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Tuesday Book Review: What’s New on My Dining Room Table

January 31st, 2023


(“Hi Honey!” — photo by Nancy Ellen Row Rawley)

“The Seasons Within Me,” by Bianca Pozzi, is a thoughtful new picture book about moods, friendship, weather and finding peace. (Penguin Random House, 2023, ages 4 and up, $18.99.) I’m glad that we’re finally teaching kids coping strategies, encouraging them to identify their emotions, all of it. This book does a nice job of that. Pozzi is a designer and writer from Brazil; I hope we see more of her work in the future.

“How to Eat a Book,” by Mrs. and Mr. MacLeod (Union Square Kids, 2022, $17.99) introduces us to the Grunions. There is nutty, there is unique, there is kooky… and then there are the Grunions. Sheila, and her siblings, twins Gerald and Geraldine, are welcome additions to the world of children’s literature. And you know I’m crazy about drawings layered with collage and paper art. The art in this book is BIG and amazing. (Additionally: Can you really be eaten by a book? The thought hadn’t occurred to me before…)

“When I Talk to God, I Talk About You,” by Chrissy Metz & Bradley Collins, illustrated by Lisa Fields (Flamingo Books, 2023, ages 4-8, $18.99), is a new picture book about relationships with God. Rabbit, skunk, otter, fox, bear and other families illustrate love in this rhyming tale. The art is dreamy and lovely and will charm the littles. 

“Mama Shamsi at the Bazaar,” by Mojdeh Hassani & Samira Iravani, with illustrations by Maya Fidawi. Set in Tehran, this title is a welcome addition to the bookshelf. (Dial Books for Young Readers, 2022, ages 4 and up, $18.99.) A mother-daughter team wrote this exquisite, loving book about a grandmother and granddaughter. The illustrations contain so many details; they’re fun to pore over. Look for the kitty cats! And don’t overlook the note from the authors in the back of the book

Bon appetit, my friends. Happy reading!


Monday Book Review

January 30th, 2023


Asters in September (photo by Nancy Ellen Row Rawley)

Today’s books? Oh, I’m glad you asked!

Just in time for the holiday, coming up February 2nd… “Groundhog Gets It Wrong,” written by Jess Townes, illustrated by Nicole Miles (Dial Books for Young Readers, 2023, $18.99). There’s a lot of pressure put on groundhogs, okay? Who can predict the weather? Even the weathermen, with all their charts, maps and computers, can’t always get it right. But Groundhog, the youngest in a family of weather predictors, is sure it can’t be that tough. Can it? Amusing story and clever drawings.

You know what’s next, people. Cupid’s fave (or maybe least fave?) day of the year, St. Valentine’s Day. “The Mystery of the Love List” (Penguin Young Readers, 2022, ages 3 and up, $18.99) is the newest release from author Sarah Glenn Marsh (“Reign of the Fallen” series).

Super sweet and funny book, with lovely illustrations by Ishaa Lobo. The teacher wants the students to make up “love lists” of everything they’re fond of. Pippa wants nothing to do with this; she’d rather read. But wait… a secret admirer may work to change that. Clever book and different from the usual Valentine’s reads.

“A Bucket of Questions, almost answered by Tim Fite,” is a new title from an artist and musician who doesn’t really answer the questions posed at all. (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2023, ages 4 and up, $18.99.) Hmmm. Well, try the Internet if you want some actual answers, but with adult supervision, please. (My students promise me “I’m not going down a rabbit hole!” generally right before they go down a rabbit hole and refuse to reappear.)

It’s a fun and goofy book, this one. The art is intense and interesting, but dang it I really wanted the questions answered (or somewhat answered?) in the back of the book. Because I’m practical like that. Here’s to curiosity and imagination, though, in different forms.

Bon appetit, babies!



Sunday Funday Book Reviews

January 29th, 2023


(“Baby! in the Garden,” photo by Steve Rawley)

Boy, oh boy, do I miss having a garden. The deer and chickens are fun and all, but they know how to destroy everything. Here’s the short list of stuff they leave alone: Trees (after they’re grown), ferns, rhodies, figs, azaleas, daffodils, hellebores, anything poisonous… lilies! Yeah, that’s about it.

It’s a horrible time in America, due to police brutality, the triple-demic, school shootings, excessively over-priced everything, from groceries to utility bills to car parts. So I’m keeping the news turned off, remembering to vote, doing what I can, which these days feels inadequate. Have we all gone cagey? Kinda. Reach out to others, even if it’s just a card, a phone call, or an email. We need each other. Also we need to stop killing each other. I’m just feeling like being really extremely incredibly honest today.

