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Middle Grade Novel Review – Remember Us



Written by Jacqueline Woodson

(Nancy Paulsen Books; $18.99, Ages 10 and up)


Remember Us cover graffitied wall and basketball.

Starred Reviews – Booklist, Horn Book, Indie Next, Kirkus, Publisher’s Weekly, School Library Journal


In Remember Us by Jacqueline Woodson, twelve-year-old Sage and her widowed mother live in Flatbush, Brooklyn, in the house that was her father’s childhood home. She has strong connections to her firefighter father, who was killed in the line of duty. Like him, she loves basketball and dreams of playing professionally.

Sage’s tight-knit community is affected by the near-constant threat of fires breaking out all over the city during one summer in the 1970s. Homes and even lives are lost. Survivors leave, the neighborhood changes and childhood friendships shift. Some of Sage’s friends are more interested in being glamorous than in joining her, as they once did, in a game of basketball. Hardest of all is the revelation that her mother wants to leave the only home, her father’s home, that Sage has ever known.

Basketball is the only constant in her life. Freddy and his family move into the neighborhood and she finds out this kind boy loves basketball as much as she does. They become fast friends. One day, Sage experiences a traumatic event that shakes her to her core and leads to a harrowing act of destruction as she wrestles with doubts about who she is and what she wants to be.

Will she join the girls who paint their nails … or will she remain true to herself?

Using vivid and lyrical prose, Woodson draws on her Brooklyn roots and actual events to poignantly and richly capture the story’s characters and Sage’s neighborhood during a tense and fearful summer. Exquisitely written, Woodson once again explores the theme of memory and storytelling (Brown Girl Dreaming, Nancy Paulsen Books, 2014) in this spare novel of a young girl grappling with change and learning the importance of memories and the value of moving on.

Click here for a teacher’s guide.

  • Reviewed by Dornel Cerro
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Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2020 – Freedom Soup


Written by by Tami Charles
Illustrated by Jacqueline Alcántara
(Candlewick Press; $16.99, Ages 5-9)


Freedom Soup book cover


Let’s Celebrate
The 7th Annual Multicultural Children’s Book Day
& Spread the Word About #ReadYourWorld!


Freedom Soupwritten by Tami Charles and illustrated by Jacqueline Alcántara is a celebration in the kitchen when Grandmother and Belle come together for the New Year’s Day tradition of making this soup. As the family’s recipe is shared, Belle also learns about Ti Gran’s birthplace (Haiti) where slaves labored making this soup for their masters because Freedom Soup was only for the free.

Belle comments that with a name like Freedom Soup, the soup should have been free for everyone; Ti Gran replies, “Oh, Belle. Nothing in this world is free, not even freedom.” While the literal cost of the soup can be counted in ingredients and labor, greater messages include family and pride.


Freedom Soup Int 1
FREEDOM SOUP. Text copyright © 2019 by Tami Charles. Illustrations copyright © 2019 by Jacqueline Alcantara. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.


Alcántara takes the evocative text and, through her art, further enlivens the tale with movement and rhythm. Characters dance and sway while cooking as Ti Gran recounts Haiti’s history.

Following the story is a summary of how Haiti overcame slavery and claimed independence from France. The author’s recipe for this soup sounds delicious and is on my list to try in 2020.


Freedom Soup Int 3
FREEDOM SOUP. Text copyright © 2019 by Tami Charles. Illustrations copyright © 2019 by Jacqueline Alcantara. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.


This book truly defines Multicultural Children’s Book Day’s motto, “read your world.” Sharing what brought us to this country brings us closer, as does cooking with family, friends, and people you haven’t met yet.

Starred Reviews – Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, Shelf Awareness for Readers

  • Reviewed by Christine Van Zandt


Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2020 (1/31/20) is in its 7th year! This non-profit children’s literacy initiative was founded by Valarie Budayr and Mia Wenjen; two diverse book-loving moms who saw a need to shine the spotlight on all of the multicultural books and authors on the market while also working to get those book into the hands of young readers and educators.

Seven years in, MCBD’s mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in homes and school bookshelves continues.

