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Five Children’s Books for Women’s History Month







Just Wild Enough cover of primatologist Mireya Mayor in MadagascarJUST WILD ENOUGH:
Mireya Mayor, Primatologist

Written by Marta Magellan
Illustrated by Clémentine Rocheron
(Albert Whitman & Co.; $17.99, Ages 4-8)

Picture book biographies such as Just Wild Enough are exactly why I love nonfiction and why I especially love Women’s History Month. Part of the She Made History collection, this book brings primatologist Mireya Mayor to the attention of young readers and might just plant the seed for some of them to study the fascinating and important field of primatology.

From a young age, animals were always a part of Mayor’s life. She could never have enough pets whether they were cats, dogs, rabbits, birds, a chicken, or a snapping turtle. At the same time, she felt that nothing was quite wild enough. This phrase is often repeated and is backed up by many impressive examples throughout the bio.

While she attended university, Mayor was also an NFL cheerleader for the Miami Dolphins. Yet her dream to be a primatologist persisted. People she knew couldn’t see why she’d want to visit jungles and study primates. In fact, one of my favorite lines in the book is when some researchers told her she didn’t look like a scientist. Magellan writes “But what does a scientist look like, anyway?”

Much to everyone’s surprise, Mayor eventually ended up on the island of Madagascar to study inky-black lemurs. There she was hired by National Geographic “as its very first woman wildlife TV reporter.” Still, nothing she experienced was quite wild enough. Her tenacity took her deep into one of the last virgin rainforests. Always one to look closer, Mayor discovered a new species of mouse lemur. But finding that species also meant the need to speak with the prime minister since the mouse lemur’s habitat was being devastated. Using fire, people stripped “the trees from the rain forest for fuel.” When Mayor met him she asked if he could declare the rain forest a national park thus ensuring the mouse lemurs’ survival. He agreed!

Magellan’s chosen to introduce kids to an inspirational woman in a well-balanced presentation of the life of a primatologist. I enjoyed learning about Mayor’s colorful and conscientious life. The art helps young readers see what some of Mayor’s responsibilities were and the text helps them understand her motivation. Dubbed the female Indiana Jones, she continues to this day to promote the protection of endangered species and the importance of conservation. Rocheron’s artwork takes us on the football field and into the jungles with illustrations that work well in this bio but would also look great on a TV show. Four pages of back matter include a Glossary, Author’s Note, About Mouse Lemurs, and Anjanaharibe-Sud Special Reserve.


Dolly!-The Story of Dolly Parton and Her Big Dream Dolly playing guitarDOLLY!:
The Story of Dolly Parton and Her Big Dream
Written  by Robyn McGrath
Illustrated by Ellen Surrey
(LBRY/Christy Ottaviano Books; $17.99, Ages 4-8)

I know very little about Dolly Parton so I couldn’t wait to dive into this picture book. What I learned is that Dolly grew up in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee and is the fourth of twelve children so it’s no surprise she became a performer. What better way to make your presence known?

Dolly’s musical prowess showed up when she was five years old and “composed her first song about her handmade corncob doll, Tiny Tasseltop.” She could be found singing to her animals at home or in church and loved listening to the Grand Ole Opry on the radio on Saturdays along with her family. The music moved her. The Partons occasionally found time for music sessions together playing “some Appalachian porch pickin’ music.” Dolly easily moved from instrument to instrument learning as she went. And, growing up dirt poor, Dolly channeled unpleasant experiences of bullying into her music, her musical dreams motivated by her mama’s singing and stories. Dolly’s primary dream was to be onstage at the Opry but was always told the same thing – she was too young.

Did that stop Dolly? Like the other women in this roundup, Dolly didn’t take no for an answer and persevered. And though she had farmwork to take care of, she still wrote and sang songs, never losing sight of her dream. Her uncle Bill observed her talent and after Dolly got her first guitar, he not only encouraged her but helped her get her first radio and TV gigs. Despite being well received by audiences, that didn’t mean an automatic entrée for Dolly into the Grand Old Opry.

Then one day Dolly’s big dream was realized when “another singer agreed to let Dolly go onstage in his place at the Grand Ole Opry!” After three encores that night, the rest is history. Dolly went on to dazzle audiences on TV as her career took off. To this day her singing and songwriting still thrill fans and she’s added philanthropy to her playbook. Back matter details her literacy, health care, and marriage equality initiatives. I got a kick out of her Dollyisms also included. Here’s my favorite from the book: “The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you got to put up with the rain.” The pairing of McGrath’s prose with Surrey’s art is a winning combination. It was probably not easy to narrow down what to focus on in such a storied life, but McGrath’s homed in on highlights such as her close family life and self-confidence that help readers understand Dolly’s drive. You can also feel Dolly’s energy in the bold illustrations.


A Life of Service Tammy Duckworth in wheelchairA LIFE OF SERVICE:
The Story of Senator Tammy Duckworth
Written by Christina Soontornvat
Illustrated by Dow Phumiruk
(Candlewick Press; 18.99, Ages 5-9)

Soontornvat shows readers how there is so much more to Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth’s life than meets the eye. Her commitment to serving our country has remained steadfast despite facing a life-changing accident in 2004.