We need to stop shooting, scaring, beating and hurting each other. Now.

I’d like to know, though, How are you doing? How are the children?

I teach, I help when and how I can, and I review books. Fun day = wishful thinking. I tried and failed to meditate this morning, i went to church. Later on I will bake some chocolate chip cookies and we’ll have something good for dinner. Please don’t give up hope and I won’t, either. Keep working, keep fighting, stay fierce.

Much love, much peace, WM

Now for the book reviews:

All of the spring releases are popping up like the little shoots in my yard. Here are a few:

“This Little Kitty,” by Karen Obuhanych (Random House Kids, 2023, $18.99). This is Obuhanych’s debut as author/illustrator, and it’s great. Fun collage art; crazy, funny cats and an engaging story.

“When PB Met J: The Best Friendship Since Sliced Bread!” written by Katelyn Aronson and illustrated by Sarah Rebar (Viking, 2023, ages 3-7, $18.99). This one is squishy and makes you feel all the feels, yeah I said it. When the foods in the refrigerator face off with the foods in the cupboard, you know it’s going to get a little feisty. Can we make friends along the way? We’ll see… The illustrations are sweet and whimsical. 

“I Am the Cat in the Hat,” based on Dr. Seuss’s “The Cat in the Hat” is a newly-released board book (Alastair Heim and Tom Brannon, Random House Kids, 2023, $8.99). Dr. Seuss, my old friend, has been put out to pasture. Some of his books have not aged well. So use those to teach the kids about what the bad old days were like, and move along to his titles that have aged well. I’d hate to see him disappear entirely. 

“How Many Squirrels Are in the World?” by Ben “Mister G” Gundersheimer, illustrated by Marcos Almada Rivero (Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin Random House, 2023, $18.99). It’s a number book, it’s a rhyming book, it’s an adventure book. The art is sweet. Also, did you know that squirrels are only one inch long at birth?

“Just the Right Cake,” by Christina Tosi (of Milk Bar), illustrated by Emily Balsley (Rocky Pond Books/Penguin Random House, 2023, for big and little kids, $18.99). Phil’s parents split up, and nothing tastes or feels the same. Go with him on a journey to start trying different recipes, and finding new ways to experience the day. A great recipe is included in the back of the book.