MCBD 2020 is honored to have the following Medallion Sponsors on board

Super Platinum

Make A Way Media/ Deirdre “DeeDee” Cummings


Language Lizard, Pack-N-Go Girls


Audrey Press, Lerner Publishing Group, KidLit TV, ABDO BOOKS: A Family of Educational Publishers, PragmaticMom & Sumo Joe, Candlewick Press


Author Charlotte Riggle, Capstone Publishing, Guba Publishing, Melissa Munro Boyd & B is for Breathe


Author Carole P. Roman, Snowflake Stories/Jill Barletti, Vivian Kirkfield & Making Their Voices Heard, Barnes Brothers Books, TimTimTom, Wisdom Tales Press, Lee & Low Books, Charlesbridge Publishing, Barefoot Books, Talegari Tales

Author Sponsor Link Cloud

Jerry Craft, A.R. Bey and Adventures in Boogieland, Eugina Chu & Brandon goes to Beijing, Kenneth Braswell & Fathers Incorporated, Maritza M. Mejia & Luz del mes_Mejia, Kathleen Burkinshaw & The Last Cherry Blossom, SISSY GOES TINY by Rebecca Flansburg and B.A. Norrgard, Josh Funk and HOW TO CODE A ROLLERCOASTER, Maya/Neel Adventures with Culture Groove, Lauren Ranalli, The Little Green Monster: Cancer Magic! By Dr. Sharon Chappell, Phe Lang and Me On The Page, Afsaneh Moradian and Jamie is Jamie, Valerie Williams-Sanchez and Valorena Publishing, TUMBLE CREEK PRESS, Nancy Tupper Ling,Author Gwen Jackson, Angeliki Pedersen & The Secrets Hidden Beneath the Palm Tree, Author Kimberly Gordon Biddle, BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 by Mia Wenjen, Susan Schaefer Bernardo & Illustrator Courtenay Fletcher (Founders of Inner Flower Child Books), Ann Morris & Do It Again!/¡Otra Vez!, Janet Balletta and Mermaids on a Mission to Save the Ocean, Evelyn Sanchez-Toledo & Bruna Bailando por el Mundo\ Dancing Around the World,Shoumi Sen & From The Toddler Diaries, Sarah Jamila Stevenson, Tonya Duncan and the Sophie Washington Book Series, Teresa Robeson  & The Queen of Physics, Nadishka Aloysius and Roo The Little Red TukTuk, Girlfriends Book Club Baltimore & Stories by the Girlfriends Book Club, Finding My Way Books, Diana Huang & Intrepids, Five Enchanted Mermaids, Elizabeth Godley and Ribbon’s Traveling Castle, Anna Olswanger and Greenhorn, Danielle Wallace & My Big Brother Troy, Jocelyn Francisco and Little Yellow Jeepney, Mariana Llanos & Kutu, the Tiny Inca Princess/La Ñusta Diminuta, Sara Arnold & The Big Buna Bash, Roddie Simmons & Race 2 Rio, DuEwa Frazier & Alice’s Musical Debut, Veronica Appleton & the Journey to Appleville book series  Green Kids Club, Inc.

We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also works tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View our CoHosts HERE.

Co-Hosts and Global Co-Hosts

A Crafty Arab, Afsaneh Moradian, Agatha Rodi Books, All Done Monkey, Barefoot Mommy, Bethany Edward & Biracial Bookworms, Michelle Goetzl & Books My Kids Read, Crafty Moms Share, Colours of Us, Discovering the World Through My Son’s Eyes, Educators Spin on it, Shauna Hibbitts-creator of eNannylink, Growing Book by Book, Here Wee Read, Joel Leonidas & Descendant of Poseidon Reads {Philippines}, Imagination Soup, Kid World Citizen, Kristi’s Book Nook, The Logonauts, Mama Smiles, Miss Panda Chinese, Multicultural Kid Blogs, Serge Smagarinsky {Australia}, Shoumi Sen, Jennifer Brunk & Spanish Playground, Katie Meadows and Youth Lit Reviews

FREE RESOURCES from Multicultural Children’s Book Day

TWITTER PARTY! Register here!

Hashtag: Don’t forget to connect with us on social media and be sure and look for/use our official hashtag #ReadYourWorld.






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Inspired by a True Tale – The Dam by David Almond

Written by David Almond
Illustrated by Levi Pinfold
(Candlewick Studio; $17.99, Ages: 5-9)

Starred Review – Kirkus, Publishers Weekly


cover illustration from The Dam by David Almond with art by Levi Pinfold

Poignant words and haunting illustrations tell this tale based on a true story of love, loss, and rebirth in The Dam written by David Almond and illustrated by Levi Pinfold.