Written using a straightforward chronological structure, this bio shares that Tammy was born in Bangkok, Thailand, and growing up she and her family moved around Southeast Asia. Because of her father’s job working for the United Nations, she saw people from all walks of life who had been displaced due to war and were living as refugees. Her caring about others was instilled at a young age and never left her.

When her father lost his job, he moved everyone to Hawaii where at times Tammy was the sole breadwinner. Her drive and caring never faltered and she worked hard at school despite the family’s tough financial situation. After high school, Tammy continued on to college and graduate school knowing she wanted to serve her country, just not how.

Tammy found fulfillment in the ROTC, then joined the Illinois Army National Guard. She also fell in love and got married. Fascinated by aviation, she mastered operating a Black Hawk helicopter eventually becoming her unit’s commander. When the US decided to invade Iraq, Tammy did not agree but chose to stay with her company in Balad, Iraq as battle captain. Near the end of a mission, on Nov. 12, 2004, her helicopter was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade. Tammy almost didn’t survive. The result – one leg lost and one partially lost from the knee down. And though the pain was debilitating, Tammy’s fellow vets provided motivation. She’d get better and return to combat. But that was not to be.

In rehab for 13 months, Tammy was the most senior ranked vet and soon found she was helping others navigate benefits and other challenges they encountered. With this experience under her belt it was no surprise she was asked to run for Congress. And though she lost the first time, she didn’t the second time! Not one to shy from breaking the glass ceiling, Tammy also won her Senate race where “she racked up a long string of firsts,” including being the first female amputee to serve in Congress, and the first senator to give birth while in office. To this day Tammy Duckworth is a force to be reckoned with as she fights for disability rights, immigration, and refugee protections, helping vets find work, and supporting family needs.

Dow Phumiruk’s art brought Tammy into my home (and heart) as I followed her childhood to her military years to her rise and influence in politics. Together with Soontornvat’s thoughtful prose, A Life of Service introduces young readers to a role model worthy of a place in Women’s History Month and Women’s History in general. I am glad to have learned her story. Backmatter includes a helpful timeline of major events in Tammy’s life, suggested reading as well as her “Ongoing Legacy of Service.”


Wonderful Hair cover Annie Malone with clientWONDERFUL HAIR:
The Beauty of Annie Malone
Written by Eve Nadel Catarevas
Illustrated by Felicia Marshall 
(Creston Books; $18.99, Ages 7-10)

Annie’s story is one of perseverance and success, and more impressive since it happened around the turn of the 19th century when Black women were denied the same opportunities as whites. Annie’s neighbor and friend, Lillie even said to her, “Black girls like us grow up to be maids, washerwomen, or cooks.” But from a young age, Annie found herself interested in hair care as Black women were seeking “the same fashionable hairstyles white women had.” She was determined to follow her own path.

As a girl, Annie had friends and family coming to her for she had a way with Black women’s hair. And she knew it was going to be her destiny. That vision took her from strength to strength.

Annie asked her herb doctor Aunt Mary to create a product a product to help make hair grow. Too many women she knew had bald patches from harsh hair straightening products and remedies “to tame rebellious curls and kinks.” Aunt Mary’s product launched Annie’s career. When Annie decided to make one even better, she called it “Wonderful Hair Grower” and charged 25 cents for it. With her growing beauty business, Annie moved to Brooklyn, Illinois and sold her products from a horse-drawn wagon.

Annie’s company continued to thrive and relocated to St. Louis. There, she expanded her line of self-care items to include shampoo, conditioner, soap, and lipstick. “She named her company Poro, a West African word for physical and spiritual growth.’ Because Black women’s products weren’t sold in stores, Annie went door-to-door selling. As demand increased, she trained women to ” operate their own hair salons.” She even launched Poro Beauty College! At one point she had 75,000 beauty agents worldwide and even had a store at St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904!

So now, when you hear that Sarah Breedlove was the first self-made Black female millionaire because of her hair-care company Madam C.J. Walker, you’ll know that in fact she was trained by Annie Malone who can truly claim that accomplishment. I enjoyed how Catarevas brought  Annie’s story to life buoyed by occasional quotes such as “One dime will do,” said by Aunt Mary who charged her niece that sum for her hair-growing mixture. Coupled with Marshall’s illustrations that had an oil painting quality because of the visible brushstrokes, Catarevas grounds readers in an era where change was on the horizon, and entrepreneurs like Annie who reached out and grabbed opportunities could realize her dreams.

Josephine and Her Dishwashing Machine cover inventor surrounded by dishesJOSEPHINE AND HER DISHWASHING MACHINE:
Josephine Cochrane’s  Bright Invention Makes a Big Splash

Written by Kate Hannigan
Illustrated by Sarah Green
(Calkins Creek; $18.99, Ages 7-10)

Sometimes I wonder if all our household conveniences have already been invented but there was a time when this was not the case. In the 1870s and ’80s, following the civil war, inventors were hard at work around the world developing new products and devices to make life easier in homes, on farms, in offices and factories, and at hospitals. Enter Josephine Garis Cochrane, a woman with a neat idea.

