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Snapdragon by Kat Leyh

Published by First Second

Snapdragon by Kat Leyh, 240 pp, RL 4

Summary:  Snapdragon believes a woman in her town is a witch, and when her dog goes missing, she’s afraid the witch has eaten him.  An angry confrontation winds up being the beginning of an unusual friendship.  The “witch”, Jacks, turns out to be a lonely old woman whose business is rescuing roadkill and rebuilding their skeletons to sell online.  Snap and Jacks bond over their love of animals, but as they get to know each other better, Snap discovers that Jacks has a deep connection to her own family from long ago.  Not only that, but the woman turns out to possess some of the magical powers Snap first suspected her of having, and Snap begins to learn some magic herself.  When Snap’s mom’s abusive ex-boyfriend shows up, it’s up to Snap and Jacks to use their magic to save the day.  Jacks finds herself back in the family again, and it looks like there just might be a happy ending for everyone.  Includes pages showing the process of early sketches and turning them into the finished pages as well as some other book cover ideas. 240 pages; grades 4-8.

Pros:  Kat Leyh packs a lot into this graphic novel, with an ambitious story and lots of interesting characters including the two main ones, as well as Snap’s mother and grandmother, and Lulu, her transgender best friend.  She masterfully cuts from one scene to the next, keeping the action moving quickly.

Cons:  The ending wrapped up pretty neatly, and I don’t see any sign of a sequel.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

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The Whale Child by Keith Egawa and Chenoa Egawa

the whale child
by Keith Egawa
and Chenda Egawa
North Atlantic Books
Middle Grade Environmental

An inspiring middle-grade chapter book that introduces young readers to the environmental challenges facing the planet through the eyes of Coast Salish characters and authors.

“You have family on land as you do in the sea. . . being a caretaker of the earth begins with taking care of the water that all life depends on.”

Shiny is a whale child. One day his mother teaches him about the harm facing the world’s oceans because of human carelessness. Shiny agrees to be turned into a boy by the ocean’s water spirit so he can visit the land and alert people to these dangers. He meets Alex, a young Coast Salish girl who learns from Shiny that the living spirit of water exists in everything–glaciers, rivers, oceans, rain, plants, and all living creatures. Together the two travel the earth, confronting the realities of a planet threatened by an uncertain future. Inspired by Shiny’s hope, humor, and wisdom, Alex makes the promise to become a teacher for future generations. She realizes that the timeless Indigenous value of environmental stewardship is needed now more than ever and that we must all stand up on behalf of Mother Earth.

Written and illustrated by Indigenous authors Keith Egawa and Chenoa Egawa, The Whale Child introduces children ages 7 to 12 to existing environmental issues with a message of hope, education, sharing, and action. Ideal for middle-grade readers who are beginning to read chapter books on their own, this book also includes resources for students and teachers to facilitate learning about Pacific Northwest Indigenous cultures and the environment.

These pages pack a powerful message with a focus on environmental issues facing the world’s oceans and the importance of them to our planet.
Shiny is born as a very intuitive and caring whale, who learns all about life in the ocean and the balance of nature from his mother. His destiny has him then turning into a human, where he becomes the brother of a girl and teaches her about the importance of life in the ocean and exposes the troubles the underwater world faces thanks to pollution and more.
While this book is advertised for middle graders, I see this one for slightly younger readers, ages 6 to 9.
The traditional storytelling of Indigenous lore flows beautifully through these pages. Nature, spirits and life are interlinked in a wondrous way, which opens up a different view to the world around us and the balance between man and nature. In this book, the importance of the ocean and life in it take center stage as the impact modern life has had is discussed. The authors manage to bring all of this across in a way young readers/listeners will be able to understand and open up the door to discussions surrounding water pollution and such.
Bright illustrations accompany the text, allowing listeners to sink into the described scenes visually and gain a better understanding of what is being described. This is a great book for groups to open up environmental topics, especially those relating to seas and oceans. The text is rather heavy four younger listeners, but on the other hand, a bit light and short for older ones. So, I’m placing this one somewhere in the middle and see it as a good read-aloud.
The relationship between Shiny and ‘his sister’ is one readers will be able to connect with…and it introduces them to the thoughts of this type of storytelling and beliefs as well. Of course, this one is very message driven, and that’s what makes it great for classrooms and homeschoolers as well.
And here they are…

KEITH T. A. EGAWA is a novelist who focuses on both adult and children’s literature. He is a Washington native and a member of the Lummi Indian Nation. Egawa’s extensive experience in the field of child welfare has provided him with both inspiration and insight into his subject matter.