“He woke her early. ‘Bring your fiddle,’” a father tells his daughter. Through these sparse words, the book opens with an immediate sense of urgency. A dam under construction will soon flood a valley cherished by Kathryn and her father. Once home to beloved musician friends, this valley will forever “be gone” and “washed away.” Pinfold’s illustrations echo the somber tone in a palette of gray, green, and white. While his “snapshot” pictures highlight samples of the delicate flora and fauna that will be lost, his double page spreads bring a bigger perspective to the vastness of the English countryside—the vastness of the loss and of the task at hand.


interior spread by Levi Pinfold from The Dam by David Almond
THE DAM. Text copyright © 2018 by David Almond. Illustrations copyright © 2018 by Levi Pinfold. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA on behalf of Walker Books, London.


“‘Take no notice. There’s no danger,’” Kathryn’s father tells her. Tearing off boards on the abandoned houses they once gathered in to dance and sing, Kathryn’s father asks her to enter the rooms and play her fiddle. I couldn’t help but pause after reading these lines in the book. No danger? Had this story taken place in America, such an area would be visibly marked off with miles of flourescent yellow “CAUTION” tape and multiple “NO TRESPASSING” signs. Though the illustrations in the book show no such signage, it’s quite possible the characters’ presence in the valley was to some degree illegal. Though whatever physical danger there may have been, they faced an even greater one: the danger of the grieving process.

I compare tearing off boards from house to house to tearing off the bandage on a deep wound, acknowledging its pain, and being present with the discomfort. Kathryn plays and “Daddy sing[s],” lifting spirits “gone and … still to come” up and out of the houses and setting them free to become part of the landscape—the earth, the sky, the animals, and people. What a profound mystery of the human spirit, that we can find the safety of healing only by taking the risk to be vulnerable. Father teaches daughter there really is no danger when we grieve fully and wholeheartedly.


interior spread from The Dam by David Almond with art by Levi Pinfold
THE DAM. Text copyright © 2018 by David Almond. Illustrations copyright © 2018 by Levi Pinfold. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA on behalf of Walker Books, London.


“The lake is beautiful” the author tells us, reflecting on how Kathryn and her father embrace the new creation. And just as before, Pinfold’s illustrations give us both detailed and wide-angled views of the landscape. Peaceful blues, gentle greens, and flowy whites restore what was once lost. Even the movement of the little fish mimic the dance of the spirits. Though the valley is gone, music continues to be celebrated.

Both multi-award winners, Almond and Pinfold complement each other beautifully. I strongly recommend the book to caregivers and educators alike, especially as an introduction to issues of change and loss for younger elementary-age children and to issues of death and bereavement for older ones.

  • Reviewed by Armineh Manookian

Read a review of another David Almond book here.
Read another review by Armineh here.

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God Bless Our Troops

Don’t Forget, God Bless Our Troops by Jill Biden and illustrated by Raul Colon ($16.99, Simon & Schuster, ages 5 and up) is reviewed by Rita Zobayan.

“Does Daddy have to go?” is the question young Natalie poses as her father, a soldier, gets ready for deployment. Based on the true events of her granddaughter, Natalie, Don’t Forget, God Bless Our Troops is Jill Biden’s tribute to the courage not only of the American troops but also to the families they leave behind.

We read along as Natalie faces the challenges of missing her father through milestones, holidays and simple, everyday life.  At school and in the community, Natalie is reminded of her father, but perhaps the most difficult times are the ones at home. Natalie sits on the floor of her room with stuffed animals around her. Her dolls are here. Her books are here. Even her dog, Webbie, is here. But one thing isn’t here. Daddy isn’t here.

Natalie isn’t the only one to miss her father; her brother, Hunter, and mother also must come to terms with his absence. Luckily, Natalie and her family have friends, extended family and neighbors nearby to help. So many people are kind to the family. Yesterday the neighbors brought over a homemade pizza. Today Dad’s friend Alex is shoveling the sidewalk. “Your dad is sure helping the country,” Alex says. “I want to help too!”