Green’s full-page illustrations depict a woman who is wealthy enough to have a maid. She also probably grew up not lacking the necessities in life being the daughter of a bridge builder and great-granddaughter of a steamship designer. It didn’t hurt that inventiveness was in her blood. So, when Cochrane noticed what bad condition her dishware was in from all the handwashing it had endured, she knew there had to be a better way. While there had been an earlier version of a dishwasher that “just splashed water around,” Josephine wanted her invention to actually clean.

After trying to fashion the dishwasher herself, Josephine enlisted the talents of a mechanic, George Butters, to help her. At first, things looked bright but when Josephine’s husband died, she was ready to throw in the towel. But we know, since there’s a book about her, she didn’t throw in the towel. Instead, with George’s assistance, she “tested and tinkered and pushed and persevered until she was satisfied.” You’ll note how Hannigan’s use of water and cleaning-related language to share her story is spot on (pun intended!).

At last, her dishwasher was ready to be patented! But without investors, Josephine’s nascent business could not succeed. Those male investors were not likely to bet on a business run by a woman in the late 19th century. Fortunately for this enterprising woman, she decided to exhibit her invention at the Columbian Exposition (aka the Chicago World’s Fair) in 1893. Not only did her dishwasher win first place for “best mechanical construction” it also won her orders from across the country. Hotels, restaurants, schools and even hospitals wanted one. “The Garis-Cochrane Dish-washing Machine Company soon outgrew the backyard shed.” Her company grew and thrived. Well into her seventies, Josephine continued to sell her dream with the ultimate goal of getting it into homes.

I chose to review this story because the topic is so relatable and also because it’s not a cradle-to-grave biography. It focuses on Cochrane as a grown woman determined to create the best possible dishwasher in order to free up people to have time to enjoy other activities. Hannigan’s included several quotes throughout the book from Josephine that attest to her spirit. When others might have given up, she never did. Green’s lively and lovely artwork added to my enjoyment. I’m glad she included pictures of the patents, too. Comprehensive back matter sheds light on what it was like for a woman inventor and business owner to try to get her product out into the world when modern appliances such as toasters and irons were not to be seen until 1913, the year Josephine died. More pages are devoted to Notable Women Inventors and a Timeline of Fascinating Inventions.



Queen of Southern Cooking, Edna Lewis
Written by Melvina Noel
Illustrated by Cozbi A. Cabrera
(Cameron Kids; $18.99, Ages 4-8)
Available for Pre-order now

How Ruth Krauss Found Another Way to Tell a Tale
Written by Carter  Higgins
Illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault
(Abrams BYR; $19.99, Ages 4-8)

(Ordinary People Change the World)
Written by Brad Meltzer
Illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos
(Rocky Pond Books; $16.99, Ages 5-9)

Ethelda Bleibtrey Makes Waves of Change
Written by Elisa Boxer
Illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley
(Sleeping Bear Press; $17.99, Ages 6-10)

The Story of Jeannette Rankin
Written by Gretchen Woelfle
Illustrated by Rebecca Gibbon
(Calkins Creek; $18.99, Ages 7-10)

The Songwriting, Hit-Singing, Guitar-Picking Dolly Parton
Written by Suzanne Slade
Illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham
(Calkins Creek; $18.99, Ages 7-10)

Uncovering Deborah Sampson Patriot Solder
Written by Beth Anderson
Illustrated  by Anne Lambelet
(Calkins Creek; $18.99, Ages 7-10)


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Where’s the bird?

There are hundreds of books about being different and embracing one’s uniqueness. Ironically, A FUNNY LITTLE BIRD (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, $15.99, ages 4-8) by graphic artist Jennifer Yerkes about a lonely, invisible bird, truly stands out!


“When he was seen, other birds made fun of him.” So the little bird set out on his own, all the while accumulating various beautiful items found during his journey, items like magnificent feathers and flowers that would certainly get him noticed. Bringing attention to himself, however, proved to be a double-edged sword when this funny little bird was pursued by a fox. Yet in his haste to escape, his so-called treasures were lost.

Then, like the Rainbow Fish before him, the funny little bird realized that all the accoutrements would not lead to happiness. In fact, it was his invisibility that made him special. This wonderful gift he could share with his pals could also keep them safe. So, it turns out, that this funny little bird learned a most valuable lesson that takes many others years to grasp – excessive pride can push potential friends away and to have a friend you must first be a friend.

In 48 pages, Yerkes’s crsip yet sparse artwork manages to be fluid, fresh and fun, a beautiful blend of Jon Klassen meets Lois Ehlert. A Funny Little Bird is truly this year’s must have for self-esteem building! Get a copy at your favorite independent bookstore today.

– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

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Make Your Move


Debbie Glade reviews Mario Makes a Move ($16.99, Schwartz and Wade, Ages 3 and up), a story about a little squirrel with a big desire to impress.

Mario spends his days trying to impress everyone with his “amazing” moves – jumping, spinning, flying and twirling. But his friend, Isabelle, isn’t too impressed with Mario’s moves no matter what he does, as she shows him some tricks of her own. Mario gets jealous and accuses Isabelle of stealing his best moves. When she makes him realize all the other animals in town have their own great moves, too, he stops doing tricks and starts collecting sticks, which is, well, kind of boring. It isn’t until Mario and Isabelle put their heads and skills together that truly amazing things start to happen.

Author and illustrator Jill McElmurry subtly teaches the reader that, although it’s normal to want to excel at something, people don’t like a braggart. Even more important, she teaches that cooperation and collaboration can often lead to far better endings than trying to do everything yourself and possibly alienating everyone around you.


This little book for young readers has a big message and delivers it in a charming and entertaining story. The watercolor artwork moves the story along beautifully, and Mario’s moves are even sketched out on graph paper.

Each and every one of us wants to be exceptional at something we do and be recognized for it. And every now and then we need to be reminded that if we work well with others, extraordinary things can happen  – just as they do for Mario and Isabelle.

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Curl Up With A Cat

Reviewer Ronna Mandel’s face lit up after reading Up Cat by Hazel Hutchins with art by Fanny.

I love animals. All things cat, dog, bear and bunny interest me so naturally I gravitated towards Up Cat ($6.95, Annick Press/Firefly Books, ages 2-5) when it arrived at my doorstep earlier this year.

This charming board book, and its companion, Up Dog, are perfect for toddlers and preschoolers ready to learn new words and grasp new expressions. From the onset, little ones will be in for a treat when they meet the darling little gray feline and follow just what he gets UP to during the day. Whether it’s watching him wake up, hearing him speak up, seeing him tear and rip up, and make a pretty big mess, the activity never ends. Nor will the giggles.

The artwork is bright and cheerful. Fanny’s style is simple yet says so much that children will absolutely adore the cat and all his antics, naughty or not.  I’m betting there’ll be some serious snuggle time after a read through and like kitty, you might just want to “cover up, curl up and soak up the sun.”

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Pachyderms Aplenty

Rita Zobayan reviews 2 new elephantastic books.

When you think of animals playing hide-and-seek, which ones come to mind? A chameleon, certainly. A monkey, leopard or tiger, perhaps. But a large, hulking elephant? Not so much. Summoning strong imaginations, two authors have placed playful pachyderms in a favorite children’s game.

Salina Yoon has written and illustrated a darling board book, Where’s Ellie?: A Hide-and-Seek Book  ($6.99, Robin Corey Books) for little ones aged 0-3. Ellie and her friends—caterpillar, ladybug, rabbit, lizard and squirrel—are playing a game of hide-and-seek. Young readers will search for Ellie and her peek-a-boo trunk in familiar settings, only to be surprised at what they find instead. The simple but colorful illustrations are fun to view. At 16 pages, the book is long enough to hold a youngster’s attention and short enough for parents to read over and over again, which they probably will have to do if their kids are anything like mine.

Hide & Seek  ($15.99, Alfred A. Knopf Books, ages 2-5) by Il Sung Na is a counting book that also features an elephant playing hide and seek, but this time Elephant is the seeker. The other animals must find places to hide; where will they go?! Flamingo wants to make sure that Elephant isn’t cheating. Gorilla thinks carefully about his hiding spot. “10! Ready or not, here I come!” cries Elephant, and the search is on! Na uses rich, bright colors and various art techniques to create a visually spectacular picture book. The animals’ expressions are adorable, and children will enjoy counting the butterflies that accompany Elephant on the search. Like elephants, children will not forget—to read Hide & Seek that is.

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Slithering Snake Science

Debbie Glade pursues her thirst for scientific knowledge with this great book from Chicago Review Press.

Once again, I find myself with an amazing non-fiction children’s book from Chicago Review Press on my lap that I can’t put down. Awesome Snake Science: 40 Activities for Learning About Snakes ($14.95, Chicago Review Press, ages 9 -12) by author and naturalist, Cindy Blobaum, helps children appreciate these intriguing reptiles that are so often feared.

Like all other Chicago Review Press books for kids I’ve read, parents and teachers will benefit greatly from reading this book too. Readers learn about different species of snakes, where to find them, the anatomy of them, how they survive, why and how they strike and how they defend themselves.  Even the squeamish can appreciate learning fascinating facts such as this: It is common for snake teeth to get stuck in the animal it is eating and fall out, but since snakes can grow new teeth any time they need them, this is not a problem. Or how about this one? If the temperature of a snake’s body dips below 60 degrees Fahrenheit while food is in his stomach, the food will not digest. Rather it will simply rot, which may in turn poison the snake.

