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Wild Symphony by Dan Brown, illustrated by Susan Batori

Published by Rodale Kids

Wild Symphony: Brown, Dan, Batori, Susan: 9780593123843: Books
Wild Symphony: Brown, Dan, Batori, Susan: 9780593123843: Books

Summary:  Maestro Mouse is your guide through this musical romp starring the animal kingdom.  Each page includes a poem or two about the featured animal, concluding with a sign held by Maestro Mouse offering a lesson that can be derived from the poem.  Sharp-eyed readers will also spot letters in each picture that, when put together, spell out a word.  The animals and words come together in the final gatefold page that shows all the animals playing music in an orchestra.  Includes an author’s note from Dan Brown (yes, that Dan Brown, author of The Da Vinci Code and many other books for adults) and endpapers showing and identifying the different musical instruments.  Also includes an app that can be downloaded to listen to musical accompaniment throughout the story.  44 pages; ages 4-9.

Pros:  A fun introduction to both animals and musical instruments.  I did not download the app, but it sounds like an enjoyable way to experience the music introduced in the book.  The hidden letters and coded words will please those who like puzzles.

Cons:  Poems, a series of (didactic) lessons, musical instruments, hidden letters, word scrambles, and an app that plays music…felt like a bit too much to unpack for one picture book.

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

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Review: Who is at the Zoo?


A delight to look at and to read, this highly entertaining book turns daily situations on their head. Imaginative, humorous and creative, and with charismatic characters, everyone who opens this book will discover a magical world whose reality is limited only by their imagination.

Rhyme and rhythm make it the perfect book for reading out aloud, for laughs and entertainment. The stunning, expressive illustrations by Suzanne Houghton, fill the pages with unexpected situations appearing like everyday occurrences.

A young girl wakes to a house full of animals.

She goes in search of answers. She finds a tiger on the toilet; another animal in the tub. In fact, a parade of animals has invaded their house. But that’s not all.

A Zebra cooks in the kitchen while a leopard watches sport on the television. A bear is in the laundry doing its washing. The squatters feel like the new residents!

Outside a deer mows the lawn as a squirrel tries driving the owner’s car.

They have taken over not only the house but all the street. A turtle is the lollipop person at the school crossing; penguins are seen painting a front door.

The further into town the girl goes the more animals she discovers in roles that humans held. The baker, the marketplace, the timber yard, the library, the café and in all the other businesses, positions have been replaced by animals.

A voyage of discovery begins. If the animals are everywhere now, what has become of the town’s occupants?

This is a brilliant picture book overflowing with hilarious situations and questions without answers. A curious challenge for children is to ask and find out why animals have replaced humans and where are the humans?

Title: Who is at the Zoo?
Author: J Boyce
Illustrator: Suzanne Houghton
Larrikin House, $24.99
Publication Date: 1 October 2020
Format: Hardcover
For ages: 3 – 8
Type: Picture Book


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Love Is Powerful by Heather Dean Brewer, illustrated by LeUyen Pham

Published by Candlewick

Love Is Powerful: Brewer, Heather Dean, Pham, LeUyen: 9781536201994: Books
Love Is Powerful by Heather Dean Brewer, LeUyen Pham |, Hardcover | Barnes & Noble®

Summary:  Mari and her mother get out crayons and poster board to make signs: “Be Kind”, “Love Is Powerful”.  From their apartment, they can see crowds gathering in the streets.  Mom explains that they are sending a message to the world.  “How will the whole world hear?” asks Mari.  “They’ll hear because love is powerful,” her mother tells her.  Mari thinks about friends and family members who are also demonstrating around the world as she and Mom ride the elevator down to join the crowd.  Her mother lifts Mari up on her shoulder.  When Mari shouts the message on her sign, “Love is powerful”, others around her pick up the chant.  The illustrations show hearts swirling around the crowd and up into the sky.  Includes a note from Mari that explains how she felt when she participated in the first Women’s March in 2016.  32 pages; ages 5-8.