CHENOA T. Y. EGAWA is Coast Salish of the Lummi and S’Klallam Nations of Washington State. She is a medicine woman, singer, writer, illustrator, photographer, and teacher dedicated to bringing healing to our Mother Earth and to people of all origins. She is a voice to bring Native wisdom and perspectives to the world when these teachings are particularly poignant reminders of our shared responsibility to live with respect for ourselves, one another, and all that gives us life.


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Lost Cities by Giles Laroche

Published by HMH Books for Young Readers

Lost Cities - Kindle edition by Laroche, Giles. Children Kindle eBooks @
Lost Cities: Laroche, Giles: 9781328753649: Books

Summary:  Thirteen lost cities are profiled from all over the world.  Each includes an illustration of the city, a second-person introduction (“If you were a young Roman living in Herculaneum…”), the location, who lived there, why the city was lost, how it was rediscovered in modern times, and an unsolved mystery about it.  Includes a map showing the location of each city, a timeline of when each was first settled, a page showing how the illustrations were created, and a list of selected sources.  40 pages; grades 2-6.

Pros:  These amazingly detailed cut-paper illustrations will draw readers in to learning more about ancient cities from around the world.  The information, especially the “What’s mysterious?” section will definitely whet some appetites to look for more information.

Cons:  This is a jumping-off place for getting kids interested, rather than a resources for any kind of serious research.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

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Review: My Best Friend, Sometimes

My%2Bbest%2Bfriend%2BsometimesWe all have best friends and like many friendships they have their ups and down depending on what is happening in our lives.

The sheer joy of finding a person who thinks like us, to the anxiety of when the friendship falters for whatever reason.

This is the story of two inseparable friends who love to giggle, whisper and share outlandish secrets. But sometimes neither of the girls want to share or agree on the same game to play.

The girls do not always like the same things and neither want to compromise.

One of the girls doesn’t understand why her friend Stephanie doesn’t like her new shoes. They are very pretty, sparkly and brand new. Nor does she understand when Stephanie won’t share her candy with her – normally she does especially as she knows it is her favourite. Why is her best friend not talking to her, has she done something wrong? How can she fix it?

Author Naomi Danis has captured the nuances of friendship – how the littlest misunderstanding can change the dynamics and future of relationships. Illustrator Cinta Arribas shows the disappointments, confusion and happiness of friendships – the expressions demonstrate the girl’s feelings better than words.

Parents will appreciate this story for when their children ask the inevitable question – why don’t they like me anymore? This picture book will create an understanding and allow children to explore and celebrate friendships. It doesn’t matter how old you are, true friendship is a commodity we all value and trust, especially as our lives grow and change around us.

Title: My Best Friend, Sometimes
Author: Naomi Dani
Illustrator: Cinta Arribas
Publisher: Pow Kids Books, $28.99
Publication Date: 30 April 2020
Format: Hardback
ISBN: 9781576879467
For ages: 3 – 7
Type: Picture Book

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Review: I Love My Fangs! by Kelly Leigh Miller

Is Halloween here already? It’s around the corner…maybe. Honestly, I love this holiday, but it’s hard not to. Candy. Dressing up. Candy. Jack o’ Lanterns. Candy.

Yeah, I might have a sweet tooth. Or fang.

Anyway, it was a treat to already start up that Fall spirit and dream of what costumes the kids will be coming up with this year.

52764224. SX318

by Kelly Leigh Miller
Simon & Schuster
Picture Book
40 pages
ages 4 to 8

Is a vampire still a vampire if his fang is all wobbly? Find out in this funny and endearing spin on the classic first lost tooth story.

Young Dracula loves his fangs. They are pointy. They are sharp! They are a cherished family trait.

So one day, when a fang wiggles…and jiggles…and falls loose, Dracula doesn’t know what to do.