In addition to becoming a young herpetologist, readers can enjoy many different activities from making a research journal and making a snake spine to seeing through a snake’s eyes and testing your own tongue. All the activities use materials that are easy to find in your home and do not require any slithering thing (such as a real snake). There are wonderful photographs and illustrations throughout the book as well.

This book is a hit in many ways, but most importantly it works because it teaches readers to think like scientists, inspiring them to seek out the true facts about snakes. In turn this may help alleviate some of the fears they have about these slithering creatures and make them want to learn more. And perhaps they will one day become scientists themselves.

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What the Heck is Your Dog Thinking?

Things Your Dog Doesn’t Want You to Know ($12.99 Sourcebooks, Family Reading) by Hy Conrad and Jeff Johnson is downright cute and clever. A panel of 11 dogs share their insight on a wide variety of topics relating to well, being a dawg.  Think of it as a cheeky, humorous blog for people, written by their pets. Cuteness aside – all the entries are actually very helpful to dog owners.  Inside you will learn why dogs wag their tails, how they feel when you dress them up in silly costumes, the lowdown on walks, why they eat your furniture, why they love car trips and so much more. In addition to the fun and helpful information, the book is visually appealing. Each entry includes a headshot of the canine “writer,” and the pages are very colorful.  I love the fact that this book is both laugh-out-loud entertaining and includes so much valuable information about dogs I have not read in any other book.

Note: This book was not written for children, but the subject matter of pets applies to the entire family. There are a couple of entries in this book that parents may find are not appropriate for young children.

-Reviewed by Debbie Glade

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A Race to the South Pole

The Winter Pony is reviewed today by Krista Jefferies.

Iain Lawrence’s The Winter Pony ($16.99, Delacorte Books for Young Readers, ages 9-12) is an adventurous tale of the historic race to the South Pole by two explorers in the early 1900s. While the Norwegian, Roald Amundsen, used a team of dogs to help haul his supplies across the icy terrain of Antarctica, Englishman Robert Scott used white ponies, which were his downfall for a number of reasons. Though the story gives small excerpts from the real-life journals of Amundsen and Scott, most of the story is told from the point of view of one of Scott’s ponies, which the men nicknamed Jimmy Pigg.  Jimmy brings us into the mind of a majestic animal helpless to escape the life he was made to bear.

The beginning of the story depicts how the ponies were initially captured from a field and put to work as laborers, hauling heavy cargo and being abused by their masters. The rest of the story describes, as accurately as possible, the hazardous and inhumane experiences of the ponies during this treacherous expedition, the bond they develop with their caretakers along the way, and the heartbreaking outcome for these unique and lovely animals. As a reader I accepted the literary license Lawrence took with some aspects of the storytelling and became invested in the book. I found myself rooting for these animals and hoping they would survive.  Though the reality of the story is quite sad, I did enjoy reading it because of the history it involves and the message it offers to any reader today. It’s a poignant reminder that animals are marvelous creatures of nature that should be cared for, respected, and free.  For some readers, it may inspire them to become animal activists in the future, for others it may arouse an interest in history or geography. Either way, it opens up a great dialogue for young people to have with their parents, as well as an opportunity for kids to develop the gift of empathy.

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One Noisy Monkey

BE QUIET, MIKE! ($14.99, Candlewick, ages 3-6), reviewed by Lindy Michaels, is  written and illustrated by Leslie Patricelli.

What kid hasn’t blown on a kazoo, pretending it was a trumpet? What kid hasn’t let their fingers fly on a table top pretending it was a piano? Well, from the time Mike, the monkey, was in his momma monkey’s womb, he was drumming to his own beat. “Kick, thump, pow!” It was a very active pregnancy for momma monkey, to say the least. And once Mike was born “…He played with his fingers, he played with his feet, a funky little monkey, with a beat, beat, beat.”

As Mike grew bigger, there was nothing he came in contact with that didn’t become a… drum! Banging on a wastebasket, slapping the water in the pool, clanking on a trash can. And how was his creativity received by his family? “BE QUIET, MIKE!” But that didn’t stop this monkey as he grew older. “He played on the table like a wild baboon…” “BE QUIET, MIKE,” was what he heard day and night, over and over again. “Mike tried to be quiet, he tried to be still, but the beat in his heart, was stronger than his will.”

And then one day, he saw in the window of a music shop, “… a real live, full-sized jamming drum set” “… an ape with long fur, beating so fast – arms and legs a blur.”

Ah, the sheer ingenuity of little monkey Mike. He went home and used everything he could find in his house, like coffee cans and pots and pans and two sticks, to make his very own drum set. And then he started to beat his home-made drums. “Zat. Zoom. Crash!”

And just then his parents and sister opened the door to his bedroom. Oh, yes, Mike certainly knew what was coming. “BE QUIET, MIKE!”

But is that what happened? I adore books that encourage children to explore their bliss, even if it’s very, very loud! Leslie Patricelli, the talented author and illustrator of the popular YUMMY YUCKY, QUIET LOUD, TUBBY, THE BIRTHDAY BOX and other fun children’s books, has done it again, when it comes to engaging children on their own level. Now all you moms and dads, go and give your little ones some pots and pans and let them go to town. Oh, yeah, just don’t forget some cotton for your ears!