Pros:  An inspiring story of activism told from a child’s point of view.  The Women’s March is portrayed very positively with lots of empowering signs and happy people marching together.  LeUyen Pham’s illustrations are adorable and capture the spirit of the story.

Cons:  As I sit here on the morning after Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death, pondering what is going to happen in the next few months, it’s hard for me to feel the happy optimism of this story.

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

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Review: 1,001 Creatures

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by Laura Merz and
Alino Jarvinen
Translated by Emily Jeremiah
Merkat Press
Picture Book Non-Fiction/ Zoology
64 pages
ages 4 to 8


From the dung-beetle to the blue whale, no creature is too humble or huge for Finnish author and illustrator duo Laura Merz and Aino Järvinen in 1,001 Creatures, a gorgeously illustrated, interactive exploration of the natural world.


Under the sun, the moon, and the stars
all the creatures of the world, big and small,
carry out their own tasks
as part of nature’s great balance.


Have you ever wondered how a crocodile keeps its teeth clean? Or why herons like to sit on the backs of water buffalo? What exactly does a giant blue whale eat to get so big? In 1,001 Creatures, Aino Järvinen and Laura Merz playfully investigate the complex and awe-inspiring world of twenty-six fascinating insects, reptiles, and mammals.

With fun facts and captivating illustrations, 1,001 Creatures explores the diversity of the animal world and its ecosystems. Interactive questions allow readers to take their curiosity and imagination off the page and into the real world with prompts to create their own artwork, imitate a camel’s unique walk, and discover the ways in which all creatures are connected in the world. Järvinen’s humorous style and Merz’s unique watercolor illustrations painted from memory using non-traditional materials, enhance the central message that we’re all in this together–human, squid, and penguin alike.


This book originated in Finland and has now been translated into the English language. Honestly, I enjoy getting my hands on such literature and love how it opens up the variety of the world.

In these pages, the authors present many various creatures on our planet. A few tidibts concerning habits, diet, characteristics and such are presented—always interesting and sure to lure young listeners in. The text is a bit playful, which is great and makes this so much more interesting than a dry textbook. And the information is unique enough that several things will stick in listeners minds, ones they won’t forget easily again. The vocabulary is just right for the age group and at a good length for a read-aloud. At the end of each two-page presentation, the authors leave off with a question for the listener, which makes them consider a certain aspect of the animal and brings everything down to a more personal level. They’ve really done a lovely job at writing in such a way which does hold listeners’ attentions.
The illustrations are a treat. They’re in simple colors and very artistic. Everything from water colors, to prints, to ink and more is used. It keeps the environment playful and yet, presents each creature in a unique and usually recognizable way. There were a couple creatures, which were more than a little abstract and not so easy to identift, though, and I’m not sure what I thought of these, since this is to teach younger readers about various creatures and increase their knowledge and appreciation. I as an older reader did appreciate the artwork quite a bit.
This is a wonderful way to let young readers/listeners learn more about some well-known and lesser known creatures in our world in a way which entertains and delivers information at the same time. I think it would make a great read-aloud and definitely open up some fun discussions.

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Review: Piper Picks the Perfect Pet

piper picks the perfect pet front

Piper’s dilemma is which pet to choose. So many types of dogs: ones that prance, others that dance, one that is flouncy or another that’s bouncy.

Or perhaps a cat? A tabby? A Persian? A Manx or Siamese? One that sleeps all day long, or the kind that are poetry in motion.

What about other pets? Small or large? A snake or donkey, an insect or fish?

Should she choose a pet that will impress her friends? One that will win prizes?

How does one choose the perfect pet?

But dad tells her to use your heart and not your head.

What will Piper choose?

The best pet for her, of course!

With assonance and rhyming verse, Piper Picks the Perfect Pet is ideal for reading aloud.

Continue reading Review: Piper Picks the Perfect Pet

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Review: I’m A Hero Too


2020 has been challenging and emotional.

And for our kids, it’s been frustrating and confusing.
Life changed in ways it had never changed before. We had to stop doing a lot of the things we loved to do. There are so many new rules we have to follow.

