Book Review: Aliens Get the Sniffles Too!

Happy New Year! I have great new books to review with the new year and I’ll be participating in a blog tour on February 2nd. You know what that means…exclusive content and giveaways! Get excited. But for now, here is a book that is appropriate for the season, as everyone I know seems to have the sniffles…

Aliens Get the Sniffles Too (2017, Candlewick Press, Picture book)

Aliens get sniffles too

From the publisher:

Ahhh-flying-saucer-shooting-star-CHOO! Laughter is the best medicine when you’re a little alien feeling under the weather.

Little Alien is sick. And sick is extra-terrestrial bad when you have two scratchy throats, five ears that hurt, and three runny noses. Splatch! Sputter! Spurt! Luckily Mama and Daddy Alien have an arsenal of lunar decongestants and meteor showers on hand to make him feel a little better (not to mention a Milky Way milkshake to help the medicine go down). Even so, the family’s alien pooch, Mars Rover, can’t stand to see his little buddy feeling out of sorts. Can a loyal pup’s funny tricks finally coax a smile?

Review:

Aliens Get the Sniffles Too, written by Katy S. Duffield and illustrated by K.G. Campbell, is a timely book for the season. Little Alien is sick and I’m sure parents, as much as children, will relate to this book as Mama and Daddy Alien do everything they can think of to help Little Alien feel better.

With a plethora of creative, humorous outer space references, and adorable aliens, this is sure to be a hit with little ones. Especially, sick little ones. Just as Little Alien’s faithful companion Mars Rover tries to coax a smile from Little Alien, this book is sure to coax a smile from your little one.

Recommended for children ages 3 and up. This one would be great fun as a read aloud even for independent readers, and seriously, this book is great if your young reader is feeling sick.

4 sniffling, sneezing, shooting space stars!


Thank you to the publisher for a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Christmas Books Galore!

These are all special Christmas books that would make a good gift this year, or could be purchased to read each year with family and friends.

Red & Lulu (2017, Candlewick Press, Picture Book)

red and lulu

From the publisher:

Separation and miles cannot keep a determined cardinal from his loved one in an ode to serendipity and belief that is destined to be a new Christmas classic.

Red and Lulu make their nest in a particularly beautiful evergreen tree. It shades them in the hot months and keeps them cozy in the cold months, and once a year the people who live nearby string lights on their tree and sing a special song: O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree. But one day, something unthinkable happens, and Red and Lulu are separated. It will take a miracle for them to find each other again. Luckily, it’s just the season for miracles. . . . From Matt Tavares comes a heart-tugging story combining the cheer of Christmas, the magic of New York City, and the real meaning of the holiday season: how important it is to be surrounded by love.

Review:

Red & Lulu, written and illustrated by Matt Tavares, is a beautiful new holiday book to share with the little ones this season. Readers will be initially shocked by what appears to be a terrible tragedy which befalls Red & Lulu, but as Red perseveres and seeks out his lost love, the story unfolds to reveal a beautiful moment in what seemed like Red’s darkest hour.

Told through sparse text and detailed illustrations, this one is a great read aloud as young readers will likely have many questions about New York City and the Rockefeller Christmas tree. With a short history of the Rockefeller tree tradition in the back, everyone is sure to learn something.

I love that this book celebrates the Rockefeller Christmas Tree tradition and also tells a fun fictional tale of two cardinals. Recommended for readers of all ages who are looking for a sweet holiday tale to enjoy on a cold winter day.


Pick a Pine Tree (2017, Candlewick Press, Picture Book)

pick a pine tree

From the publisher:

A festive read-aloud brimming with all the joy and excitement of Christmastime — beginning, of course, with picking out a tree!

Part of the magic of the Christmas season stems from the traditions that families and friends take part in every year: hanging up stockings; putting lights in the windows; and, one of the most important of all, picking out and taking home the Christmas tree. With style and warmth, debut author Patricia Toht and Jarvis, the author-illustrator of Alan’s Big, Scary Teeth, evoke all the rituals of decorating the tree — digging out boxes jam-packed with ornaments and tree trimmings, stringing tinsel, and, at long last, turning on those twinkling lights. Joyously drawn and rhythmically written, this celebration of family, friends, and the holiday season is as merry as the tradition it depicts.