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Rhino Tale

MY RHINOCEROS, written and illustrated by Jon Agee ($16.95, Scholastic, ages 3 and up), is reviewed today by Lindy Michaels.

So children, you want a pet? What kid doesn’t? How about a puppy? A kitty? A hamster? Parakeet? Goldfish? No? Well, that’s what the boy pondered when he went to the pet shop to find the perfect companion. “… When I bought my rhinoceros, I didn’t really know what I was getting into.” Ya think? And… all sales were final.

In truth, the boy’s rhinoceros was quite nice. Didn’t make noise. Never tried to run away and was very well behaved. On the other hand, he wasn’t a heck of a lot of fun, either. He wouldn’t chase a ball, or a stick or even a Frisbee! Yes, the boy had to admit it, his new pet didn’t do… anything.

And so the boy went to see a woman who was a rhinoceros expert! Bet you didn’t know there was such a thing, did you? And she told him the truth, that the only things these huge animals did were… pop balloons and poke holes in kites with their one big tusk. Really? Really, thought the boy. “How pathetic.”

And yet, his rhino wouldn’t do either. That’s right. This peaceful beast did nothing, even when the boy took his pet to the park where there were loads of kids with balloons and kites. “Maybe he’s a clunker,” the boy thought. “Maybe I should have bought a hippopotamus, instead.”

And then, while walking his disappointing pet home from the park, he saw a robbery in progress. Oh, no! And the two robbers were getting away in, wait for it, now, one in a balloon and the other in a kite.

So… will the boy’s pitiful pet pop the balloon and poke a hole in the kite with his pointy tusk? Will he make sure those robbers get their due? And in the end, does the rhinoceros have another talent even the boy could have never imagined? Ah ha! Never underestimate the power of a… rhino.

Jon Agee, author of Milo’s Hat Trick, Terrific and Nothing (all ALA Notables) has come up with yet another fun read with adorable and engaging illustrations.

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Kidlit’s Famous Bull


is reviewed today by Lindy Michaels of Bookstar on Ventura Blvd. in Studio City.

This timeless oldie, THE STORY OF FERDINAND, (written by Munro Leaf with drawings by Robert Lawson) recently celebrated 75 years since first being published (for goodness sake, that’s older than me!) and continues to be one great goodie. What with the likes of Fancy Nancy, Pinkalicious and Dora The Explorer, some of the most wonderful and beloved classic children’s books have been all but forgotten and what a shame that is.

9780448456942lOf course, as all good stories begin, “Once upon a time in Spain, there lived a little bull and his name was Ferdinand.” Oh, yes, all the other little bulls did what, well, little bulls do. They ran and jumped and butted their heads together. But, no, not Ferdinand. All he wanted to do was to sit quietly in his favorite spot in the pasture and smell the flowers. His mother worried her little bull was lonely, but Ferdinand was happy being alone and breathing in the sweet, sweet scents. And that is how he spent his days.

But he didn’t stay little for long and, in fact, grew to be the biggest and strongest bull of them all. Because of this, when men came to pick out a bull for the greatest matador in Madrid to fight, of course, they looked at Ferdinand. Harmless, quiet Ferdinand? Then, just as he was sitting down to smell the flowers, the poor bull was stung by a bee, which made him go crazy. Hey! Bee stings can hurt even such a giant of a bull. Ferdinand began to snort and butt and paw the ground and the men knew they had found their prize.

The great day came, the flags were flying, the bands were playing and the matador couldn’t wait to get into the ring with this great and ferocious bull.  If truth be told, when he saw the size of Ferdinand and heard how ‘crazy’ he was, he was also quite nervous. Of course, we
know Ferdinand wasn’t fierce, at all, that is, as long as another bee didn’t sting his rump!

Once in the bull ring, Ferdinand walked into the middle of the great arena and… sat down and breathed in all the wonderful scents from all the flowers in the women’s hair who sat in the stands.  And he was so happy. The matador, who wanted to show off to the people how brave he was, was not so happy. Yes, it was back to the pasture for Ferdinand.

Now, anyone who has read my children’s reviews, knows how much I love a story with a good moral. So now, mommies and daddies, take your tots outside for a nice, long walk and please… stop and smell the roses!

lindymichaelspicThe very versatile Lindy Michaels aims to inspire young minds through children’s literature. Lindy owned L.A.’s first children’s bookshop, OF BOOKS AND SUCH (1972-1987) where she did storytelling, taught drama to children, had art and poetry contests and the like. According to Lindy, “It was truly a ‘land of enchantment.” She also spent years lecturing on realism in children’s literature at colleges in the state. For close to five years Lindy has worked for Studio City Barnes and Noble (BookStar) in the children’s section and does storytelling every Saturday at 10:30 a.m.

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How Do You Get To Carnegie Hall?