The book includes many additional sections: the Author’s Note, About Our Military, How You Can Help and Tips for Kids. Here readers learn facts such as 1% of the American population is in military service and 1.9 million children (up to 18 years old) are children of military personnel. There is a list of national organizations that provide information and volunteer opportunities to help military families. Lastly, children are provided ideas and suggestions for helping fellow students who have military parents.

In Don’t Forget, God Bless Our Troops, Dr. Biden reminds us how the families of soldiers must also sacrifice to help our country. They must live with the absence of a loved one, live with the fear that the worst may happen, and yet still try to live life as normally as possible. Dr. Biden also reminds us that simple acts of kindness can have long reaching effects. The book is an effective tool to help young readers learn how to look outside of themselves and help others when they can, even if by saying a simple, “Hello.”

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Picture Book Review & Giveaway

Want to Win Some Books?

Beginning today, Monday, September 10, 2012 through Wednesday, September 12, 2012 of this week we’ll be reviewing and/or briefly mentioning picture books that we’ve read recently then giving them away! And guess what? If  you LIKE us on Facebook and also send us your name and contact info in an email to by Monday, September 24, 2012 you’ll be entered to win a prize package of all books covered!! Remember to write Picture Book Giveaway in the subject line.  YOU MUST LIST ALL BOOKS COVERED as part of your entry eligibility so be sure to read the blog every day. One lucky winner will receive eight hardcover books worth a total retail value of $136.88!  We’re making it SO easy for you to get your kids reading again this back-to-school season. And isn’t that priceless?  The giveaway opportunity ends at midnight on Monday, September 24, 2012 and a winner will be randomly chosen on Tuesday, September 25, 2012. Click here now for rules. Good luck.

Today’s theme is family.

The Roller Coaster Kid ($16.99, Viking, ages 4-8) written by Mary Ann Rodman and illustrated by Roger Roth. A young boy called Zach spends time with his grandparents every summer and always visit Oceanside Park, an amusement park with a roller coaster called the Whipper. In fact one summer decades earlier Zach’s grandfather earned the moniker, The Roller Coaster Kid, having ridden the Whipper 100 times! Because both Zach and his grandma both dislike roller coasters, they enjoy the Big Wheel instead.  When the next summer arrives and Grandma has passed on, Zach must find a way to reinvigorate his grieving grandfather. Will this perhaps involve the Whipper? I love the subtle spin on such a sensitive subject that allows parents to gently broach the topics of love, loss, facing fears and the unique thread that ties children together with their grandparents.

Also worth noting:

Who’s In My Family? All About Our Families  ($15.99, Candlewick Press, ages 3 and up) written by Robie H. Harris and illustrated by Nadine Bernard Westcott. Whether  you live with your parents, grandparents, guardian, mother and stepfather, with siblings or a pet, they are all families and not one is better than the other, just different. Here’s a picture book that will get kids interested in talking about all kinds of families who live in all kinds of homes in oh so many places sharing the good times and the bad, but most importantly, sharing the love.

($15.99, Templar Books, ages 3-5) written by Nanette Newman and illustrated by Emma Chichester Clark.  Now here’s a book I wish I’d written. This new twist on the “What do you want to be when you grow up?” theme introduces delightful Lily who proposes to her grandma the most imaginative careers a grandma could possibly have. And her cool grandma simply adds to the ideas as she cleverly and lovingly indulges her thoughtful granddaughter’s whims.  “Or you could grow up to be a fairy with a magic wand who stops rooms from getting messy.”  Now there’s a little girl who thinks big thoughts any child would adore.  The artwork by Chichester Clark is colorful, vibrant and keeps us turning the page to see her take on Grandma in all her glory.  Give this to a cherished grandparent or add it to your own collection so you can return to it again and again.

**Recap – To be eligible for the giveaway: 

1. Read our blog this week
2. Like us on Facebook
3. Send us an email to by Monday, September 24, 2012. Write “Picture Book Giveaway” in the subject line. In the body of the email, write:
a. The names of all the books mentioned in our blog posts from Monday September 10 through Wednesday September 12, 2012.
b. Your name
c. Phone number
d. Address
A winner will be randomly chosen on Tuesday, September 25, 2012.
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Rotten Days and Toddlers’ Ways

Rita Zobayan is today’s reviewer.