L(star) books are the best books

January 23rd, 2023
Bok! Peruvian lilies from my yard (photo by moi) Once upon a time, I was lucky enough to land at a K-8 school where a bunch of amazing students, teachers, parents and staff attended, worked, played and learned. That is how I met my friend L*, a person who was great, funny, smart, talented and steady Eddie. She passed away last year and thanks to the generosity of her kids, I inherited a load of her books. Some of the collection is going to the bookstore, for resale; some titles are going to Little Free Libraries; some will go to my students, and friends; some will stay with me. How blessed are all of us, to have books around? #blessed #loved #friends. Here are some lessons L* left behind for not just her students, but her family, neighbors, friends… and me.
  1. Breathe. Inhale/exhale, inhala, exhala.
  2. You probably can speak more Spanish than you think you can; give it a try.
  3. Throw a lot of love around and see what happens.
  4. Learn when to keep a secret and learn when to tell someone off. Learn when to hug tightly and learn when to give someone space.
  5. Drink tea, stay hydrated, try to eat healthy foods.
  6. Start each day with a poem.
  7. Turn on the sprinklers for the birds and the critters, especially when the air is smoky and it’s hard to breathe
  8. Send letters and be open to receiving letters.
  9. Call when you can.
  10. Teach people to read.
  11. Give away books.
  12. Pay attention to the bugs and flowers.
  13. Garden and work in your yard.
  14. Take your dog(s) for a walk and visit the neighbors.
  15. Let your kids know how much you love them.
  16. Smile.
She. Was. Amazing. I’m a better person, because of her. I mean that. I’m not including links, but I’ll include a list of some of the books she left me. They’re all pretty cool. Be well, leave a comment if you’d like, and don’t forget to read and write. And write and read, and then to read and write some more. XO WM Dick King Smith’s “Alphabeasts,” illustrated by Quentin Blake Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” “Arctic Memories,” by Normee Ekoomiak “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” by Roald Dahl, illustrated by Joseph Schindelman; “The Roald Dahl Treasury”; and “D is for Dahl: A Gloriumptious A-Z Guide to the World of Roald Dahl,” with illustrations by Quentin Blake “Desert Dog,”  by Tony Johnston, with paintings by Robert Weatherford “Fables,” by Arnold Lobel “Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices,” by Paul Fleischman, illustrated by Eric Beddows (This is one of my favorite books in the universe, I’m happy to say. And my friend L* introduced it to me. We loved to celebrate National Poetry Month every April, and we liked “Poem in Your Pocket” day. You know it? You keep a poem folded up in your pocket, and all day long you read your poem to people you run into, and they, in turn, read their poems to you! Perfecto! My poem is one that my sister and I like. Our great-aunts taught it to us many, many, many years ago. It goes like this… ready? “I love you little/I love you big/I love you like/a little pig.” — anon.) “Little House in the Big Woods,” “On the Banks of Plum Creek,” “By the Shores of Silver Lake” and all the “Little House” titles, written by Laura Ingalls Wilder, pictures by Garth Williams “The Magic Hummingbird: A Hopi Folktale,” collected & translated by Ekkehart Malotki, narrated by Michael Lomatuway’ma, and illustrated by Michael Lacapa Caldecott Medal Winner “Many Moons,” by James Thurber, illustrated by Louis Slobodkin (who also provided the drawings for “The Hundred Dresses,” by Eleanor Estes) “Pizza, Pigs and Poetry: How to Write a Poem,” “The Dragons Are Singing Tonight” (with pictures by Peter Sis) and “If Not for the Cat” (paintings by Ted Rand), by Jack Prelutsky, Children’s Poet Laureate “Salmon Forest,” by David Suzuki & Sarah Ellis, with illustrations by Sheena Lott “Scruffy: A Wolf Finds His Place in the Pack,” by Jim Brandenburg “Thunderfeet: Alaska’s Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Critters,” by Shelley Gill, illustrations by Shannon Cartwright “Where the Buffaloes Begin,” by Olaf Baker, with drawings by Stephen Gammell Books that I found last week in my wanderings: “Across the Stream,” by Mirra Ginsburg, pictures by Nancy Tafuri “Are You My Mother?” written and illustrated by P.D. Eastman, my hero “In My Mother’s House,” by Ann Nolan Clark, illustrated by Velino Herrera “The Little House,” by Virginia Lee Burton “Madeline’s Rescue,” by Ludwig Bemelmans “Love Songs of the Little Bear,” by author Margaret Wise Brown and illustrator Susan Jeffers “Ninja Red Riding Hood,” by Corey Rosen Schwartz, illustrated by Dan Santat “Olivia and the Missing Toy” and “Olivia Forms a Band,” written and illustrated by Ian Falconer Hans Christian Andersen’s “Thumbelina,” retold by Amy Ehrlich, with pictures by Susan Jeffers Grownup books: “Awakening Creativity: Dandelion School Blossoms,” by Lily Yeh “The Book of Delights,” essays by Ross Gay “Emperor of the Air,” stories by Ethan Canin “Messages on Stone: Selections of Native Western Rock Art,” by William Michael Stokes and William Lee Stokes “Pack of Two: The Intricate Bond Between People and Dogs,” by Caroline Knapp “Rescuing Claire,” by Thomas Johnson “Ten Poems to Change Your Life,” by Roger Housden “To the Nines: A Stephanie Plum Novel,” by Janet Evanovich “Teacher Therapy,” by Karen Katafiasz, illustrated by R.W. Alley

“Elbert in the Air” and other new titles

January 17th, 2023


“Elbert in the Air,” is a brand-new picture book by Monica Wesolowska, with art by Jerome Pumphrey (Dial Books for Young Readers, 2023, $18.99). Elbert cannot help it, he has to be up in the air. His mom understands, and together, they make it work.

“Love is Loud: How Diane Nash Led the Civil Rights Movement,” written by the gifted and insightful Sandra Neil Wallace, with illustrations by Caldecott Honor Recipient Bryan Collier (2023, A Paula Wiseman Book/Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, ages 4 and older, $18.99).

This beautifully illustrated biography tells the story of Chicagoan Diane Nash, an American hero who not everyone knows about. Hoping that with this book, lots of kids and grown-ups know who she is. Nash’s story is extraordinary. After attending Howard University in Washington, D.C., Nash transferred to Fisk University in Nashville. Her political work ignited when she led John Lewis and 122 other students in Nashville in the first of lunch counter sit-ins. The Nashville Student Movement began. The comprehensive timeline in the back of the book, the resources, quotes, bibliography… all of it. This is a meaningful, powerful book. Highly recommend.