He tries pushing it back in. Then taping it. Then sticking it.

Because a vampire can’t have only one fang!…Right?


These pages hold a fun, monsterly spin on something all kids experience and can relate to.

This young vampire loves his fangs and takes great care of them. After all, fangs are very important and everyone in the family is proud of theirs. But then, something terrible happens.

Young monster fans are sure to enjoy this one. Not only is this little vampire confident and extremely sure of himself, but thanks to the illustrations, he snuggles right into the comfortable area between human and monsterly. It’s never said what this little vampire needs his fangs for (which avoids scarier moments for sensitive readers), the elephant in the room adds a nice, very slightly creepy aura…and that’s not even on purpose (I don’t think). Instead, the illustrations have him sleeping in a coffin, surrounded by stuffed animals and snuggled in a super sweet and cuddly bat onesie (and that with ears). It’s an awesome setting and well done.

But this is not the main point of the tale. This little vampire has a loose tooth, and that is a completely frightening thing, especially for someone like him. But that’s only the beginning of the fun. Soon, the tooth fairy gets involved…something that will have young listeners laughing…and the entire thing ends on a lovely note. With a tad bit of humor, too.

It’s cute, it’s something for young listeners to easily relate to, and it has a uniqueness, which makes one want to read it more than once.

And here she is…

Kelly Leigh Miller is an illustrator and author who loves everything cute and whimsical. She spent her childhood drawing and making up stories in Louisville, Kentucky, and now resides in Chicago, Illinois, where she does that professionally. She is the author of I Am a Wolf, I Love My Fangs!, and many more books to come! Her ideas usually come from daydreaming with her sketchbook and past adventures. When she’s not drawing or writing, she enjoys reading a good book, watching spooky movies, exploring museums, and going on adventures. Visit her online at

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Monster and Boy by Hannah Barnaby, illustrated by Anoosha Syed

Published by Henry Holt and Co. Monster and Boy (Monster and Boy (1)) (9781250217837): Barnaby, Hannah, Syed, Anoosha: Books
Monster and Boy | Hannah Barnaby | Macmillan

Summary:  A monster who lives under a boy’s bed loves the boy.  When he hears the boy’s mother tell him there’s no such thing as monsters, he decides to reveal himself.  After Mom leaves, he comes out and introduces himself.  He sees that the boy is about to scream, so he panics and does the first thing he thinks of…swallows the boy.  There seems to be no way of getting the boy out again, but finally they both fall asleep.  When they awaken, the boy is out of the monster, but he’s tiny.  Can he get back to his full size again?  Many adventures await as the two of them try to figure out how to do this.  144 pages; grades K-3.

Pros:  A fun, quirky early chapter book with plenty of illustrations, and even some bathroom humor (although maybe not what you’re expecting).  This is sure to find lots of fans, and they can look forward to a second book in March.

Cons:  Although the author (sort of) explains this, I didn’t like that the boy and the monster didn’t have names.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

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How (Not) To Annoy Dad

how%2Bnot%2Bto%2Bannoy%2BdadThis hilarious, laugh out loud story by Australian comedian Dave Hughes and his wife Holly Ife is the perfect way to celebrate Father’s Day.

Like many of us, Father’s Day is a chance to show Dad how much we love and appreciate everything he does for us.


The story focusses on a Koala Dad and his three children who are spending the day together – what could possibly go wrong . . .


The children plan all the things that will make Dad happy and enjoy his special day.

Firstly, they start the day with a healthy breakfast created by the kids. Cue the disaster zone and some questionable food combinations and the day is off to great start.

Then its off to the park to enjoy some fresh air, not the park with the café as Dad wouldn’t need another coffee. Instead they insist on visiting the one with the giant climbing apparatus that is the furthest away from the toilets, and then Dad can help them collect rocks and cool big sticks that they want to add to the growing collection at home.

After the park, there are always great games to play at home, naturally Dad wouldn’t expect to win. Nor would he want to watch anything on TV that the children wouldn’t like, that is if they can find the remote control that is currently playing its own game of hide and seek.

Heath McKenzie’s funny and bright illustrations capture the children’s antics perfectly adding that extra layer of parental understanding to the story.