In I’m a Hero Too, we step into Arty’s world and experiences as a virus changes things. His Mum gets really busy and Dad is working from home. Arty can’t see his grandmother anymore or play on the playground equipment.
Arty’s mum is always tired, but it’s because she’s working so hard. She’s a scientist, and she’s working to create new medicine to stop the virus.
Arty decides he’ll be a hero, too. He’ll wash his hands well, put his tissues straight in the bin and get dressed quickly when his mum asks him too.
My name is Arty, and today I feel like a hero.
Do you want to be a hero too?
If you’re looking for a picture book to comfort kids during this hard year, I highly recommend I’m a Hero Too.
It reflects the reality of this year in a meaningful and relatable way for kids, exploring ways in which their world has changed and the frustrations that have come with those changes. Stories with relatable storylines help children reflect on their own experiences. They help them process their feelings and see that other kids might be feeling exactly what they are.
But this isn’t a story of sorrow. The story inspires kids to be heroes and help their communities.
Kids are great at being heroes, so in a lot of ways the story is also a thank you to children for how they’ve coped with this year and the sacrifices they’ve made.
Peter Cheong’s illustrations are stunning. He perfectly captures the strong emotions that feature throughout the story, and his style is fun with vibrant pops of colour — much needed for a book that deals with a difficult topic.
I think that is what is so perfect about this book. Cheong and Rizvi together deliver a story about a challenging subject, but they do so with inspiration and hope so lovingly intertwined throughout.
 I’m a Hero Too is an important story for a challenging year.

Title: I’m a Hero Too
Author: Jamila Rizvi
Illustrator: Peter Cheong
Publisher: Puffin, $24.99
Publication Date: 20 October 2020
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 9781761040115
For ages: 3 – 6
Type: Picture Book

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Review: We Love You, Magoo


Dogs are practically human, aren’t they?

Magoo seems to think so.
Magoo is a dog, and he’s a crazy, loveable hound.
Unfortunately for Magoo, much as he’d like to do the things his humans do (like eating eggs for breakfast), there always seems to be a canine alternative.
No chewing the toys for Magoo. He gets his own ball instead.
And there’s no creating havoc in the mud or toilet water. It’s a soapy bath and a dog bowl for Magoo.
We Love You, Magoo is a book with a character that anyone with a dog will recognise.
Magoo’s ‘puppy dog eyes’ will grab you from the first page. He gets into mischief typical for a dog, but his family loves him, and he will wind his way into your heart as well.
The text is short and simple, and rhyme and repetition are put to good use. Reading the story aloud, kids will be quickly reading along with you, especially the refrain, ‘No, Magoo. This is for you.
Author and illustrator, Briony Stewart has captured Magoo in all his active glory. He looks about ready to leap off the page.

The illustrations are bright and simple with use of colours kept to just a few. Blue, yellow and white are spread across the pages, setting the scenes, with Magoo himself an orangey-brown.

We Love You, Magoo is a great story to share with children who are pre-readers and beginning readers.

Title: We Love You, Magoo
Author/Illustrator: Briony Stewart
Publisher: Puffin, $ 19.99
Publication Date: September 2020
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 9781760896904
For ages: 3+
Type: Picture Book

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🎃 Nine Old and New Favorite Halloween Picture Books

Halloween is coming, but there won’t be any trick or treating in most places around the country. This year, my young readers and I will be doing a zoom party. To get ready, we pulled out some of our old favorite Halloween stories, added some new ones into the mix, and came up with these nine that we love to read.