When I first read My No, No, No Day! by Rebecca Patterson ($16.99, Viking, ages 2 and up), I burst into commiserative laughter. This story rings true for anyone who has raised a toddler or has seen a toddler in full-fledged fit. Bella, l’enfant terrible, is not having a good morning. Her baby brother, Bob, has gotten into her room and licked her jewelry, and that is only the beginning of a very bad day for Bella, Bob and their enduring mother.

Patterson has a talent for capturing the experiences, discontent and language of young children. As one thing after another upsets Bella, she expresses her anger in that special way that only young children can.  Then I came downstairs and I saw that egg. I cried and cried and said, I can’t eat that! And Mommy said, “You could eat it last week. Look at Bob eating his mashed banana.” After the terrible egg I didn’t like my shoes either. So I took them off all by myself, shouting, No shoes! And then we had to go shopping and Mommy said, “Please stop all that wriggling, Bella.” But I couldn’t stop wriggling and in the end I shouted, Get me out!

Patterson is also the book’s illustrator and does a great job of depicting the situations and facial expressions that parents dread: a toddler having a tantrum in public and lying on the floor; the tearful, angry, pinched face of the toddler; the annoyed or sympathetic faces of onlookers; and so on. Patterson does an especially nice job of adding expressions to the plush toys and animals that witness Bella’s bad day.

 I read this 32-page book to my three-year-old daughter while she was in the throes of a tantrum. After a few minutes, she stopped her crying and yelling, and settled down to hear about Bella’s battles. As we read along, I asked my daughter about Bella’s behavior and what she thought of it. Through her tear-streaked face, she replied and recognized that Bella was “grumpy,” and that she was “having a hard day.” We then talked about why my daughter was also having a hard day. The ability of children to recognize other children’s behavior reflected in their own is a wonderful learning tool and My No, No, No Day! does a great job of facilitating that. 

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No Nodding Out for The Insomniacs


The Insomniacs (G. P. Putnam’s Sons, $16.99, ages 3-5) by Karina Wolf and illustrated by The Brothers Hilts is reviewed today by Ronna Mandel.

Ever found yourself still wide awake at 3 a.m. having counted thousands of sheep? Imagine how hard it would be to adjust your routine if you had to move some place a dozen time zones away? Well that’s exactly what happens when Mrs. Insomniac is offered a new job and the family relocates halfway across the planet! 

My first round of applause is for author Wolf sharing a 21st century perspective by having the family move because of the mother’s work.  My second is for the captivating artwork that struck me as the perfect hybrid of Edward Gorey and Tim Burton. Between the original idea and unique artwork, children will delight at the turn of every page.

Mika Insomniac along with her mom and dad are desperate for some serious shut-eye. Mika’s nodding out in class, Father’s falling asleep at his camera and Mother’s dozing at her desk. How can the family find forty fabulous winks if they’re up all night? One evening Mika suggests everyone head out of town. “We’ll find the bears and ask them for their slumber secrets.” What ensues after dark is both eye-opening for the Insomniacs and certain to spark the imaginations of your little ones day or night.



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Divorce From A Kid’s Perspective

Living with Mom and Living with Dad (15.99, Candlewick Press, ages 3 and up) written and illustrated Melanie Walsh is a picture book that does such an extraordinary job explaining the delicate subject of divorce from the point of view of a child.

In the book Walsh introduces a little girl who deals with living in two separate houses – one with mom and one with dad, but still manages to call them both home. I love, love, love how Walsh uses insert flip pages in her illustrations to depict life with mom and then FLIP, she depicts life with dad.

She cleverly starts off at mom’s house with the pink door then FLIP, she’s at the top floor of dad’s apartment. She continues to show us her rooms – yellow walls at mom’s house and FLIP, she has flowery wall paper at dad’s. Walsh even addresses the little girl’s fear of the dark and how her needs are met by showing us that at mom’s she has a cute panda night light and FLIP at dad’s she has a string of butterfly lights.

Reviewed by Ingrid Vanessa Olivas.

Life should not end because of divorce. I am proud of the mom and dad in this book and how they still do activities with their daughter – camping with dad and visiting a farm with mom. As a teacher sometimes we are faced with having to ask both parents to attend a school play and seeing them both there is heartwarming.