These adorable situations that play out on Father’s Day are ones that are mirrored in other families and are totally relatable.

As all parents know the perks of having children means no sleep, no privacy and certainly no peace and quiet. Especially when they are in places where they should be quiet or if you are trying to answer the endless stream of questions.

This story is of for all ages and I can already hear parents chuckling as they read this story to their children. One can only wonder how much is based on real life . . .

Title: How (Not) To Annoy Dad
Author: Dave Huges and Holly Ife
Illustrator: Heath McKenzie
Publisher: Scholastic Australia, $17.99
Publication Date: 1 August 2020
Format: Hardback
ISBN: 9781760663735
For ages: 3 – 7
Type: Picture Book

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The Little Book of Presidential Elections by Zack Bush and Laurie Friedman

55382534. SX318
by Zack Bush and
Laurie Friedman
Illustrated by Sarah Van Evera
Picture Book
ages 4 to 8
This topical title has a dual mission.
Not only does it take young readers 
step-by-step through the process 
of electing the president of the United States, it also provides a clear, 
kid-friendly explanation of the concept of voting and why it is so important. 
With engaging text and warm illustrations, The Little Book of Presidential
Elections breaks down the process of electing a president—from selection 
of the candidates, to the primary and general elections, and even features 
an easy-to-understand explanation of the electoral college and how it works. 



With the presidential election right around the corner, this is definitely a timely topic, and a great chance to introduce young listeners to the election process in a fun way.

Starting with bumper stickers and advertisements, the listener is guided into first what they might know about the presidential elections before being steered into more detail. The authors use examples like deciding what a family eats for dinner to explain what an election is and how it works…and this does a pretty good job at putting it in terms young listeners will understand. Everything from what a candidate does (select me!) to voting to the electoral college is covered. Some themes are a little difficult even though this book does a pretty good job at simply bringing them across. So, it’s a great way to introduce discussions into the topic as well. Plus, I’m not sure the younger side of the intended age group will grasp everything…but as said, things like the electoral college are a little more complicated. I’d recommend this one for ages 5 and up.
The illustrations are very bright and very bold…almost overpowering, at times. But they are done with love and do make certain explanations clear. The characters are very positive and it brings across a lovely atmosphere while still not letting the seriousness of the theme fall to the wayside.
This is a nice book to pick up for those wanting to learn more about the election process. It’s not politically bent toward any direction (a huge plus anymore), but simply hits the facts surrounding the presidential election and how it works. In other words, this one works well for home schoolers and learning situations as well.


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Review: Contagion

contagionThe Great War has ended but a new war has begun. It is through fourteen year-old Charlotte’s daily diary entries that the story is told.

The end of 1918 is nearing. Charlotte’s dad has returned from the war a broken man. His experiences are locked inside him. He is grumpy and resentful of everything. Charlotte cannot understand why he has changed so, nor can anyone else.

Life goes on the same as before for the rest of the family, but frustration at Dad’s unbearable attitude is added to their daily burden. Charlotte’s only confidant is Florence, her neighbour, best friend and daughter of the local GP.

Mum, a nurse, works night shift to feed her four children. A large part of the household chores fall on Charlotte alongside her studies. She dreams of becoming a nurse too. To learn something about her father’s condition and the medication he is taking, she secretly borrows some medical books from Florence. If people don’t tell me anything, then I shall have to find out for myself.

With a sharp mind and an interest in everything, Charlotte’s potential is recognised by the doctor. With permission for her to accompany him as helper on his rounds during school holidays, Charlotte is given more opportunity to learn.

It’s not until mum’s brother, Donald, comes home from overseas just before Christmas, that change occurs. Charlotte overhears dad and Donald discussing traumatic and sometimes gruesome details of war life. She at last understands why her dad is the way he is.

The New Year brings new challenges. An influenza pandemic has hit Melbourne and all the area is infected. On her home visits with the doctor, Charlotte is confronted with death for the first time, and poverty far beyond what she could have imagined. She is forced to disinfect before she goes home. Everyone must wear a mask.

When her sister dies, and the other two girls, Mum and Donald get infected, Charlotte is filled with fear. Will dad stand up at last in this do-or-die situation, and finally give his family the attention they need?

