

Old Friends int art2 girl in mirror
Interior art from Old Friends written by Margaret Aitken and illustrated by Lenny Wen, Feiwel & Friends ©2022.

 

and finds an unlikely set of friends at her local senior citizens’ group.

 

Old Friends int3 dancing
Interior spread from Old Friends written by Margaret Aitken and illustrated by Lenny Wen, Feiwel & Friends ©2022.

 

 

But when her disguise falls apart in the midst of the cha-cha, Marjorie worries her new friends won’t want her around. Thankfully, her “old friends” are really young at heart. They welcome her wholeheartedly, but will they welcome another “old soul” into the group? Will Marjorie? 

This charming intergenerational picture book will have readers longing for their own group of “old friends.” A wonderful pick for Grandparent’s Day, Aitken’s heartwarming story is not to be missed. Wen’s vibrant artwork, only adds to its appeal. Her bright, fun style complements Aitken’s storyline truly making Old Friends an ideal book for both the young and young-at-heart.

Rating: A definite 10!

  • Reviewed by Roxanne Troup

 

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Picture Book Review by Roxanne Troup – The Boy Who Loved Maps

 

 

THE BOY WHO LOVED MAPS

Written by Kari Allen

Illustrated by G. Brian Karas

(Anne Schwartz Books; $17.99; Ages 4-8)

 

 

 

 

Kari Allen and G. Brian Karas have created a charming picture book that celebrates all the things we love about home in The Boy Who Loved Maps.

From Penguin Random House: “The Mapmaker loves maps—he loves to collect them, to study them, and most of all, to make them. But when a girl asks for a map of a perfect place, the Mapmaker is perplexed. She wants a map to a toes-in-the-sand-warm, X-marks-the-spot-place filled with treasures, where it smells like her birthday and she can zip around like a dragonfly. Surely, a place that is all of these things can’t exist … can it?”

 

The Boy Who Loved Maps int1 one day
Interior art from The Boy Who Loved Maps written by Kari Allen and illustrated by G. Brian Karas, Anne Schwartz Books ©2022.

 

This story is perfect for the quiet adventurers among us and would make an excellent classroom edition for map-making and map-reading units. From the endpapers to the map-themed backmatter and built-in activities, this book covers features like the compass rose, map legends/keys, and topographical and political map differences.

 

The Boy Who Loved Maps int2 together
Interior spread from The Boy Who Loved Maps written by Kari Allen and illustrated by G. Brian Karas, Anne Schwartz Books ©2022.

 

I especially love the subtle message of home that both the adventure-loving and adventure-avoiding can appreciate. When the young girl challenges her map-making friend to create the “perfect” map, it takes an afternoon of exploring before he finally understands that home is the best place of all.

  •  Reviewed by Roxanne Troup

 

 

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Picture Book Review – Over, Bear! Under, Where?

 

 

OVER, BEAR! UNDER, WHERE?

Written by Julie Hedlund

Illustrated by Michael Slack

(Philomel BYR; $17.99, Ages 4-8)

 

 

Over, Bear! Under, Where? cover

 

For the last day of Fat Bear Week, I’m delighted, (or should I say overjoyed?) to share my thoughts on Julie Hedlund’s uproarious read-aloud picture book, Over, Bear! Under, Where? with humorous art by Michael Slack.

Now don’t get me wrong, the titular Bear may be on the big side, but he’s actually a kind soul simply looking for pals to play with. But when you’re a bird (Over), a mole (Under), or a hot-dog dog (Dog) and that much smaller, a bear can be scary. That scenario is what unfolds to hilarious results as Over and Under hang out at the park.

 

 

Over, Bear! Under, Where? int1 seesaw
Interior spread from Over, Bear! Under, Where? written by Julie Hedlund and illustrated by Michael Slack, Philomel ©2021.

 

With wordplay galore, a relatable premise, and high marks for its readability, Hedlund’s book manages to entertain in just under 100 carefully chosen words. Young readers will adore the interplay of art and text as they see Over and Under’s punny back-and-forth banter on the see-saw and at their BBQ. They even invite a hot-dog dog called Dog to join them but run for their lives after spotting Bear in what is clearly a massive misunderstanding. 

 

Over, Bear! Under, Where? int2 hotdog
Interior art from Over, Bear! Under, Where? written by Julie Hedlund and illustrated by Michael Slack, Philomel ©2021.

 

Bear, we soon learn, wants to play, too, but Over, Under and Dog do not realize this right away. It’s only when Under points out a dejected-looking Bear … down that the trio makes amends and in doing so, makes a new friend.