Review:

Pick a Pine Tree, written by Patricia Toht and illustrated by Jarvis, reminds us all of a Christmas tradition that is not as popular as it once was…the picking of the perfect pine tree. The illustrations are absolutely beautiful and set a magical tone for this jaunty tale of picking pine trees.

If your family selects a real tree at Christmas, you will certainly appreciate this tale, and if you opt for an artificial tree each year, be prepared for the little ones to clamor for a real tree after reading this tale! This book is a lot of fun and will have everyone wanting to keep this old tradition alive and decorate the whole house for the Christmas season. Highly recommended for the whole family!


Captain Bling’s Christmas Plunder (2017, Albert Whitman & Company, Picture Book)

captain bling

From the publisher:

Captain Bling and his merry crew set off to find treasure, but they get blown off course and end up at the North Pole. When they spy the elves carefully wrapping presents, the pirates think they have found the ultimate booty! They quickly steal the presents and make their way back to the ship. By the time Santa Claus catches up to them, the pirates are well on their way to escaping. But Santa has a surprise for Captain Bling and his crew!

Review:

Captain Bling’s Christmas Plunder, written by Rebecca Colby and illustrated by Rob McClurkan, is a rousing, raucous read to the tune of The Night Before Christmas. This book is a lot of fun in the midst of so many more serious or heartfelt Christmas tales. Children young and old will enjoy this adventure on the North Seas! The illustrations are detailed and really bring the story to life. The rhyme and rhythm are great for a read aloud and the story has a bit of a message too. Overall, a fantastic holiday read that children will enjoy bringing out every year. Highly recommended for children ages 3 and up.


Finding Christmas (2017, Albert Whitman & Company, Picture Book)

finding christmas

From the publisher:

Squirrel, Mouse, and Hare are getting ready for Christmas. While Mouse is out looking for the perfect gift for Hare, she finds Swallow sick in the snow. The three friends bring Swallow home and try to nurse the bird back to health. Squirrel and Mouse realize their Christmas gifts will help Swallow get well. As they give up their presents to help Swallow, they find the Christmas spirit.

Review:

Finding Christmas, written by Lezlie Evans and illustrated by Yee Von Chan, is a heart-warming Christmas tale of friendship and sacrifice. This is a quiet book that would be perfect to read by the fire or just before bed. The illustrations are soft and sweet, and my only tiny complaint about the whole book is the lack of expression in the eyes of the characters – a minor detail that might not bother others. Overall, a beautiful, heartwarming addition to the holiday line up and a book that can be enjoyed by children and adults. Highly recommended for ages 4 and up.


Thank you to the publishers for copies of these books in exchange for my honest review.

Author Interview: Bonny Becker

I have a Christmas gift for my readers! Today I bring you an interview with author Bonny Becker 🙂

Bonny is the author of the fabulous Bear and Mouse picture book series as well as many other books for children. I can’t even describe how much I loved A Christmas for Bear or how excited I was that Bonny agreed to an interview with me.

Merry (early) Christmas!

 

Interview with author Bonny Becker:

I absolutely love A Christmas for Bear! I am so curious about what inspired the concept and how the book came about. Can you tell me a little about the development of this book?

Thank you, so much! This is the 6th book in a series of Mouse and Bear books. Usually Mouse is cheerful and ready to celebrate anything; grouchy Bear not so much. So in this book, I wanted to switch things up a bit and this time Bear is the one holding a party. A Christmas party.

I tried several different approaches to Bear’s Christmas party, including having him go way over the top and simply make Christmas way too big and too elaborate. But my editor felt there wasn’t enough tension between Mouse and Bear in that one. Mouse was just kind of a bystander.

So in this version I decide Bear’s idea of Christmas is to read a difficult poem, eat pickles with no presents necessary because I knew that would drive poor Mouse wild.