Finally, Walsh even shows us that it’s okay to miss one parent when with the other. Bringing a backpack with a few favorite toys, looking at photo albums or simply making a phone call can ease that heart ache. At the end of the book readers will find a photo gallery of pictures of different family members who love the little girl. What a cool idea and one that anyone can easily implement at home. I adore this book and I can’t wait to read it to my new Kindergarten class this year because, while it’s sad to say that some of them are going through divorce, it will be nice to show them a simple, comforting storybook dealing with this sensitive subject.

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Make Time to be a Kid!

Just the title, The Busy Life of Ernestine Buckmeister ($16.95, Flashlight Press, ages 5 and up) made me want to read this book. Written by Linda Ravin Lodding, this is a story written as much for parents as it is for kids.

Ernestine is a typical girl, who likes to play like other kids her age. But Ernestine’s parents have so many activities scheduled for her, that there is no time for fun. Between school homework, sculpting class, ballet, tuba, karate and even yodeling and knitting lessons, Ernestine hasn’t a minute of free time.

One afternoon, Ernestine’s tells her nanny that she is going to the park and refuses to go to her planned extracurricular lessons. What do you suppose happens when Ernestine’s yodeling teacher reports to Mr. and Mrs. Buckmeister that their daughter is missing from class?

In this age of overachieving children and over-parenting parents, this book teaches a valuable lesson – that kids are kids, and they need their playtime. In addition to the wonderful storyline, you and your child will love the fabulously creative and colorful illustrations by Suzanne Beaky as much as I do.

If you are the type of parent who over-schedules your children’s activities, this book will make you see things in a new and brighter light. You’ll want to take your child and run through a park, throw a ball or just sit on a blanket and look up at the clouds together. Ernestine Buckmeister teaches you there’s simply no better way to spend your time.

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To Our Grandparents House We Go!

Debbie Glade reviews 2 special books about spending time with grandparents.

I guess it’s because I adored my grandparents that I love children’s books about kids spending quality time making memories with their grandparents. Cooking with Grandma and Adventures with Grandpa, ($16.99, Hardie Grant Books, ages 3 and up) written and illustrated by Rosemary Mastnak, will take you back to your childhood, if you too loved visiting your grandparents. And with summer just around the corner and many children heading off for vacation time with their favorite relatives, these books will get them excited for mouth watering meals, new adventures and fun!

Cooking with Grandma is all about a girl who makes wonderful food every day of the week with her grandmother, and together they use their imagination to serve it all up. Who wouldn’t want to make sandwiches and then invite a teddy bear to a fancy picnic or make popcorn, get all dressed up and go to the movies in their own living room? Everyone deserves to have a granny like the one in this book!

Adventures with Grandpa is told in simple rhyming prose. The story is about a boy who creates the most imaginative adventures with his grandfather, using objects found in the shed as props. Together they battle a dragon, build a racing car and go up in a hot air balloon.  What a fun and creative grandpa this little boy has, and oh my, the contents of that shed of his are really something!

These stories really pique a child’s imagination. Both books feature beautiful watercolor illustrations against a crisp white background.  They’re whimsical and fun, and you’ll love them.

What cute books these are for grandparents to read to their own grandchildren!

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Buy Me! Get Me! I Want! aka The Toddler Chant

Karen B. Estrada reviews Betty Bunny Wants Everything

Although I’m still just on the brink of becoming a parent, my husband and I both try to promise ourselves, however foolishly, that we will not spoil our children. We want to teach them the value of money and that they cannot have everything they want, but neither of us have yet to have the experience of shopping with a clever child who is able to talk her way into getting what she wants. Michael Kaplan’s Betty Bunny is a “handful” who believes this moniker is a compliment. In Betty Bunny Wants Everything ($16.99, Dial Books, ages 3 and up), when Betty’s mother tells her she can get just one item from the toy store, she instead goes wild, filling up the card with oodles of toys. Kaplan perfectly describes a child’s mindset: “She didn’t know what any of these things were or what she might do with them, but she knew she had to have them.” Betty’s mother tries the line all parents have used at some point,“You can’t have everything you want,” but Betty insists it is her mother who does not understand. Betty wants these things, and she does not see why she cannot have what she wants. While feisty Betty’s three older siblings watch in disbelief, each of them having chosen just one toy, Betty continues to pile the cart high with things until her mother finally pays for the toys for Betty’s siblings, picks Betty up, and walks out of the store leaving Betty’s cart full of treasures behind. Betty kicks and screams and cries the whole way home.