Hedlund’s spare text may make adult readers think, “Oh hey, I could do that.” When in fact, to be able to convey the emotional heart of this story with so few words, is no easy task and takes a pro. It also takes terrific illustrations that bring the story to life, my favorite illustrations being those below.

 

Over, Bear! Under, Where? int3 bear behind
Interior art from Over, Bear! Under, Where? written by Julie Hedlund and illustrated by Michael Slack, Philomel ©2021.

 

There’s even a page of helpful backmatter providing examples of the compound words that were essential to inspiring this story’s humor when they were presented as separate words helped by just a comma in many places. Parents, teachers, librarians, and caregivers will not tire of  sharing this whimsical, original tale with its clever take, “You can’t judge a bear by its behind.” So Fat Bear Week or not, this book’ll keep you from hibernating.

 

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Picture Book Review by Christine Van Zandt – If Tigers Disappeared

 

IF TIGERS DISAPPEARED
 If Animals Disappeared series, book 5

by Lily Williams

(Roaring Brook Press; $18.99, Ages 4-8) 

 

 

 

If Tigers Disappeared cover

 

 

Stand up and roar for Lily Williams’s If Tigers Disappeared, the fifth book in her award-winning series. If Tigers Disappeared follows the familiar pattern: we learn where the animals live, some history about them, and why their populations have declined. Tigers have been around for more than two million years, yet in the past 100 years, humans have nearly wiped out their population. When an animal becomes extinct, the ripple effect (also called the trophic cascade) has far-reaching effects on our ecosystem.

 

If Tigers Disappeared int1 India map
Interior spread from If Tigers Disappeared written and illustrated by Lily Williams, Roaring Brook Press ©2022.

 

Since tigers are apex predators, the animals they eat flourish when no longer hunted by the big cats. These population booms then cause changes to the forest, waterways, and landscapes. This immense concept is conveyed simply, inviting kids to think about our world’s interconnectedness and demonstrating how indigenous people should continue to be involved in tiger conservation. Though the topic is quite sad, the overall feeling is of hope, emphasizing the importance of knowledge and advocacy for these amazing animals.

 

If Tigers Disappeared int2 photos on road
Interior spread from If Tigers Disappeared written and illustrated by Lily Williams, Roaring Brook Press ©2022.

 

Williams’s tigers are magnificently drawn in many stages of action, including a couple of curious cubs. Back matter includes a glossary, recap of the tigers’ endangered status, and information on how we can help. This important book educates while charming us with lively images of six remaining subspecies of tigers.

 

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Picture Book Review by Roxanne Troup – BAA, BAA, TAP SHEEP

 

 BAA, BAA, TAP SHEEP

Written by Kenda Henthorn

Illustrated by Lauren Gallegos

(Sleeping Bear Press; $17.99, Ages 0-4)

 

 

 

Baa Baa Tap Sheep cover

 

 

From the Publisher:

“As a trio of tired tots settles into bed for the night, the sheep who should be helping them count down to slumber kick up their hooves in an energetic dance performance. Starting with one little lamb … [the] sheep tap, waltz, tango, and boogie …  [until] finally, after their energy is danced out, nap sheep lull everyone to sleep.”

 

 

Baa Baa Tap Sheep int1 dancing grooves
Interior spread from Baa, Baa, Tap Sheep written by Kenda Henthorn and illustrated by Lauren Gallegos, Sleeping Bear Press ©2022.

Review:

Kenda Henthorn’s lively, rhyming text borrows the rhythm of “Baa, Baa, Black Sheep” to create a delightful read-aloud perfect for getting out the wiggles before bedtime. Lauren Gallegos’ cute art in soothing blues and energetic purples perfectly complements the energy of Henthorn’s words.

 

Baa Baa Tap Sheep int2 jumpingtoajive
Interior art from Baa, Baa, Tap Sheep written by Kenda Henthorn and illustrated by Lauren Gallegos, Sleeping Bear Press ©2022.

 

 

With added learning layers such as counting to ten, dance moves/vocabulary, and a few cultural Easter eggs in the art, this picture book works for the young and young-at-heart. Highly recommended for naptime in the early childhood classroom!

  • Reviewed by Roxanne Troup
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Picture Book Review – Somewhere, Right Now

 

SOMEWHERE, RIGHT NOW

Written by Kerry Docherty

Illustrated by Suzie Mason

(Flamingo Books; $17.99, Ages 3-5) 

 

Somewhere Right Now cover

 

 

If you need a moment to slow down and appreciate life, read the picture book, Somewhere, Right Now, by debut author Kerry Docherty. In this comforting story, we see members of one family each experience strong emotions such as fear, anger, and sadness. One by one, as their feelings are recognized, they take a moment to focus. By understanding that “somewhere, right now” a great thing is happening, they move away from the negativity and, instead, their imaginations transport them to uplifting thoughts about animals in nature.