And I can’t get over bear and his Christmas pickle. That was such a surprise to me and really made me laugh. Is the Christmas pickle part of your holiday traditions or did something else inspire its inclusion?

Ha! No, there are no Christmas pickles in my life, either. But Bear likes pickles. In A Library Book for Bear, he only agrees to go the library so that he can get more books about pickles. Why pickles? Well, in the original draft of Library it was potatoes. I just wanted something boring and improbable for Bear to be interested in. But the illustrator, Kady McDonald Denton, wondered if I could please make something a little more interesting to draw than potatoes. That’s when I came up with pickles—which seemed perfect for my sour Bear!

I love the illustrations in your book and I am always curious about the working relationship between authors and illustrators. I see you and Kady MacDonald Denton have worked on a few books together in the Bear and Mouse series. Did you know each other prior to working together and how is it different working with the same illustrator multiple times versus working with an illustrator on only one project?

I love the illustrations, too. I don’t think anyone could have captured Mouse and Bear more perfectly than Kady. We didn’t know each other beforehand, but it’s been a delight to work with her. The main difference between a series like the Mouse and Bear books and a one-time book is that the author and illustrator get a chance to inspire each other.

For example, as the author, I knew Bear was grouchy and a loner, but I didn’t know he would live in a Tudor cottage, wear an apron and be rather dainty despite his enormous rear end. That all came from Kady. But as a writer, I could use this in future stories about Bear. I could make more of his fastidious nature and the layout of his house and so on.

I’ve had two moments of absolute delight as an author when it came to my illustrator. The first was with another Christmas book of mine, The Christmas Crocodile, when I first saw illustrator David Small’s drawings of the crocodile. The second was when I saw Kady’s illustrations of Mouse and Bear. Both had captured the characters so perfectly. They created what you hope for with any picture book—a marriage of words and art that is more than the sum of its parts.

I think A Christmas for Bear could become a holiday staple in many households. I know I would enjoy reading it every year. Are there any books you enjoy every year during the holidays? What were your favorite Christmas traditions as a child?

It’s rather embarrassing to admit, but actually The Christmas Crocodile has become a holiday staple for my extended family. I have a relative who reads The Christmas Crocodile every Christmas Eve at a big family gathering. He’s a wonderful reader and I laugh shamelessly at my own story every time.

As a child, my dad always read The Night Before Christmas; sometimes he would read A Christmas Carol. I loved putting up the tree and the excitement of trying to sleep the night before Christmas. I come from a family of six kids and on Christmas morning we would all gather in my oldest sister’s bedroom, and my brother would go downstairs, bring up our stockings and report on the massive pile of presents under the tree. I remember food, warmth, the satisfaction of at least a few awesome presents and family.

Have you always dreamed of writing children’s books and what was the road like to becoming a published author?

I’ve wanted to be a writer, pretty much for as long as I can remember, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to write. I think originally I imagined myself writing the Great American Novel, but as I got older I remembered the books I had loved as a kid and realized those were the kind of books I wanted to write.

The road to becoming a published writer is pretty murky. There’s no clear, certain path. I’ve been a writer almost all my adult life—been a journalist, done corporate communications, freelanced articles and newsletters. When I realized I wanted to write for kids, one of the first things I did was join SCBWI (the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators.) I can’t recommend it highly enough. For aspiring writers I would say: Write, don’t just talk about it. Take some classes. Join a critique group. You just have to somehow start. The rest will follow as you go along. Oh, and read, read, read!

Is there anything else you would like to share about your writing career or other projects?

I’m excited that I have another picture book coming out next fall (2018) that is very different from the Mouse and Bear books. It’s called The Frightful Ride of Michael McMichael. It’s a macabre tall tale about a boy who gets on the #13 bus one dark and stormy night. I’m also working on a middle grade set in Africa and have a number of picture book manuscripts circulating.