What are some of your favorite Halloween books?
Happy Halloween from The Very Busy Spider:
A Lift-the-Flap Book
written and illustrated by Eric Carle
World of Eric Carle, 2020, 10 pages
I thought my young readers might be a little old for this lift-the-flap board book, but no. They are big fans of the Very Hungry Caterpillar, and were very happy to see it make an appearance in this book. The text is written, for the most part, in rhyme, and follows the Busy Spider as he looks for his friends on Halloween, who are, of course, under the various flaps. The illustrations appear to be done in Eric Carle’s signature collage style – hand-painted tissue paper cut into the desired shapes, and layered for texture. I found that beginning The Very Busy Spider’s quest in prose, switching to rhyme, and ending in prose threw me off the first time I read this aloud, so be warned if you use it for a read-aloud. Otherwise, it’s a sweet introduction to Halloween for your youngest of readers (and so few sentimental 5-year-olds).
Gustavo, the Shy Ghost 
written and illustrated by Flavia Z. Drago
Candlewick Press, 2020, 40 pages
Gustavo is a shy ghost who loves to do the usual ghostly things like walking through walls and glowing in the dark, but what he really loves is to play the violin. He also has a crush on Alma, a pretty (invisible) monster. But Gustavo has a problem – he can’t make friends because he can’t speak to any other monsters. He tries all kinds of ways to get noticed, but nothing works. So Gustavo decides to invite them to a Day of the Dead violin concert. And it looks like his fears that no one will like him are true when no one shows up at the concert. Gustavo begins to play his music anyway and next thing he knows, all the other monsters are suddenly there and loving his music. After that, no one ignores Gustavo any more and they even discover what he is a great friend to all of them. Though this isn’t a Halloween story per se, my kiddos like it and wanted to include it in our collection of seasonal books we like to read. Though there are pumpkins and monsters throughout the story, it also proved to be a great opportunity to introduce them to the Mexican Day of the Dead and what that means. There’s a multiplicity of cultural icons throughout, for example, the traditional papel picado banner and the many calaveras or skulls. Gustavo and his concert is a wonderful story about bravery and friendship, and about being seen and accepted for who you are. And while it is a seasonal story, it can be read and appreciated all year round.

Bears and Boos written by Shirley Parenteau,

illustrated by David Walker
Candlewick Press, 2020, 32 pages
This is the seventh book featuring these four cute, cuddly, pastel colored bears and Big Brown Bear. It’s Halloween and there’s a big box of items to make into costumes just waiting for four little bears. There’s a golden gown, a wizard’s hat, a magic wand, even a pirate hat, all up for grabs. And that’s just what they do, knocking Floppy Bear down in the process, and leaving nothing for her to make a costume. But when the other bears see what’s happened, they not only apologize for knocking Floppy down, but Fuzzy Bear offers her the golden gown she found, Calico Bear gives her the wand he found. and Yellow Bear gives her a necklace. Now, Floppy is the holiday queen and leads the parade of bears out to go trick or treating with Big Brown Bear. And what a good time they all have! This is a sweet Halloween story, told in four stanza rhymes and bearing a message about being kind, considerate, and sharing. What was nice about the bears apologizing to Floppy was that it was spontaneous after they saw that there was nothing left for her and they were not told to do it by Big Brown Bear. It is important for kids to realize the consequences of their actions and take responsibility for them. A particularly good message for anyone, actually, at any age. My young readers are already fans of these little bears, and this book was also sure to be a hit with them when we read it together.

Moldilocks and the Three Scares: A Zombie Tale

written by Lynne Marie, illustrated by David Rodriguez Lorenzo
Sterling Children’s Books, 2019, 42 pages 
In this humorous retelling of the well-known fairy tale Goldilocks and the Three Bears, the Scare family and their blue dog Plasma live in a haunted house with room for four. As Papa Frankenstein makes some soup, he wishes there were a fourth person to eat the fourth portion, Mama Mummy wishes for a lab assistant as she mixes up a potion, and Baby Scare, a vampire, wishes for a playmate. When the soup turns out to be too hot to eat, they take Plasma for a walk while it cools. Enter Moldilocks, a zombie who has been without a family for a long time. Yes, she tries the soup, and eats Baby Scares portion, tries the chairs and breaks Baby Scare’s, tries the beds and naps in Baby Scares just right bed. What happens when the Scares return? They see what Moldilocks has done, and finds her still asleep. And it looks like everyone’s wish has come true, and Moldilocks finally has a new family. For a retelling, this was a lot of fun to read. There’s all kinds of word play going on, and the illustrations, done with pencil in Halloween colors, are more humorous than scary. But is carries a nice message about blended families, acceptance, and just being who you are. I read this to my young readers last Halloween, and a number of times since then.