 

Somewhere Right Now int1 window
Interior spread from Somewhere, Right Now written by Kerry Docherty and illustrated by Suzie Mason, Flamingo Books ©2022.

 

The realistic illustrations by Suzie Mason capture the smattering of dark moods and offset them with plenty of joyful, kind images. Kids will learn that we all feel down sometimes and how a few words can make a huge difference. This book is very much needed in today’s fast-paced, uncertain world; it provides simple instruction on how to help control our minds while also boosting the love and positivity around us if we just choose to look for it.

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Picture Book Review for Rosh Hashanah – Measuring a Year

MEASURING A YEAR: A ROSH HASHANAH STORY

Written by Linda Elovitz Marshall

Illustrated by Zara González Hoang

(Abrams Appleseed; $16.99, Ages 3-5)

 

 

Measuring a Year cover

 

 

When I celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, I reflect on the year gone by, and now author Linda Elovitz Marshall and illustrator Zara González Hoang have created an inviting way for children to do the same with Measuring a Year: A Rosh Hashanah Story.

What struck me the most about this rhyming picture book was what a terrific conversation starter it is for families and how, per the back matter, other opportunities are indicated where the book can be used including “the secular, Lunar, Islamic, and Hindu New  Years, birthdays, and the start of each school year. And, of course, the start of each new day.”

 

 

Measuring a Year int1 height measure
Interior spread from Measuring a Year: A Rosh Hashanah Story written by Linda Elovitz Marshall and illustrated by Zara González Hoang, Abrams Appleseed ©2022.

 

I like how the many ways to approach introspection or measuring a year are presented. A year gone by can literally be measured by how much a child has grown. It can also be measured by friends made, a new skill learned, places visited, and special occasions such as weddings and bar mitvahs celebrated. The book doesn’t shy away from addressing how measuring a year should include thinking back on times a child did something they regret, times they were sad, or even scared. So much can happen in a year.

 

Measuring a Year int2 new year party
Interior spread from Measuring a Year: A Rosh Hashanah Story written by Linda Elovitz Marshall and illustrated by Zara González Hoang, Abrams Appleseed ©2022.

 

Hoang’s inclusive, diverse illustrations, were rendered using “watercolor, colored pencils, and a bit of Photoshop magic” and are rich with children of all abilities. In terms of Jewish symbols, I spotted a Menorah, a Sukkah, a dreidel, a Jewish Star, and people wearing yarmulkes. During this high holy day when we have the chance to start anew, many Jews eat honey cake and dip apples in honey for a sweet new year.  The delicious-looking endpapers were designed with this tradition in mind. Between the joyful art and the gentle tone, Measuring a Year is a thoughtful and easy way for kids to understand and appreciate the significance of Rosh Hashanah and welcome addition to any Jewish holiday book collection.

  • Reviewed by Ronna Mandel
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Picture Book Review by Roxanne Troup – A Penny’s Worth

”’

A PENNY’S WORTH

Written by Kimberly Wilson

Illustrated by Mark Hoffman

(Page Street Kids; $17.99, Ages 4-8)

 

 

From the Publisher: “Hot off the printing press, Penny feels like a million bucks. But as other coins and bills are spent while she sits forgotten, she begins to doubt her value … Refusing to be short-changed, she sets out to find her purpose at any cost.”

From Kirkus Reviews: “Combining a dash of math with buckets of good humor, this book is certainly like money in the bank.”

 

REVIEW:

Fresh and fun, A Penny’s Worth written by Kimberly Wilson and illustrated by Mark Hoffman combines loads of money-themed puns with a subtle message on self-worth that young readers will love.

 

 

A Penny's Worth int1 cool your copper
Interior spread from A Penny’s Worth written by Kimberly Wilson and illustrated by Mark Hoffman, Page Street Kids ©2022.

 

Kimberly Wilson’s debut shines like a new penny under the expert care of Mark Hoffman’s humorous art that will entice children to spend time searching out each detail on the page.

 

A Penny's Worth int2 eyes on me
Interior spread from A Penny’s Worth written by Kimberly Wilson and illustrated by Mark Hoffman, Page Street Kids ©2022.

 

 

And the silliness continues in Wilson’s pun-filled backmatter that not only offers fun facts about pennies, but illustrates the value of each coin and bill featured in the text. I expect this book will become a favorite in elementary classrooms around the country.

  • Reviewed by Roxanne Troup

 

 

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