Today Lindy Michaels shares her take on animal lover and Tony Award-winning actress Bernadette Peters’  STELLA IS A STAR ($17.99,, ages 4 and up) with illustrations by Liz Murphy.


I love actress, singer, children’s author, Bernadette Peters and her ‘dreams can come true’ books. “This is the story of Princess Pig… who really isn’t a princess… or a pig.” What a great start to grab a child’s attention, no?

Poor, poor Stella doesn’t think any of the other neighborhood doggies like her. That’s right, she’s a dog! Perhaps they just don’t understand her. Perhaps she tries too hard. Or, perhaps it’s because… “She masquerades as a pig princess of the highest order.” Hey! She never takes off her ballet tutu and her big red crown!

Oh, woe is Stella. But wanting to make friends so badly and already pretending to be a pig princess, she signs up for lessons at If Pigs Could Fly School Of Dance. Of course, the other piggies there just aren’t quite sure Stella is a real pig. Smart swines, they are. “You smell and sound just like a dog.” “If you’re a pig, where is your curly tail?” they ask.

Unfortunately for Stella, not only isn’t she really a little porker, she also can’t dance, has absolutely no rhythm, whatsoever. But Stella is one determined dog/pig, to make some piggy friends and to be a dancer. And so she practices and practices and practices. But does practice make perfect? “She pirouettes at breakfast. She jetes at lunch. She plies at dinner.”

And then it’s the night of the big show. Rose, the prima ballerina pig is spinning and spinning, warming up for her big solo debut, when yikes, she falls and yes, twists her ankle. Oh, snort, who will take her place? Okay, you guessed it. Stella!! (Wow! This sounds just like how Shirley Maclaine got discovered on Broadway!) Although very nervous, to say the least, once on center stage, she is perfect as she twirls and twirls. But then, panic! Her red crown, her security blanket if you will, falls off, but an amazing thing occurs. She suddenly feels free. Free at last. Free to be who she really is… a pit bull ballerina who loves to dance, and ain’t that bad at it, after all.

Of course, the moral of this delightful tale, children, is that you don’t have to pretend to be a princess pig to find friends, learn to dance or have all your dreams come true. You just have to believe in yourself and twirl your way through life!

lindymichaelspic1The very versatile Lindy Michaels aims to inspire young minds through children’s literature. Lindy owned L.A.’s first children’s bookshop, OF BOOKS AND SUCH (1972-1987) where she did storytelling, taught drama to children, had art and poetry contests and the like. According to Lindy, “It was truly a ‘land of enchantment.” She also spent years lecturing on realism in children’s literature at colleges in the state. For close to five years Lindy has worked for Studio City Barnes and Noble (BookStar) in the children’s section and does storytelling every Saturday at 10:30 a.m.

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Talk To Me. Please!

51mz7dm2fil_sl500_aa300_WOOF!  WOOF!! Translation from Dogease to English – I want to go out. I want food. I love it when you rub my belly. Whoa, will you take a look at that lovely little poodle.

WOOF, WOOF!!  There you again. I know you are capable of making more than those same old sounds. Say something substantial, would you please, Oscar! Guest reviewer Lindy Michaels of BookStar on Ventura Blvd. in Studio City, thinks this book is a howl and so will you!

Talk, Oscar, Please! ($14.95, Sterling, ages 3-6) was written by Karen Kaufman Orloff and illustrated by Tim Bowers.  Ah, there are so many ways for humans to communicate to each other these days. There’s the tried and true, albeit archaic, looking face to face with someone and actually speaking. Then there’s the, also seemingly archaic, phone conversation. And then there’s emailing, texting, tweeting, ‘face-booking’… have I left anything out?

Yes, that’s all well and good for humans, but the boy in TALK, OSCAR, PLEASE! wishes more than anything, that his doggie, Oscar would, could, oh please, talk, really talk to him. Imagine the conversations they would have. Oh, sure, Oscar yips and howls and barks and whimpers and wheezes, but… “Oh, boy, how I wish you could talk, Oscar – please?”

Not only would that be oh, so cool, but then Oscar could help the boy with his ABC’s, could help coach his soccer team, could crack some jokes, could explain to the vet that it’s fleas that’s really bothering him and even sing his little master some doggie lullabies at bedtime. “You’d lull me to sleep if you’d sing, Oscar – please?”

No, Oscar doesn’t become some magical pooch, in this adorable story, actually yapping in English, but the boy finds there are other ways to communicate with his best friend that are just as satisfying and he realizes that somehow they always know exactly what the other is thinking. Yes, sometimes real love needs no words, at all. A wag of the tail, a jump in the lap, a nuzzle on the neck, a sloppy lick on the face can be even better.

Now, try tweeting that and in rhyme, please!

lindymichaelspicThe very versatile Lindy Michaels aims to inspire young minds through children’s literature. Lindy owned L.A.’s first children’s bookshop, OF BOOKS AND SUCH (1972-1987) where she did storytelling, taught drama to children, had art and poetry contests and the like. According to Lindy, “It was truly a ‘land of enchantment.” She also spent years lecturing on realism in children’s literature at colleges in the state. For close to five years Lindy has worked for Studio City Barnes and Noble (BookStar) in the children’s section and does storytelling every Saturday at 10:30 a.m.