A Christmas for Bear (2017, Candlewick Press, Picture Book)

christmas for bear

From the publisher:

One frosty night, Bear hears a tap, tap, tapping on his front door. “Merry Christmas!” cries Mouse. Mouse is there for a Christmas party, and Bear has never had one before, but he’s certain that pickles (preferably from France) must be an essential component, along with the reading of a long and difficult poem. The problem is, whenever Bear comes back from the kitchen with more treats, Mouse has vanished — only to be found, small and gray and guilty-eyed, scurrying under the bed or rifling through the closet. Will there be even a tiny present involved? “Hogwash!” scolds Bear. Get ready for holiday anticipation and the best kind of surprises as the curmudgeonly Bear and a hopeful Mouse return in a warm, funny tale full of holiday cheer and true friendship.

Review:

A Christmas for Bear, written by Bonny Becker and illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton, is the latest book in the Bear and Mouse series. This book is absolutely darling! I loved it so much and think it could become a Christmas staple in many households. The illustrations convey so much emotion and set the mood for a quiet Christmas at home surrounded by friends and family. Children and adults will love the simple message of friendship and love what an unlikely pair Bear and Mouse make. Highly recommended for the whole family and children of all ages.


Thank you to Bonny Becker and Candlewick Press for the interview and for a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Holiday Round Up!

So many books, so little time…until Christmas!

There’s still time to find the perfect book for everyone in your family. If you’re wondering about new releases, here’s a selection of books that are holiday themed or just make great gifts!

Norse Myths: Tales of Odin, Thor and Loki (2017, Candlewick Press, Middle-Grade Mythology)

norse myths

From the publisher:

Long-recognized master of Norse mythology Kevin Crossley-Holland pairs with award-winning artist Jeffrey Alan Love for an exceptional look at the Viking gods.

A collaboration by two talented creators provides the perfect means to delve into Norse mythology and pore over the enthralling exploits of all-powerful Odin; mighty Thor and his hammer, Mjolnir; and Loki, the infamous trickster. From the creation of the nine worlds to the final battle of Ragnarok, Carnegie Medal winner Kevin Crossley-Holland details the Viking gods as never before, while Jeffrey Alan Love’s lavish illustrations bring the mythic figures to life on the page. Readers will be caught up in the seesawing struggle for power between gods, dwarfs, and giants, punctuated by surprising love matches, thrilling journeys, and dazzling magic. With its well-researched, lyrical prose and its dramatic and powerful artwork, this wonderful gift edition makes the perfect book for both the staunchest fans of mythology and newcomers with no knowledge of Viking folklore.

Review:

For fans of mythology this is a fantastic collection! With striking illustrations and in-depth coverage of all the popular and less-popular Norse myths, this would make a great gift for a young (or old) reader. Comic book fans might also enjoy this as they learn more about Thor and Loki who have become exceptionally popular via movies recently. Highly recommended for readers ages 10 and up (This can certainly be given as a gift to a teenager!).


Harry Potter: Magical Film Projections: Quidditch (2017, Candlewick Press, Interactive Book)

From the publisher:

Using black line illustrations on framed acetate pages, this unique book allows fans to project their favorite scenes from the Harry Potter films at home with a flashlight.

The wizarding world’s favorite sport, Quidditch is a magical game played high up in the air with Quaffles, Bludgers, and broomsticks. This interactive book allows fans to project their favorite Quidditch scenes

Review:

This book is definitely for die hard Harry Potter fans. It’s more of a collectible piece than anything, and would be best for someone who loves Harry Potter and loves everything to do with that world. The concept is neat and the acetate pages do project on the wall when shining a flashlight through them, but the picture is a bit blurry if it gets too big. These could be fun if projected on a large piece of paper for children to trace the image or if a child was given more creative freedom and could paint a large Harry Potter scene on his or her wall. Overall, a neat concept best appreciated by the younger Harry Potter fans ages 8 and up.


Make & Play Nativity (2017, Nosy Crow, Picture/Activity Book)

nativity

From the publisher:

With twenty easy-to-assemble press-out pieces as well as the narrative, this book includes everything you need to bring the Christmas story to life. A perfect gift for the holiday season!