Herbert’s First Halloween written by Cynthia Rylant,

illustrated by Stephen Henry
Chronicle Books, 2017, 36 pages
It’s Herbert’s first trick or treat Halloween, but he isn’t quite sure about it. After all, Halloween can be scary, but luckily, Herbert’s father, who is very excited for Herbert, understands that. First, he shows Herbert a photo of his own first Halloween, dressed up as a cowboy. When Herbert says he wants to be a tiger, his dad measures him for a costume. Then, father and son carve a pumpkin with a big jolly smile and put it on the porch. Yet, even after his dad tells him about all the candy, Herbert still looks unsure of things. On Halloween, after putting on his costume, Herbert and his dad go trick or treating with all the other kids. Herbert has such a good time, that he’s even looking forward to next year. This is kind of a young book, but I read it to my young readers because some of them were new to this country and didn’t know what Halloween was all about. And yes, it can look scary to young kids. But there is such a great message about being brave that I thought this book, along with Llama Llama Trick or Treat would be the perfect combination for talking to them about Halloween. And it worked. It was nice to see a very patient, supportive dad in the position of talking to Herbert about Halloween and even making his costume, strengthening their bond.



Llama Llama Trick or Treat

written and illustrated by Anna Dewdney
Viking BFYR, 2014, 14 pages
This is the second favorite board book my young readers wanted to revisit. I think it’s the simple, but charming rhyme text that makes it memorable for them, since they can still recite the whole book. It’s also shows Llama getting ready for Halloween – picking out the perfect costume, finding just the right pumpkin and carving it into a Jock-O’-Lantern, putting candy in a bowl for trick-or-treaters – all the typical things that most kids also do to get ready for Halloween. The rhyme works, the illustrations are sweet and done in Halloween colors.

At the Old Haunted House written by Helen Ketteman,

illustrated by Nate Wragg
Two Lions, 2014, 32 pages
It’s a dark Halloween as a young girl and two small boys walk away from the bright street and homey homes where they have been trick or treating and head toward a dilapidated old house on a hill complete with a graveyard in the front. Inside is a wide array of creepy creatures, all involved in antics with their offspring, beginning with a witch: “At the old haunted house/ In a room with no sun/ lived a warty green witch/ and her wee witchy one.” There are also goblins, black cats, werewolves, vampires,   and even bats. Each creature is one associated with Halloween, but the story is told in a really humorous counting rhyme. All their shenanigans end up in a Halloween party that begins just as the three trick or treaters arrive at the house. My young readers love this counting book. We’ve actually read it so frequently that they know bits of it by heart and recite them enthusiastically. The cartoon-like illustrations, done in a Halloween palette, help elevate this book into silliness so even the most anxious of kids won’t get scared. This book is always a winner.

Halloween Hustle written by Charlotte Gunnufson,

illustrated by Kevan Atteberry
Two Lions, 2013, 32 pages
This is one of our favorite books to revisit every Halloween. A boney skeleton in a orange pumpkin shirt is bopping down the street doing the Halloween Hustle, along his faithful companion. He’s having a good old time for himself until he trips and comes apart. A few well-placed rubber bands and he’s good to go, again. Getting on a bus, with a bunch of other Halloween creatures, they head to town to get some party clothes, all the while doing the Halloween Hustle. At an old haunted house, everyone is partying and dancing, but oops, the skeleton falls comes apart again. Luckily, a pretty girl skeleton is there to glue him back together, and the party continues as everyone does the Halloween Hustle. The story is told in a four stanza rhyme, with each one ending in a repeat  of “Doing the Halloween Hustle.” The illustrations are bright despite being done on a black background and the monsters/creatures aren’t at all scary for young readers. You can find some great printable activities to go with this book at the author’s website HERE
Room on the Brook written by Julia Donaldson,
illustrated by Axel Scheffler
Dial Books, 2001, 32 pages
This fun counting book has been a long time favorite mine, so much so, that I’ve worn out more than one copy, and given away a few, too. A witch holding a caldron and her marmalade cat are contentedly flying on her broomstick when a gust of wind blows the witch’s hat off. Retrieved by a spotted dog who asks if there’s room on the broom for him. Eventually, the witch and her cat welcome a green bird, and a frog. But when the broom snaps in half from the extra weight, and a hungry dragon catches the witch, a favorite thing of his to ear, it is cat, dog, bird, and frog to the rescue. When the witch fills her cauldron and adds various ingredients, it isn’t to make some soup for the cat, the dog, the bird, the frog and herself,. No, indeed, our friendly witch stirs up a nice new broom with comforts for everyone. The whole tale is told in perfect rhyme, with equally wonderful witty, friendly illustrations. Though the witch looks somewhat like a customary witch, she is both kind and friendly, traits that will dispel any fears young readers may have that witches are mean. One nice result of reading this a lot to kids, is that soon you begin to hear an echo of young voices who have memorized the first few lines. You definitely won’t want to leave this out of your Halloween reads.