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One Dark And Stormy Night …

QUACKENSTEIN HATCHES A FAMILY (Abrams Books for Young Readers, $15.95, ages 4-8) written by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen, and illustrated by Pasadena-based Brian T. Jones is reviewed by Lindy Michaels of BookStar on Ventura Blvd. in Studio City.

When a mommy and daddy are expecting their joyful event, they are well aware of, at least, some things. The baby might have mommy’s nose (yes, before she had it ‘done’), or daddy’s eyes, or mommy’s ears, or hopefully not daddy’s bald head, well, at least later in life!

Now, for whatever reason, if couples, or singles, for that matter, decide to adopt a baby, the above, obviously, is not the case. No, baby might not look like you at all, but baby was so wanted that upon arrival, will be smothered with hugs and kisses and love.

Quackenstein was all alone. “He was the hermit of the zoo and faced a lonely struggle. ‘It isn’t fair! My nest is bare!’ He had no one to snuggle.” All the other zoo animals had herds and litters and gaggles and packs. ” ‘Everyone has someone, except me,’ Quackenstein mumbled.” Yes, in his solitary state, he had become quite bitter.

One day he happened by a sign that stated, “Orphaned Eggs. Homes Needed.” Yes! Quackenstein would adopt an egg, sit on it, tend to it and soon would be hatched a fluffy ducky, just like him! A little Quackenstein Junior or Juniorette, but hopefully with a better personality!

And then the great day arrived when the egg cracked open and out came a… ” ‘I’ve hatched a… MONSTER!! You’re no duck,’ Quack screeched and went quite pale. The thing had fur and legs with spurs and some poor beaver’s tail.”

What exactly was this… this…. this strange, scary looking animal? And would Quackenstein’s heart ever warm to it? Read this wonderfully illustrated, funny take on the (sort of) tale of Frankenstein and find out. It will certainly warm the cockles of you and your little one’s hearts.
To watch the video on YOUTUBE click here.

lindymichaelspic1The very versatile Lindy Michaels aims to inspire young minds through children’s literature. Lindy owned L.A.’s first children’s bookshop, OF BOOKS AND SUCH (1972-1987) where she did storytelling, taught drama to children, had art and poetry contests and the like. According to Lindy, “It was truly a ‘land of enchantment.” She also spent years lecturing on realism in children’s literature at colleges in the state. For close to five years Lindy has worked for Studio City Barnes and Noble (BookStar) in the children’s section and does storytelling every Saturday at 10:30 a.m.

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Ladder To The Moon

0763645702-1Guest reviewer and kids’ book aficionado Lindy Michaels loved Ladder To The Moon (Candlewick, $16.99, ages 4-8) which was “beautifully written by Maya Soetoro-Nq and exquisitely illustrated by Yuyi Morales.” She hopes parents will consider adding this wonderful, moving book to their home libraries.  Find Lindy most days sharing her reading tips at BookStar on Ventura Blvd. in Studio City.

“One cool new evening, Suhaila asked her mama, “ ‘What was Grandma Annie like’?

‘She was like the moon,’ her mother replied. ‘Full, soft and curious. Your grandma would wrap her arms around the whole world if she could.’”

And so begins the hauntingly, beautiful tale of a little girl, who in her dreams visits her grandma Annie on the moon. What little Suhaila learns is the deep humanity her grandmother possessed while here on earth, her compassion and empathy for others less fortunate, the meaning of service, of helping the poor and the powerless and the needy.

If ever there was a time in our history a book like this was needed to tell our children, this is the time. For all the little ones lucky enough to still have grandmothers (and grandfathers, too), encourage them to talk to these elders and learn from their wisdom. And for those who, sadly, do not, share with your children memories of those who have passed, so that one day they will share those stories with their own children.

In the end… “Suhaila slid down moonbeams straight into her bed… Together, those of us left on Earth would plant seeds in soft soil. Grandma Annie would send tides to nourish them and weave a net of love around us all.”


It wasn’t until I finished reading Ladder to the Moon that I noticed, on the jacket cover, that the author is President Obama’s half-sister and Grandma Annie, his mother, also. I am not surprised. If my mother still roamed this earth, I would share this book with her. I know how much she would love it, also. Perhaps my grandchildren will fall asleep one night and visit their grandma on the moon.

lindymichaelspicThe very versatile Lindy Michaels aims to inspire young minds through children’s literature. Lindy owned L.A.’s first children’s bookshop, OF BOOKS AND SUCH (1972-1987) where she did storytelling, taught drama to children, had art and poetry contests and the like. According to Lindy, “It was truly a ‘land of enchantment.” She also spent years lecturing on realism in children’s literature at colleges in the state. For close to five years Lindy has worked for Studio City Barnes and Noble (BookStar) in the children’s section and does storytelling every Saturday at 10:30 a.m.

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