Stephanie Jorisch’s bright watercolor illustrations move us through the store to the stages of a toddler’s tantrum as Betty sits sulking in a green chair covered in cloverleafs, hoping her father will see her side and tell her mom that she was mean. Instead, Betty’s parents take her back to the store and give her some money to buy whatever she wishes. I love the way Kaplan interjects subtle sarcasm that only a parent will pick up on throughout the narrative of this book while simultaneously telling the story of a very precocious child who is always trying to outsmart her parents. Betty is not a brat, but a typical lovable toddler who is no longer fooled at her parent’s tricks and has already learned how to work the system; but Betty’s parents are wise as well, and they tailor their parenting tactics in order to continue trying to teach Betty valuable lessons. Betty Bunny Wants Everything is a great read for any parent who has ever taken a child shopping—and what parent has not had to say “no” to his child and risk that unending tantrum which draws the eyes of other shoppers? This book will bring a smile to the face of the parents while teaching a child that lesson we are always trying to get across—things cost money, and money does not grow on trees (at least that’s the line my parents always used). Trying to educate children about financial smarts and the value of money can’t begin too early, so why not take a page from Betty Bunny’s parents and let this book help you in educating your child the next time you take her shopping.

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Why a Baby Needs a Mommy

Instructions: Find Heartstrings and pull

Mom-to-be Karen B. Estrada weighs in on a heartwarming book for new and expectant moms just like her!

Being at the very end of my pregnancy may make me vulnerably susceptible to anything having to do with babies, but Gregory E. Lang’s words of wisdom in Why a Baby Needs a Mommy ($14.99, Sourcebooks, recommended for adults),  pulled at my heartstrings. Adorned with Janet Lankford-Moran’s touching photographs of babies, often with their parents, Lang’s book offers its readers 100 reminders from a baby to its parents such as “I need you to stimulate my mind. I want to be as smart as you are.” Some of the reminders may seem obvious, but many of them are subtle reminders to parents that a baby is not yet capable of reasoning, mechanics, and understanding the way we are, and that it takes patience, compassion, and selflessness to raise a child.

Lang begins his story with a thorough introduction explaining his motivation for writing this book, namely that there were many times in the rearing of his own daughter when he and his wife wished some manual for being a perfect parent existed to assist them in the adventures of parenting. Lang’s hope in writing Why A Baby Needs a Mommy is “to give new parents, and especially moms, most often the primary caregiver, nurturer, and teacher, a glimpse of what they should know about and do for their children.” His words of wisdom, from the innocent lips of a baby, do provide parents with gentle guidance—not so much about what to do or not do, but about what a baby needs and what we as parents may occasionally forget. Why A Baby Needs a Mommy is a book I will leave laying around my home so that, once my baby comes, I can flip through it—particularly on those challenging days when I feel like giving up—and have Lankford-Moran’s charming photography and Lang’s words of encouragement remind me that no parent is perfect, but we are all doing the best we know how. 

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The Kid Dictionary Spells it Like it is For Parents

Mom-to-be Karen B. Estrada weighs in on this play-on-words paperback perfect for parents.

Although I won’t be a parent for a few more weeks, I have enough nieces and nephews to appreciate the humor (and accuracy) of the many creative words in Eric Ruhalter’s The Kid Dictionary: Hilarious Words to Describe the Indescribable Things Kids Do ($9.99, Sourcebooks, recommended for adults). Ruhalter seems to have a clever word to describe every quirky thing children do as well as the parental responses to normal childlike behavior. My husband and I have already practiced “maddress (mad-DRES) v: to refer to a child by his first and middle name in a stern voice, thus denoting that he’s about to get in trouble.”  Don’t all parents do this when running through a list of names, just to see what sounds best in a scolding tone? You know you have a good first-middle name combination when they roll off the tongue dripping with intimidation and unspoken threats of punishment. And as a child myself, I remember plenty of fights with my younger brother over who would get to push the elevator buttons. What is it about pushing the buttons and watching them light up that is oh-so-satifying? Well, Eric Ruhalter may not have the answer to that question, but he does have a word for it: “uptitude.” I’ve also been guilty of “yupping (YUH-ping) v: to acknowledge what your two-year old is communicating to you when you have no idea what he’s trying to say.” In fact, I have two, two-year old nieces who both love to jabber. One is particularly proficient at speaking to my husband and me on the phone, but there is certainly a lot of “yupping” that goes on from my end when having a conversation with her.