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😷Five Picture Books About Animals and Other Creatures (and what we can learn from them)



Here are five of our favorite stories featuring anthropomorphized animals and other creatures that we have read this year.
Don’t Worry, Little Crab
written and illustrated by Chris Haughton
Candlewick Press, 2020, 48 pages
One day, Very Big Crab tells Little Crab it’s time to leave their tide pool and head to the ocean. At first, Little Crab is very excited to be going somewhere, but when they reach the ocean, it’s a whole different story. As the waves come nearer and get bigger, so does Little Crab’s reluctance and anxiety.  As Very Big Crab gently encourages and reassures Little Crab, the two manage to slowly get closer and closer to the ocean, until enormous wave comes along and washes them down, down, down into the ocean’s depths. And once there, Little Crab couldn’t be happier or more excited. There are friends to be made, seaweed to eat, hide-and-seek to play. And you guessed it, when Very Big Crab says it’s time to go home to their tide pool, Little Crab does not want to leave the ocean. So the very patient and understanding Very Big Crab suggests they take the long way home just to enjoy a little more ocean time. This is a really great for kids who feel anxious when faced with new experiences.
Some Dinosaurs are Small 
written and illustrated by Charlotte Voake
Candlewick Press, 2020, 32 pages
In this very entertaining book and using spare language, Voake uses a childhood favorite for demonstrating the concept of size and proportion, and teaches readers a little about dinosaurs to boot. The story opens with a very small green dinosaur filling a pill up with fruits to eat later, while nearby lurks a very large dinosaur watching the little one. And yes, you guessed it, the big dinos gang up on the little one and take all his pickings to eat themselves. But is this the end of the story? No indeed it isn’t, because size is relative and in this case, it’s relative to the age of the dinosaur. And young readers will definitely laugh when they discover that little one’s mom is enormous, relative to the large dinos. This is a great book for preschool and beginning readers. The text is simple and large, the unexpected ending is done with age appropriated humor and the quirky, but very appealing watercolor and ink illustrations, done is dusty shades of brown, green, and red, give the story a very prehistoric sense. I read this (repeatedly) to my young readers who loved it, a few of whom are budding dinosaur fans, and I’m pretty sure we will be reading it again and again.

Cone Cat written by Sarah Howden,

illustrated by Carmen Mok
Owlkids Books, 2020, 32 pages
Jeremy is a cat the really enjoys his freedom. Then, one day, he wakes up after a visit to the vet with a cone covering his head and hampering his freedom of movement, and his super cat senses. Suddenly, Jeremy is plain old clumsy, bumping to things, and no longer able to hunt or even clean himself – PU! But then, Jeremy discovers that he can make the cone work for him. For instance, he can use it to tip a bowl of cereal into the cone, then into his mouth and even saving some cereal for later. Why it even works to get him some ice cream.  But then, one morning, the cone comes off. And Jeremy regains his old freedom of movement – a happy cat, but wondering would freedom ever compare to his glory days with the cone? The story ends on a bit of an ironic note. The moral of Jeremy’s cone tale – when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Or perhaps necessity is the mother of invention. OK, so maybe Jeremy isn’t the best example for kids to follow, but that’s just the point – Jeremy provides a conduit through which behavior conversations can be opened as well as ways to make the best of a bad situation. Kids will also like the whimsical colorful pastel illustrations, especially Jeremy’s melodramatic facial expressions.