“Me and the Boss: A Story About Mending and Love,” written by Michelle Edwards, with illustrations by April Harrison, is a cool book about the big sisters who look out for you even when they’re getting on your nerves. (Anne Schwartz Books/Random House Children’s Books, 2022, $18.99.)

“Little Black Boy: Oh, the Things You Will Do!” written by Kirby Howell-Baptiste and Larry C. Fields III, with illustrations by Paul Davey, is a beautiful, dreamy, empowering picture book. (Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin Random House, 2022, $18.99.) A young boy loves marine biology and is inspired by his heroes, Samuel M. Nabrit, Robert K. Trench and Ernest Everett Just. Great title.

“Little Black Girl: Oh, the Things You Can Do!,” by Kirby Howell Baptiste, with more beautiful art by Paul Davey, is a lovely, sweet book about a girl who knows that the sky is the limit. (Or rather, not the limit.) (Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin Random House, 2022, $18.99.)

“You have sparks in your brain and fire in your heart. You can decide where to stop and where to start.”

Yes, she would like to become a robotics engineer, she is thinking, and is inspired by some of my favorites: Claudette Colvin, Audre Lord, Toni Morrison… ahhhh. Yes, kid. Go for it. This is a fantastic pair of books. 

“You Gotta Meet Mr. Pierce! The Storied Life of Folk Artist Elijah Pierce,” by Chiquita Mullins Lee and Carmella Van Vleet, with extraordinary illustrations by Jennifer Mack-Watkins. (Kokila/Random House, 2023, all ages, $18.99.) This is a great modern day telling of the true story of a great man and artist.

He really does sound like someone I would have liked to have met. People like Mr. Pierce? We are all better off knowing people like this. He made incredible wood carvings, and as a side job, worked as a barber. His barbershop? Was also an art studio. Man, do I love stories like this. Mr. Pierce’s list of honors is included in the back of the book.

“Your life is a book and every day is a page.” — Mr. Elijah Pierce 

Mr. Pierce passed in 1984, but you can still see his work at the Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, Ohio; High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Georgia; the American Folk Art Museum, New York, New York; Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.; and Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

“You Come From Greatness: A Celebration of Black History,” by author Sara Chinakwe and illustrator Ken Daley is a vibrant new picture book from WaterBrook/Random House. (2023, all ages, $13.99.)

“You come from people who spoke with voices as mighty as a lion’s roar. You come from change makers and status shakers, people ready to rally in unity to ensure your future.”

I appreciate the list of names of the powerful people pictured here, the recommended reading list in the back, the added bios, and the enthusiastic nature of this book. It lifts up the reader, the imaginary hero of the book, and all of us.

I’ve got to say… it’s pretty cool to see real-life historical heroes finally get credit where credit is due. Big smiles for all of these titles. Have a great week.


First book review of 2023

January 2nd, 2023


(Photo by Nancy E. Rawley)

Books! Here is what’s new on the nightstand as we tumble headfirst into the new year. Yes, Year of the Rabbit, yes yes yes yes. In that spirit, I’m trying to finish this review before the battery runs out on my laptop. Here we go…

Just received a review copy of “Between the Listening and the Telling: How Stories Can Save Us,” by Ashland, Oregon, writer Mark Yaconelli (Broadleaf Books, 2022, 188 pages, $24.99). The Ford Family Foundation sent this one. They send out free books to reviewers, and they fund scholarships. Good people, good work! And you know I live for stories. xoxo

“The Sugar Mouse Cake,” written by Gene Zion, with art by Margaret Bloy Graham, is an old favorite from when I was a baby. A young kitchen worker dreams of becoming the royal pastry chef, so he and his pet mouse enter the baking competition. Have I reviewed it before? I have no idea. But pick up a copy for the kids or grandkids if you’re lucky enough to find one, looks like it’s out of print. (Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, Jan. 1, 1964, $334.02 on Amazon nooooooo…)

“Dressing Up the Stars: The Story of Movie Costume Designer Edith Head,” written by Jeanne Walker Harvey, illustrated by Diana Toledano (Beach Lane Books, 2022, ages 3-8, all ages, $18.99). Oh, my friends, the genius of my girl Edith Head. Get this one for the artists, fashionistas and movie buffs in your life. It’s delightful.

Ciao for now, bon appetit, and Happy Year of the Bunny,

xoxo and love,