This reality took place one hundred years ago. Reading it is like hearing what is currently taking place in the world. There is little difference. But as all things that have gone before, this tragedy too, will pass.

Contagion is based on true happenings and is part of the brilliant My Australian Story series which opens the pages to our country’s history.

Title: Contagion
Author: Kerry Greenwood
Publisher: Scholastic, $ 16.99
Publication Date: 1 August 2020
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781760975562
For ages: 9+
Type: Historical Fiction


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Bluey: My Dad Is Awesome


If you love the hugely successful  Bluey on the small screen, then you will love Bluey: My Dad Is Awesome.

Bluey and Bingo and their family have connected with many families across Australia, and their on screen personalities are full of life on the pages of this book as well.

The story is told by Bluey and Bingo themselves.

They take it in turns (or at least try to), telling the reader all about their dad and what makes him so awesome.

Bluey loves that Dad plays games and takes them to school, and she loves all the crazy characters he pretends to be.

Bingo loves going on adventures with Dad and when he helps with things like learning to ride a bike.

Bluey and Bingo know about all the things Dad loves (like BBQs, footy, and Mum), and they love him, too.

Kids will love following Bluey and Bingo and their parents (Bandit and Chili) in all the pictures.

This is a small hardcover book, just the right size for little hands, and to fit in your bag and have on hand at any time.

Bluey: My Dad Is Awesome is great for a bedtime story, or to read together as a family.

Title: Bluey: My Dad Is Awesome
Author/Illustrator: Bluey and Bingo
Publisher: Puffin, $ 16.99
Publication Date: August 2020
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 9781760899400
For ages: 3+
Type: Picture Book

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We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom, illustrated by Michaela Goade

Published by Roaring Brook Press

We Are Water Protectors - Kindle edition by Lindstrom, Carole ...
We Are Water Protectors | Carole Lindstrom | Macmillan

Summary:  The Ojibwe narrator has been taught by her Nokomis (grandmother) that water is sacred, “the first medicine”.  A prophecy tells of a black snake that will destroy the land, poisoning the water and killing plants and animals.  Now it seems as though that prophecy has come true, and the girl wants to fight the black snake and save the water.  She’s fighting for the plants and animals that can’t protect themselves and for Mother Earth herself.  The last page shows the protest at Standing Rock: “We are water protectors.  WE STAND!  The black snake is in for the fight of its life.”  Includes author’s and illustrator’s notes with more information about Standing Rock; a glossary of six words from various indigenous languages from the text; and an “Earth Steward and Water Protector Pledge” to sign.  40 pages; grades K-3.

Pros:  A brief but powerful message about the importance of protecting water and other natural resources.  The illustrations are amazing; some of them would make beautiful posters all on their own.

Cons:  Despite the determination of this girl and others like her, the author’s note reports that the Dakota Access Pipeline (the construction of which was being protested at Standing Rock) has been given the green light, and that leaks were reported even before construction was completed.

Click here to buy this book on Amazon.

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Review: Bear In Space

Bear%2BIn%2BSpaceA story for kids who are different! Bear is a gentle soul who prefers solitude to the company of the more lively bears who enjoy running and shouting.

He experiences some mild bullying, but tends to fly under the radar and muddles along, doing his own thing. Which happens to be finding out anything and everything about space.

Eventually, bear builds his own rocket ship and blasts off into space! How wonderful it is being there, in the peace and quiet, drinking hot chocolate, looking at the stars and continuing to read about space – all in the company of his gorgeous little toy dog.

He’s happy to continue on his journey until he meets another person who is happy to enter his world and engage with him on his terms, which inspires the other bears to get excited by bear’s games too.

Award winning author Deborah Abela brings bear beautifully to life. The detailed pencil drawings by Marjorie Crosby-Fairall are bursting with colour and complements the story perfectly.

A sweet book that would appeal to children who have their own special interests.

Title: Bear In Space

Author: Deborah Abela
Illustrator: Marjorie Crosby-Fairall
Publisher: Walker Books Australia, $25.99
Publication Date: 1 August 2020
Format: Hardback
ISBN: 9781760651510
For ages: 3+
Type: Picture Book