The Kid Dictionary by Eric Ruhalter is a great coffee-table book to give to any parent or soon-to-be parent, or to just keep for yourself for those days you need a laugh. Leave it laying around the house where you can pick it up and browse through a few words, and I bet you’ll find yourself saying, “my child did that today!” or perhaps, “that is exactly how I reacted!” Ruhalter’s collection of words lets parents know they are not alone in dealing with the frustrations of raising a child and helps to lighten the mood when incidents leave you feeling like somewhat less than parent of the year. So grab a copy of The Kids Dictionary and give it to a parent you know who could use an occasional laugh amidst all the stress of parenthood!

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How To Tame A Wild Queen

Today’s review of The Unruly Queen ($15.99, Candlewick, ages 3 and up) by E.S. Redmond is by Krista Jefferies.

E.S. Redmond’s The Unruly Queen tells the tale of Minerva von Vyle, an unmanageable and impish little girl who refuses to obey any rules or do as she’s told.  Through colorfully detailed illustrations, we learn how Minerva draws on walls and jumps on beds, throws her food to the floor and insists on plates of candy for dinner, refuses to go to sleep and dares to stay up all night. Week after week Minerva exasperates every new nanny that walks through her doors, until nanny number 53 arrives with a Mary Poppins type of demeanor—confident and cunning enough to correct Minerva’s incorrigible ways.

The fifty-third nanny crowns Minerva the Queen of Petulant Peak, donning her knot-filled hair with a lovely crown that Minerva feels truly suits her.  But as Nanny delightfully explains the awful details of ruling such a messy and disruptive place, Minerva begins to protest the idea of being a queen that would be fit for such a kingdom. She insists on brushing her teeth and the knots on her head, putting on pajamas and going to bed, and taking a bath without being led. Minerva does everything she’s expected to do even before she’s told while Nanny simply expresses worry that Minerva is shaping up to be a girl not fit to be queen.  This playful display of reverse psychology is a funny little tale with a pleasant rhyme that any young reader will enjoy. Parents will enjoy it as well, and could possibly discover a few tricks to tame terrifically wild tantrums.  They may even recognize a few techniques they’ve used themselves.

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Loyalty or Looks?

Wonder ($15.99, Knopf Books for Young Readers, ages 8-12) by R.J. Palacio is reviewed by Amanda Hogg.

For the first 10 years of his life, August Pullman was home-schooled due to a severe facial deformity that forced him to undergo multiple surgeries. But after being admitted to prestigious Beecher Prep, he decides to enroll in mainstream school. Being the new kid would give anyone the jitters, but August also has to deal with hundreds of eyes staring at him every day. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Julian, the leader of the popular group, wages war against August. Very quickly, all of the 5th grade boys have chosen sides – and not in August’s favor. Will plucky, earnest August let Julian win by being bullied out of Beecher Prep? Or will he stay and show himself and others what they’re made of?

Wonder is told in eight parts by six narrators – August, his sister Via, her boyfriend Justin, and August’s friends, Jack and Summer. This adds a layer of complexity and depth to each of the characters. Via’s and Jack’s sections in particular stand out as they sensitively explore the dynamics of being a sister and friend to someone who looks “different.”

August’s presence at Beecher Prep is the vehicle that speeds up the process of his classmates’ journeys to self discovery, ultimately leading them to choose kindness or cruelty. What makes Wonder a stand out book is how adeptly R.J. Palacio approaches the grey areas of human nature. Palacio teases out the reasons why even good people make bad choices, and the honesty with which she does so can be cringe inducing. Wonder will remind adult readers of the first time they had to grapple with being cool or being loyal, and the first time they had to stand up and fight for a person they loved. It will have readers laughing one minute and crying the next without ever really figuring out how they got there.

Although Wonder was written for ages 8 and up, R.J. Palacio’s poignant prose will keep adults interested as well. Wonder is a great book to read with kids, particularly if you want to have a discussion about friendship, loyalty or bullying.

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