Review:

This book by Joey Chou has the perfect nativity set for little ones. Made of sturdy, laminated cardstock, children can pop out the pieces and put it together themselves, but it’s cute enough that it can be displayed alongside all the other Christmas decorations or let the kids play with it. If you are looking for a great way to share the Christmas story with young children, this book is the way to go. Complete with the nativity story, Christmas songs, and other activities, this is a book bursting with the true meaning of Christmas. Highly recommended for children ages 2-8.


Make & Play Christmas (2017, Nosy Crow, Picture/Activity Book)

christmas

From the publisher:

This innovative new activity book includes ten press-out pieces to play and decorate with. The simple die-cut shapes, including Santa, a reindeer, and an angel, are easy to press out and slot together. The book also includes lots of activities, songs, and recipes to help celebrate Christmas!

Review:

This Christmas activity book by Joey Chou is sure to be a hit with little ones this season. For road trips or Christmas morning, this book will keep children engaged all afternoon. The pop out pieces are sturdy and beautifully designed. Each piece has a small hole for thread or a hook so it can be hung on the tree. Adults will even want to join in on the fun as children ask to do the other activities in the book. Highly recommended for children ages 2-8.


We Wish You a Merry Christmas: Sing Along With Me! (2017, Nosy Crow, Board Book)

wish you a merry christmas

From the publisher:

Each book in the Sing Along With Me! series has five slider mechanisms and a QR code with directions for how to download both an instrumental and vocal version of the nursery rhyme. Simply scan the code to listen and sing along! Slider mechanisms on each page and cheerful illustrations will make these favorites for sharing. Sing along to the classic Christmas carol in We Wish You a Merry Christmas.

Review:

Another great offering from Nosy Crow this holiday season! This engaging board book is illustrated by Yu-hsuan Huang and features fun slider mechanisms throughout. These are some of the best slider mechanisms I’ve seen and they feel very sturdy and able to withstand repeated sliding by small, enthusiastic hands. The text is the first verse of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” which most children will be familiar with and will make for a fun sing-aloud. As a bonus, the book comes with a free downloadable song! Highly recommended for children ages 2-5.


The Twelve Days of Christmas: Panorama Pops (2017, Candlewick Press, Pop-up Book)

twelve days

From the publisher:

Enjoy gorgeous art by an award-winning illustrator in this enchanting 3-D rendition of a beloved Christmas carol.

On the first day of Christmas
my true love sent to me . . .

Unfurl a delightful accordion-fold book to find a turtle dove rising on the wing, a sprightly lord a-leaping from the page, and many more elements of the familiar seasonal song. Featuring the captivating art of Grahame Baker-Smith, this Christmas keepsake tucks back into a slipcase until the next holiday season.

Review:

More novelty item than book, this accordion-style pop-up story is a beautiful new way to enjoy an old carol. The illustrations are beautiful and the pop-ups add a fun twist. This would be best for people who love Christmas and love to collect books associated with Christmas, vintage items, or who love Christmas carols. This could be fun for kids, but the pop-ups would likely not fare well with very young children. The book comes in a hardcover sleeve and it’s small, maybe four inches by four inches. Overall, a fun and festive gift if you’re looking for a stocking stuffer that can be enjoyed every Christmas.


Thank you to the publisher for copies of these books in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: Hu Wan and the Sleeping Dragon

Hu Wan and the Sleeping Dragon (2017, Sleeping Bear Press, Picture Book)

hu wan and sleeping dragon

From the publisher:

Outside Beijing, China, in the year 1572, nine-year-old Hu-Wan tends the vegetable garden with his grandfather. Their specialty is growing gourds that are made into ladles and bowls and sold in the marketplace. Each year, one special gourd is made into a cricket cage. This year, it is Hu-Wan’s turn to grow and carve the special gourd. He decides it should be carved into the shape of a sleeping dragon. When Hu-Wan learns that the emperor has died and his nine-year-old son is named Emperor of China, he decides to give the dragon cricket cage to the young emperor to offer comfort and cheer.