What About Worms!? (Elephant & Piggie Like Reading #7)

written and illustrated by Ryan T. Higgins
Hyperion, 2020, 64 pages
Who doesn’t love Elephant and Piggie? And they like to read…and make lots of puns about it while they introduce their latest book all about worms. Tiger is very big and very brave, not afraid of anything. Well, except worms, Tiger does not like slimy, wiggly worms. The only problem is that worms could be in everything Tiger likes. Like the potted flowers that smell so good. But wait, they are in dirt and worms like dirt. Tiger quickly tosses down the flower pot, which breaks. Tiger likes tasty apples, but then he remembers that so do worms, so he tosses it on the floor with the broken flower pot. Worms, he cries, ruin everything. They could even be in the book Tiger would like to read. But it, too, gets tossed away. Worms, it turns out, are afraid of tigers, but they love all the things Tiger has left on the floor. And that book – well, it was all about tigers. After the worms read it, and learn so much about tigers, they decided they like tigers after all. Books, we learn from this work of meta fiction, can teach us so much. Elephant and Piggie may initially draw kids to this book, but it definitely stands on its own with a great message for young, new readers about not judging a book by its cover and about making snap judgements. The message may be serious, but it’s delivered with lots of humor, and the bright illustrations really harmonize and compliment the story.

The Last Tiger

written and illustrated by Petr Horáček
Eerdmans BFYR, 2020, 36 pages
When hunters arrive in the jungle and the other animals run and hide, the tiger doesn’t. After all, he may be the last tiger, but he haughtily thinks he is strong, fearless and powerful enough to evade capture. How wrong tiger is. Cunningly captured and taken out of the jungle, tiger is put in a cage for people to look at him. No longer free, strong and powerful, the tiger is very unhappy, so much so that he begins to lose weight – lots of weight. One night, he slips through the bars of his cage and finds his way back to the jungle. There, there tiger once again becomes strong and powerful. But now he is a changed tiger, realizing that strength and power mean nothing without the treasured possession of freedom. The vibrant illustrations and the changing expressions on the face of the tiger are just so perfect for this story. The palette is bold vibrant blues, greens, and browns in the jungle, but the colors mute when the tiger is in captivity. The story is a classic example of that old proverb: “Pride goeth before a fall.” Unfortunately, it is a little to abstract for my young readers, but for older kids, it is a great book for getting them to talk about what freedom is and why it is important, as well as the up and down sides of pride.
What are your favorite picture books about animals?


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The World’s Poorest President Speaks Out edited by Yoshimi Kusaba, illustrated by Gaku Nakagawa

Published by Enchanted Lion Books

The World's Poorest President Speaks Out: Yoshimi, Kusaba, Gaku, Nakagawa, Wong, Andrew: 9781592702893: Books

Summary:  It’s 2012, and world leaders have gathered in Brazil for the Rio+20 Summit to discuss climate change and the environmental crisis.  “One after another, they gave speeches, but no one says anything new.”  Then José Mujica, president of Uruguay, steps to the podium.  Described as “the world’s poorest president” for donating 90% of his salary to charity and choosing to live on his farm instead of in the presidential palace, Mujica questions the whole system of capitalism, asking the participants if they were really committed to living in harmony with nature, as they said, or driven by production and consumption.  “Shared human happiness is the greatest treasure of all,” he concludes.  “If we appreciate the beauty of nature and life itself and care for our world, we will be able to continue to live well as humans on this planet.”  40 pages; grades 3+

Pros:  Mujica’s speech is as timely today as it was eight years ago, and will resonate with older readers (middle school and up) at least as much as with the picture book crowd.

Cons:  The title makes Mujica sound like an object of pity when really he seems to have figured out a lot more about life and happiness than most other world leaders.

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.

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

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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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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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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