Review:

Hu Wan and the Sleeping Dragon, written by Judy Young and illustrated by Jordi Solano, is an historical fiction tale that will teach and inspire young minds. With the feeling of an old fable, this story unfolds beautifully as Hu Wan learns from his grandfather and seeks to make something of his own. A tale of family, dedication, and even sacrifice, this book stands out in all the right ways.

Parents and children are sure to learn something new as Hu Wan makes clay molds for his gourds and fashions cricket homes. The author’s note at the back of the book includes even more historical facts for readers old and young.

Highly recommended for children and adults this holiday season. Best for children with longer attention spans if read aloud, and older children who may have outgrown picture books will find this one interesting.

5 stars for this inspiring read!


Thank you to Sleeping Bear Press for a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: The Wolf, The Duck, & The Mouse

I am a huge fan of Jon Klassen, so when I saw this book from Candlewick Press I was super excited. This quirky and clever read will not disappoint!

The Wolf, The Duck, & The Mouse (2017, Candlewick Press, Picture Book)

wolf duck mouse

From the publisher:

This is a story about a duck and mouse who get swallowed by a wolf, and then decide to live in his belly.

“I may have been swallowed,” said the duck, “but I have no intention of being eaten.”

When a woeful mouse is swallowed by a wolf, he quickly learns he is not alone: a duck has already set up digs, and, boy, has that duck got it figured out! Turns out it’s pretty nice in there, with delicious food and elegant table settings, courtesy of the wolf’s unchecked gluttony. And there’s something even better: no more fear of being eaten by a wolf! In fact, life is pretty good, until a hunter shows up. . . . With a nod to traditional fables and a wink to the reader, the award-winning Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen offer a tale of cooperation and creative cuisine that is sure to go down easy.

Review:

The Wolf, The Duck, & The Mouse, written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klassen, is an unexpected and hilarious tale. The book starts out ominously with Mouse being gobbled up by Wolf, but that is just the start of Mouse’s adventures when he discovers Duck living quite comfortably within Wolf. Hilarity ensues as Duck and Mouse throw a party and have a feast to the detriment of poor Wolf who is then pursued by a hunter.

Fans of Jon Klassen will recognize his illustration style and author Mac Barnett lives up to Klassen’s reputation for quirky, funny children’s stories. As with many of Klassen’s books, the humor can be enjoyed by adults just as much as children.

Highly recommended for children of all ages and adults too! This one is sure to be read again and again with laughs all around.

5 bright stars for Duck and Mouse in Wolf’s dark belly.


Thank you to Candlewick Press for a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: Before She Was Harriet

I am kicking off my holiday book review season with tons of fabulous books, but I’m not saving the best for last…This week I bring you the most beautiful book I’ve read all year. Seriously, if you only buy one book for Christmas, buy this book. This book literally gave me goosebumps.

before she was harriet

Before She Was Harriet (2017, Holiday House, Non-Fiction Picture Book)

From the publisher:

A lush and lyrical biography of Harriet Tubman, written in verse and illustrated by an award-winning artist.
We know her today as Harriet Tubman, but in her lifetime she was called by many names. As General Tubman she was a Union spy. As Moses she led hundreds to freedom on the Underground Railroad. As Minty she was a slave whose spirit could not be broken. An evocative poem and opulent watercolors come together to honor a woman of humble origins whose courage and compassion make her larger than life.

Review:

Before She Was Harriet, written by Lesa Cline-Ransome and illustrated by James E. Ransome, is quite possibly the most moving picture book of the year. The text and illustrations are simply stunning, and weave a powerful, haunting story of Harriet Tubman.

Both educational and beautiful, this is a biography of a figure we have all heard about, but maybe never considered the journey her life took and the influence she had beyond the Underground Railroad. For children and adults, Harriet will leap off the page as a real person and not just a historical figure.

Highly recommended for every reader young and old, but especially for classroom teachers who are studying Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad. This story will stay with the reader long after the book is over.

5 stars to guide Minty through the night


Thank you to Holiday House for a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.